It was one year after grad school when I got an assignment as a business controller. The company was starting a major project and I was going to witness how a business case comes alive. When I practiced business cases in school, the story always ended once the investment decision was made. I never knew what comes afterwards, but now I was about to find out.
So, I got a job description to help me through:
To set up and operate sound financial control and timely accurate reporting for the business unit
Monthly & annual reporting
Forecasting and budgeting for the business unit
Standard cost calculations
Support for commercial business cases (e.g. new customer deals)
Document business case and follow up quarterly
Establish the business unit in all financial systems
Follow up investment contracts for plant and equipment
Maintain manufacturing/license agreements
Management reporting for business unit (e.g. sales reports, quality & claims, etc)
Develop business understanding
My job description listed more or less what I was supposed to do, but left me in the dark when it comes to what my role is. Do you see the difference? What I am doing versus why am I doing it?
And the more I got into it, the more questions I got about my role. Am I some kind of an information provider? Is my role to turn data into information for others to use it? Or am I supposed to use it? Am I assisting my boss with figures or should I be more like a critic for the business? Or maybe this is all about crunching numbers and presenting them in a good way. We have team meetings in which everyone gives an update on where they are with their projects. Am I supposed to do the same? Work towards getting good reporting and controls in place? And what was I controlling after all? Was it how we record, how we measure, use resources, or maybe that we deliver the results we should be delivering?
It seemed like I was a bit of everything and the proportion of each depended on the situation I was in at the time. About two years later I started to realize that my job description is nothing but a set of tools that I was using to do this controlling thing.
In the reporting and analysis part, I translate actions into numbers and the other way around, numbers into effects of actions. Then, there is planning which gets summarized financially into a budget. And then there is forecasting, which is the same as saying that if we do this and that, here is what our results will be.
Results, numbers and financials are all names for more or less the same thing, which is money. And since money is the best measure of value we have at the moment, then I deduct that my role is to know what generates and what destroys value and by about how much. Identify the value generation flows in the business and share the understanding of how we, as an organization, through our decisions and actions, generate value. That understanding will help us stay focused on the right things, learn and create more value for the communities we are present in.
I think this is eventually the role of a business controller or at least this is what I could figure out after two years on the job. What do you think of business controlling as a role? You can share your thoughts below :)