A shared vision: 3 keys to today’s CFO and controller partnerships

Accounting automation platforms are expanding the roles of CFOs and controllers in many organizations, as adoption continues to grow. While the high-level responsibilities of these finance leaders – as complementary tacticians and strategic leaders guarding the financial health of the organization – have not changed, they are taking on more responsibility for corporate planning, strategy and as stewards of financial and operational data collected by their teams.

Automation and advanced analytics enable more powerful insights, resulting in increased performance and efficiencies that allow CFOs and controllers to take on more, even as the organization grows. In a recent webinar series, we examined these roles at different stages in the adoption of accounting automation to look at the benefits, approaches, and best practices for achieving the highest levels of efficiency and accuracy.

In our conversations, it quickly became clear what a game-changer accounting automation has been for these business leaders. Technologies like analytics and process automation facilitate better collaboration and enable data-driven decision making. Ubiquitous access to data in real time means that leaders in both roles can drill down and understand transactions, cost and revenues on demand. These capabilities create trust and transparency, that make both CFOs and controllers more focused and effective in their roles.

While many topics were discussed in our conversations, I wanted to highlight 3 key capabilities that the finance leaders we spoke with agreed were essential to successfully working together and navigating today’s complex business environment.

1. Collaboration

Both CFOs and controllers cited collaboration as especially important to success and highlighted how they use cloud-based accounting automation software to augment regular meetings with continuous access to information.

While static emails and chat/text/phone remain the mainstays of communication, it was also clear that finance leaders and their staff were benefiting from the context-specific chat and dialog capabilities available from Sage Intacct. These tools bring the conversation right inside the dashboard or reporting product, alongside the data and information being discussed. CFOs and Controllers can view and reconcile journal entries, examine invoices and plan and execute projects together – in real-time.

The panelists suggested this capability served as an excellent foundation for cultivating and strengthening their relationships with each other, with the trust that comes from knowing that the data being looked at provides a single source of truth. When many companies were forced to work remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, these two-way contextual conversations saved time, allowed more effective asynchronous communication, and drove business forward.

According to Angela Biermann, Corporate Controller of Nexmune US, LLC, “using accounting automation enables us to know our financial position at any specific point in time throughout the month versus waiting until the end. It’s very important as it allows us to make quick decisions when necessary.”

The ongoing use of two-way communications and data sharing clearly helps deepen these partnerships whether across the hall or across the globe.

2. Automation

Throughout our webinar conversations, it became clear that one particular fiduciary responsibility for CFOs and controllers – to provide timely, fact-based information to executive management teams and board of directors – was another critical capability that was expanded and improved dramatically by accounting automation.  Historically, it might have taken days or weeks to extract data on past transactions, and spreadsheets were prone to errors due to manual entries. For the finance leaders we spoke with, replacing spreadsheets with dynamic analytics saved time consolidating and managing data, and enabled collaboration.

In addition, accounting automation can be extended to areas including but not limited to accounts payable, expense reporting, payroll, point of sale, budgeting and planning, through Sage Intacct’s marketplace partners and open APIs. Integration, seamless connectivity, and sharing of data between best of breed solutions and Sage Intacct has eliminated the need to manually rekey data from one system to another. And, according to the Sage 2021 Close the Books Survey results, respondents who automate more than 50% of their journal entries will close the books 20% faster.

3. Strategic Thinking

The CFOs and controllers we spoke with highlighted that an effective accounting and finance function is expected to not only keep track of past transactions but also provide a vision for how to move forward, and the analytics needed to vet and fine-tune operations and plan future strategy.

Today’s CFOs and Controllers leverage dashboards and reports to drive strategic initiatives across the organization. With access to real-time data and analytics, teams can focus on trends and outliers.   They can determine whether to pull back or expand programs and better plan for year-end audits.

According to Sophia Shafiq, controller at Red and White Fleet, “we’re able to pull dimensional reports from previous years to identify trends that may impact our business going forward. We’re able to dissect data, based on each department and within any time period, to see what will best help us grow our business.” Watch a replay of the Controllers Council webinar featuring Sophia Shafiq.

As the tools in use have changed with the adoption of accounting automation, the mission of the controller and CFO has also grown. Accounting automation makes the finance department run more efficiently, allows better visibility for staff and leaders alike to gain precious time which can now be focused on value-added activities that drive strategies directly impacting both the top and bottom line.

By automating repetitive tasks such as purchase ordering workflows, vendor payments and bank reconciliations with cloud financial management software, your finance team can begin to shift its focus toward strategy and helping the company meet its broader goals.

Find out how by downloading our eBook, 4 Signs Manual Processes are Costing Your Finance Team time and Money.

4 signs manual processes are costing your finance team time and money


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