The transformation through three stages has placed increasingly high demands on controllers. The business partner level comprises a combination of two groups of requirements: On the one hand, there is the financial expert who knows his way around operational systems, is competent in both cost accounting and financial reporting, can do investment appraisals blindfold, and is able to answer any question at all concerning the tools. On the other hand, there are the requirements relating to management activities: This requires someone who is pro-active, has business ideas, questions the status quo, can implement new ideas, is able to manage teams, understands leadership in specific fields of activity (e.g., assigned projects), and can work independently.
Can controllers really maintain this balancing act? We have two answers to this question. (1) The position of "Controller" will be part of a manager’s typical career path. Even today, those employees aiming to reach general management must have spent time in a variety of functional areas, such as sales, pro-duction, and purchasing. They have to understand the different mindsets. Controlling is simply another one to add to the list. On that note, CEOs are often former CFOs who, in turn, were controllers before that. (2) Controlling will be divided. In addition to those colleagues who focus primarily on the role of business partner, there will be experts who possess the required depth of specialist knowledge in the long term. As far as controlling is concerned, they will act as partners to the business partners (see also our latest thinking on the "Controller as Business Partner".)
Professor Utz Schäffer & Professor Jürgen Weber