In association with KPMG LLP, Forbes Insights interviewed leading financial executives as a follow-up to their study “The Transformative Controller”. The interviews centered around how technology is impacting their businesses and their roles.
What are the best ways to stay informed on governance and technical accounting guidelines?
Mark Camerote -Former Controller at vRide & Vice President Finance, Ride Group Inc.
Blake Jorgensen - Chief Financial Officer, Electronic Arts Inc.
Carol Lowe - Chief Financial Officer, Sealed Air
Richard Orazietti - Senior Vice President & Controller, Goldcorp
Gregory Schulte - Corporate Controller, Innocor, Inc.
Colleen Zitt - Regional Corporate Controller, Zurich North America
What are the top two or three trends you are seeing in the controller’s function in terms of innovation and technology?
In the past, companies were looking for a quick monthly close. But now companies want to see what their numbers look like even before the month ends. Flash reporting is a growing trend, where we can look at numbers in real time, or near real time, and can project what your month is looking like in the last week of the month. Also, many companies are no longer doing intensive budget processes, where you start developing your budget six months ahead of time. Under the old system, people would spend two or three months developing their budgets and another few months going back and forth with management and the board. After all that work, you would get into the first quarter of the new year and find out that you were missing by a mile because several things changed since you began the process. Today companies are using data and technology to do more accurate forecasts that can be updated almost instantly. Instead of one massive budget process, companies are relying on better forecasting tools to plan for the next year.
How has the CFO’s role changed in the last 10 years?
The CFO’s role has become much more strategic than the traditional accounting and finance role when I started my career. In fact, a lot of roles in finance have changed dramatically over the past several years. For example, the chief accounting officer role has grown over time to become the right-hand person to the CFO and is managing more and more of the control components of the company. Our global controller reports to our chief accounting officer and we have a number of regional controllers who report to him. They all play a much broader role beyond the traditional controller function, and this frees me up to play more of a leadership role for the company.
Yes, we often get ideas from our auditors. Without naming names, they will share what they have learned about new technologies from other clients, and what has worked – and what hasn’t. Sometimes, with the other client’s permission, they will put us in touch, so we can learn more about the client’s experience. Another example is with our C-for-C platform, which will feed into our SAP program. Our auditors have shared what they’ve learned from other companies who have implemented C-for-C.
Goldcorp is now taking a more holistic approach of bringing all technologies together. We’re trying to marry the planning and reporting side of things, and we are making a major investment in a SAP platform that will help us to do that. We are using a number of software applications for mine planning, mine processing, and the financial implications of these activities. We are integrating this software so that we have the categories and criteria for information that starts right from the ore body to the actual production of the metal flowing together. This provides feedback for reporting and planning. It’s really a powerful tool to help us run the business better.
We are very fortunate because we have a management team with vision, which makes implementing new technologies easier. That said, we have grown considerably over the past few years, and that means people have had to adapt to new systems and processes. I think leadership has made a big difference in getting us to where we want to go. As a company, we are committed to finding new technologies that can help us solve business problems, and people understand that.
I am fortunate to have great resources both internally and externally to help me keep up with technological advances. For example, I sit on our operations council, which looks at all the functional disciplines across the company. We discuss the strategic aspects of the business and new technologies that we should consider. I also attend conferences with my peers where we can compare and contrast what we are seeing and where we should be going with technology. Finally, our external auditors share information about best practices, what other companies are doing and what’s happening in the marketplace.
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The corporate controller’s role continues to transform. Driven primarily by advances in technology and the need for organizations to capture, manage and leverage data to enhance an organization’s performance, the controller is at the center of the corporate universe. Download the Forbes Insights survey report, sponsored by KPMG here.