Fun­da­men­tal change is­n’t the fu­tu­re, it is al­rea­dy here

Challenges and opportunities for corporate management

Digitalisation has taken hold in all aspects of our lives – both private and business. It is leading to a transformation whose dimensions we cannot yet anticipate, and it represents more than a mere technological challenge. Decades-old business models are being replaced by innovative, data-driven models in ever shorter cycles. Perfect integration into comprehensive systems has not yet been achieved, but the objective is clear: to provide business processes along the entire value chain with IT support. Intelligent software is now able to recognise complex situations and reach the next stage of contingency-based adaptation through machine learning. Agility and faster adjustment cycles are also expected in the development of new technological possibilities and in tracking new business models.

From a controlling perspective, digitalisation streams can be grouped in three categories:

  • Data collection: capturing information through innovative, hyper-sensitive identification technologies, sensors and information systems
  • Data connection: using intelligent logic to network data to create a networked world
  • Data intelligence: analysing large, partly unstructured datasets and identifying relevant information

Digitalisation offers challenges and opportunities in equal measure for corporate management and controlling. New technical options which allow more targeted and efficient control represent opportunities. For instance, control is being revolutionised by information that is moving ever closer to being real-time. Agile cockpits provide new transparency and enable control that is moving ever closer to the point of action. New business models created on the basis of digitalisation also require much more flexible and complete controlling. This means that completely new skills are required of controllers: less Excel, a greater understanding of algorithms and scenario analyses and an even deeper understanding of the business. The identification and reduction of information to parameters that really matter for management is becoming an increasingly important core competence.

Real-time, flexible controlling close to the business

New technologies such as SAP S/4HANA or cloud solutions create a basis for having up-to-date figures available at any time. This puts controlling in a position where it can access all required information in real time and enable agile management. Practical decision support can be significantly improved. Improvements in compute performance make it possible to generate more complex simulations and offer what-if scenarios for decision support. Software-based decision models provided by controlling enable autonomous processes in real time and reduce the effort involved by a considerable margin. Fully automated data flows enable all relevant information to be made available on mobile platforms to the relevant decision makers in real-time. This provides a unified view of all management-related data from the shop floor to the C-suite, with the option of creating individual breakdowns as required.

Regarding time, business model and degree of detail, the management observation scope can be adjusted to business requirements. The flexible project view serves as an additional internal control view which reflects the actual economic circumstances more effectively than the traditional year-end view does.

Automated and “unbiased” forecast values with predictive analytics

An unparalleled amount of data and information forms the basis – and at the same time, the product – of the digital transformation. Intelligently and efficiently using these data and information flows promises to be one of the most disruptive waves of transformation in recent history.

The purpose of predictive analytics is to support decision making in companies. Data is no longer seen as a by-product, but rather as a key competitive advantage for driving and tracking the company’s strategy. Modern methods and powerful software solutions enable statistical analyses of increasingly large and complex datasets. The focus is moving away from decades-old descriptive, diagnostic data analysis towards future-oriented action recommendations – also integrating external information sources. The question is no longer “Why and how did something happen?”, but rather “What is going to happen and what is our course of action?”. 

Especially when it comes to planning and forecasting, regularly previewing and assessing the development of the business is critically important. Predictive analytics provides in the following scenarios, in particular:

  • Reducing complexity: what are the main drivers and levers in our business and our company and how can they be quantified?
  • Accuracy of planning: which methods, data and information is needed to improve annual planning and intra-year control?
  • Scalability and automation: how can planning and forecasting be made more flexible and at the same time less resource-intensive?
  • Objectivisation/debiasing: how can controlling counteract the subjective perceptions of management and promote objective information processing?
  • Risk awareness: which factors have the greatest impact on profits and what materiality do they have?

New demands on the controller team

The developments described above directly affect the role image and requirements profile of controllers. In the best case, controllers of the future will have a profound understanding of business processes, product lifecycles and agile development methods, turning them into their companies’ innovation and change drivers. Their task will be answering the “so what” question that results from the mountains of information, and to derive implications for the business. This requires the ability to draw relevant information out of the continuously growing amount of available data. It requires the skills of a data scientist when it comes to statistical procedures such as data mining, big data, data modelling and programming algorithms.

As business partners, controllers will then be in a position to derive proactive impulses and concrete action recommendations for management as well as preparing decisions. For CFOs, the new role understanding also leads to a key role as drivers of digitalisation in companies.

Your contact person

Dr Christian Bungenstock
Partner | Düsseldorf | Germany
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