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The Controller Checklist: 6 Questions for the New Normal

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April 1, 2020

The past few weeks have probably provided plenty of moments of near-paralyzing anxiety for those in accounting.

Maybe you can relate. Just about all CFOs say the financial reporting process keeps them up at night, according to a survey by FSN and Workiva, and that was before our world was turned upside down by recent events. 

Now that you're suddenly working with a remote workforce, you've probably been more occupied with figuring out if everyone has access to a laptop, important files, and the company network while trying to close the books with colleagues who were just a couple of desks away only a few days ago.

I hope your team is finding ways to adjust to the new normal. With quarter-end work looming and displaced teams dealing with disrupted routines, it's worth pausing to think about how to get through the next few months as a controller or accounting leader. To bring some order back, keep six critical things in mind.

The six questions to consider: the checklist

During my time leading global accounting teams, I quickly realized that there was no way I could re-perform all of my teams' work to ensure it was correct. Over the years, I learned to reduce the risk of errors through a properly designed and consistently followed process, relying on these six questions as guideposts.

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A controller's six questions

 

If I could answer these six questions satisfactorily, I had a high level of confidence in what I was asked to review and certify, and I was comfortable with the risk of error.

The need for a connected system of work

As we all navigate how to work from home, answering those questions has probably become tougher. Without a way to connect data directly from the general ledger, ERP, or other source to your reports, it can be challenging to answer "yes" to all six. 

While organizations have invested billions of dollars in financial transformation efforts in recent years to make sure transactions are accurately recorded, closed, and consolidated, the steps involved in financial reporting after consolidation have hardly changed at all. 

Too often, teams must manually export or copy data from source systems, manually assemble the data, and format the data themselves for reporting purposes. Often, the real risk of errors that can lead to a material weakness and restatement lies in error-prone manual financial reporting processes, rather than in upstream systems like ERPs or data warehouses. 

This could be an opportunity to take the leap and adopt a connected system of work for assembling financial reporting outputs. 

How Workiva can help

By using a connected reporting platform, teams can automatically connect data directly from source systems to a centralized reporting environment, where they can link numbers and narrative from a single source of truth to multiple reports. 

Thousands of organizations use the Workiva connected reporting platform to help them answer the six questions above with confidence:

  • Pre-built connectors allow teams to automatically connect data from source systems (like ERPs, BlackLine, and many, many others) to reports 
  • Teams can link data from a single source of truth across multiple instances
  • Workiva users can trace data lineage all the way back to the source
  • They can customize and automate steps in the process to make sure the right people prepare and review the final product
  • An automatic audit trail captures a history of revisions, including who made changes and when
  • You can also build data validation rules to ensure data accuracy 

Technology alone may not prevent finance leaders' every nightmare, but it does have the power to free your staff to do more important work than copying and pasting data, chasing rounders, or updating numbers by hand. 

Connected reporting is what can help controllers sleep better at night.

Check out our full list of resources for the new normal of accounting, finance, and risk.

Steve Soter
Senior Director of Product Marketing
Workiva

About the Author

Steve is Senior Director of Product Marketing and Accounting Industry Principal at Workiva. Previously, Steve served as an accounting leader in multiple roles including Vice President and Controller for Backcountry.com, a private equity owned, online retailer of outdoor products, and as the Director of SEC Reporting for Overstock.com (NASDAQ: OSTK), a $2 billion revenue, online retailer of home goods and blockchain technology company. His experience includes multiple acquisitions, debt offerings, an IPO, and the world’s first digital debt and equity offering (by Overstock). Steve is also a former member of the US XBRL Data Quality Committee.

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