AI and the controller profession : Impact and challenges in the manufacturing industry
Abstract: Background: The trends towards a more digitalized world are ongoing and has a meaningful impact on both society and business. The emergence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is transforming industries and challenging them to change. The controller profession is a profession that handles a lot of data. Digitization is set to affect professions by increasing the data flows. With a lot of task that are highly data-intensive, the controllers job is to interpret and anlyze the raw data they have available with different tools, models and software to deliver to decision-makers within the company. The current tools and methods that the controllers are utilizing for analyzing internal data coming from ERP-systems such as SAP or Oracle, are becoming outdated. With the rise of digitization and AI, it is believed that companies can create added value through more precise forecasts that are built upon data from inside and outside the firm. The rise of digitalization and AI shows a change in the expected skill profile of a controller, but the new picture of the controller is still uncertain. Purpose: The purpose of this study is to examine the expected change in the role of controllers in different manufacturing companies that is anticipated to occur with the implementation of AI and challenges that it may bring. Method: To understand the phenomenon of how the role of the controller is changing due to AI and the challenges it may bring, and to fulfill the study’s purpose qualitative research was conducted. The empirical data is collected through 11 semi structured interviews with controllers, theoretical experts in both Business Administration and AI, as well as BI consultants. The empirical data was analyzed through thematic analysis. Conclusion: Conclusions of this study confirm already existing theory but also adds to it. The controller’s most important skills, such as financial and analyzing skills will remain to be important in the future. The changes in the role of the controller due to digitalization is already taking place in big manufacturing companies and it is clear that controllers have started to improve their IT-skills due to this. The role of the controller will move increasingly towards what is described in literature as the business partner role. The controller needs, due to AI, enhance and learn certain types of skills such as AI knowledge and “human skills”. The challenges found connected to the implementation of AI are both on an organizational and a individual level, examples of them are creating a vision and guidelines for the controllers to follow in order to enhance participation in the change progress, as well as creating both time and opportunity for the individuals to improve their knowledge on and understanding of AI.
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