The role of the CFO has been constantly evolving over the past decade. As businesses continue to grow and adapt, CFOs have moved out of the Excel weeds to assume a role of analytics and forward thinking. Worrying about day-to-day transactions is no longer a top priority – instead, KPIs and the growth of the business are what keeps them up at night.
Because of this change, collaboration between CFOs and Controllers is key to business efficiency. The CFO-Controller relationship needs to produce specific insight in order to keep finances on track.
Below are four conversation-starting questions every CFO should be asking their Controller.
1) What financial processes are manual?
Manual processes and duplicative data entry on a daily basis are what slow down finance teams. As a CFO, you want your team’s time being spent on generating insight rather than cumbersome journal entries. Continuing to ask Controllers what processes are manual allows them to take a step back and truly analyze the system you, as the CFO, have set in place.
2) How much time is the team collectively spending in excel?
Spreadsheets are the norm, but as a forward thinking CFO, Excel can be inhibiting. As a business and finance team continues to grow, a greater amount of your team’s time is spent in creating and reconciling spreadsheets. Data integrity issues abound, mistakes are made, information becomes stale, and time is wasted. As a CFO, you know you cannot entirely phase Excel out of your life, but you and your Controller need to work together to identify areas where business management tools can cut out the redundant processes and allow your team to focus on analysis.
3) What key performance metrics do I need to make the difficult decisions?
Different stakeholders require different metrics to understand the success of a business. CFOs need specific reports on a daily basis in real-time, not at the end of each month, quarter, or year. Custom reports are key to understanding where to spend the organization’s time and money. You and your Controller can work together to set up a cadence to deliver these metrics, but ultimately the greatest efficiency is achieved when both you and your Controller have access to these KPIs and reports in real time.
4) Does the existence of data silos prevent our company from seeing the bigger financial and operational picture?
The common scenario of using disparate systems for different processes often means that it’s up to the accounting and finance team to reconcile and extract the correct data. Time is spent trying to piece together information from different silos of data, leaving Controllers and their teams with only part of the picture. CFOs then rely on the Controller to then interpret the information and prepare it for the CFO and stakeholders.
So, CFOs – what other questions are you asking your controllers to help you run your business?