How initiatives towards transforming the Role of Controllers play out – A field study examining the changing role of controllers at Volvo Cars
Background and Purpose: As the digital transformation alters organizations the controlling profession changes and boundaries are blurring. Controllers are moving away from a beancounter image and are evolving into business partners with an organizational value-adding focus. The longevity of development of the role of controllers has its roots in institutional theory where controlling is argued to be an institutionalized profession. Thus, change might not come easily which implies that there is a great need for change initiatives to break the embedded rules and routines. By drawing on the notion institutional entrepreneurship, we aspire to enrich the area of how initiatives are played out to transform the role of controllers. This will be done through performing a field study at a large industrial organization that has close ties to the digital transformation. Methodology: The initial stage of the research began with an extensive literature review. Afterward, a pre-study was conducted to grasp on the most important aspects. The prestudy consisted of two unstructured interviews and we were provided with material from our supervisor at the case company. The literature review and pre-study laid the foundation for the ten subsequent semi-structured interviews. Findings and Analysis: Our study shows that there have been a handful of change initiatives in place to transform the role of controllers. The initiatives are categorized based on the approach taken; Blunt intervention or Competence preparation. The former includes Controlling 3.0, an initiative that has disrupted the way of working in a blunt manner and fosters efficiency. In addition, Performance Steering and Ownership changes have also, to some extent, transformed the role of controllers. The latter, i.e. Competence preparation, constitutes initiatives that take time since they are primarily concerned with developing individuals and their capabilities. These initiatives are for example Educational programs, which have slightly improved the technical competences of controllers. Additionally, Soft Initiatives is another dimension of Competence preparation that concerns employing people with other types of work background. Conclusion: The study brings forth the idea that transforming the role of controllers is a multidimensional work with a mix of radical changes and continuous competence support. Initiatives with characteristics spreading across the two approaches are vital and there needs to be some sort of synchronization and interplay between the initiatives as well as between the internal and external environment. Additionally, there is a great need for having institutional entrepreneurs that champion new ideas which lead to materialization of new rules and routines. Some of the change initiatives are defined as Controlling 3.0, Performance Steering, Educational Programs and Soft Initiatives. Finally, the study highlights the influential role that management has, where their demands could be a starting point for new changes to emerge.
MSc in Accounting and Financial Management
Big Data and Business Intelligence/Analytics
Master Degree Project