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The Controller Checklist: 6 Questions for Trusted Reporting

Board Reporting
Budget Reporting
Data Quality
6 questions for controllers for trusted financial reporting
4 min read
Steve Soter
Vice President and Industry Principal
Published: 1 April 2023
Last Updated: 10 July 2023

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

Maybe you can relate. Just about all CFOs in a survey by FSN and Workiva said the financial reporting process keeps them up at night, and that was before our world was turned upside down over the past few years. 

Fallout from geopolitical turmoil, new regulations, natural disasters, and economic turbulence can force teams to revisit financial forecasts and quickly pull data to answer questions from executives and the board about the balance sheet, cash flow, and financial health of your organization. 

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.

6 questions for controllers for reviewing financial reports


  1. Did the data originate from the correct system?
  2. Did the data flow correctly from the originating system to the destination?
  3. Was the right process used to aggregate or enhance that data as it moved to the destination?
  4. Were the right people involved in the preparation and review of this process?
  5. Do I have an audit trail of how that data moved and landed at its destination?
  6. Can I tie out the final presentation of that data to the original source?

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.

Without a way to automatically connect data directly from the general ledger, ERP, or other source to your reports, or a scalable and controlled manual data collection process, it can be challenging to answer "yes" to all six questions. And this process only gets more challenging when you add non-financial data to the mix.

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 haven't always kept up. 

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 automate the most manual, error-prone steps in assembling financial reporting outputs. 

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. Even when the data live outside of source systems, the Workiva platform facilitates scalable and auditable data collection.

How Workiva helps financial reporting teams and controllers


Thousands of organizations use the Workiva 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. However, automating tedious parts of the financial reporting process can free your staff to do more important work than copying and pasting data, chasing rounders, or updating numbers by hand. 

Then they can focus on using their expertise as intended.

Learn how top teams are automating financial statements, board presentations, and financial reporting with Workiva. 

About the Author
Steve Soter
Steve Soter

Vice President and Industry Principal

Steve is a Vice President and Industry Principal at Workiva. Previously, Steve served as an accounting leader in multiple roles including Vice President and Controller for, a private equity owned, online retailer of outdoor products, and as the Director of SEC Reporting for (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 the Executive Advisor of the SEC Professionals Group, and a former member of the US XBRL Data Quality Committee. He began his career as an auditor in public accounting, received his Accounting degree from the University of Arizona, graduating summa cum laude, and received a Master of Accountancy and Information Systems degree from Arizona State University.

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