Controllers are responsible for a a lot of tasks, which traditionally include calculating, planning, and controlling. Today, they see themselves more as business partners, acting on an equal footing with management and supporting their managers on important issues. The line that distinguishes controllers from managers is becoming increasingly blurred. The obvious question here is whether there is anything specific to connect this wide spectrum of activities. The obvious answer is to assume that it is the actual function of controlling.
But what actually is controlling? This question has been discussed at great length in German universities for some time now, especially as the term does not originate from the theory but from Albrecht Deyhle, the well-known trainer, who developed it along the lines of the term “marketing”. To Deyhle, controlling means to realize a management by objectives. This encompasses the full range of corporate management tasks from setting objectives through to monthly talks on potential discrepancies. From the start, Deyhle has advanced the view that managers and controllers practice the function of controlling together. While the controller provides the methodological and analytical support, the manager relies on his intuition and is ultimately responsible for the decisions.
Over the years, the management tasks in which controllers have supported their managers have become more and more manifold. Besides routine management activities, other issues such as incentive systems and organizational matters have been added to the list along with diverse project work. Ultimately, the controller as business partner assumes the role of an all-round internal management consultant, who is expected not only to offer advice to management but also to take joint responsibility. The controller is often said to be co-pilot. In this case, it is difficult to distinguish between the controller and the manager, or indeed to separate controlling from management. This does not make it any easier to take a clear position on the issue.