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Controlling ( english to control , German control , regulate , direct , monitor ) is a concept of economics and in the German language as a partial function of the corporate management system ( Management ) understood, whose core mission the planning , control and monitoring of all divisions is.

Controlling is a collective term that includes planning, coordination and control of the company. Controllers provide management with the information it needs to make informed decisions and then help them put those decisions into action. A distinction is made between operational and strategic controlling. Operational Controlling is responsible for managing the budget and ensuring that the company is economically successful. The strategic controlling analyzes the market so that the company can be sure that is actually made in the products that it produces, interest, and can respond to changes in demand. Risk controlling analyzes and monitors risks to which a company is exposed (see the tasks of risk analysis and risk aggregation ).


In the specialist literature there are different approaches to justify controlling as an independent business sub-discipline. The focus is on the idea that controlling is more than the mere combination of existing management sub-tasks, such as planning, reporting and deviation analysis ("old wine in new bottles"). In the last 20 years, the coordination-oriented approach has become increasingly popular: Controlling is a sub-discipline of its own because it is primarily concerned with coordinating various parts of corporate management with one another (see coordination tasks ).

Controlling as a field of activity can be carried out by various responsible persons or by the management itself, without a person using the express designation "controller". In small and medium-sized companies in particular, the controlling function is often performed by the company management itself or by the management of the accounting department. Above a company size of 200 employees, an independent controller is increasingly responsible for these tasks.

Tasks and functions

Planning tasks

In cooperation with the top management level, a controller brings together the sub-goals of the areas into a holistic and coordinated target system. The target system forms the starting point for the actual budgeting , in which the measures and resources for achieving the target are specified. The content planning is done by the managers of the departments. The controlling tasks include a. the creation of the necessary planning documents (forms) and the time coordination of the planning steps in the form of a planning calendar that is given to areas. The sub-plans drawn up by their managers are then checked by the controller for conformity with the objectives and summarized in a coordinated overall plan. The conclusion of the planning is the fixing and documentation of the plan values ​​in the form of budgets . Budgets represent specifications that must be adhered to in order to achieve the target in the following financial year (see also corporate planning ). An alternative to budget-based management is indexed operational performance measurement .

Information and service tasks

The controller organizes the cross-divisional reporting system and expands it into a comprehensive management information system . This is understood to mean the regular transmission of business management control information in a structured and compressed form to managers. They form the basis for monitoring profitability and for assessing business development using target parameters such as profit , profitability , contribution margin or the calculated company value as a measure of performance ("value-based controlling"). In accounting (financial and operational accounting), the figures for all past economic processes (actual values) are first made available in an evaluable form. Controlling uses this database, condenses it further, compares the values ​​achieved with the values ​​given in the planning and prepares them for user-oriented management reports. In addition, the controlling provides key figure systems that serve to substantiate operational decisions. For example, the profitability of investment projects can be assessed as a measure of success using the capital value indicator (sum of the expected values ​​of the income surpluses discounted with risk-adequate capital costs ). For the controller, the information from the cost accounting represents the essential working basis, at least in the operational business.

In addition to the periodic updating of the reporting system, this area of ​​responsibility also includes the fundamental design and further development of the IT-supported controlling systems. In addition, the controller is available to the executives as a consultant by helping on the one hand to substantiate business decisions and assess their impact on results. On the other hand, it supports management in identifying processes and issues that affect profitability and in researching their causes.

The so-called management cockpit (also management cockpit or KPI cockpit is) a special presentation of the basic economic indicators of a company that provides the controlling of business management as soon as possible. The controller, as the bearer of transparency responsibility, has the task of choosing a presentation that goes beyond the mere presentation of these key figures and shows as directly and clearly as possible the extent to which the company goals are currently being achieved. The development of defined key indicators can help to react quickly to changing tendencies inside and outside the company. A defined system of measures supports the organization in achieving the long-term goals.

Control tasks

Taxes can be carried out in advance (perspective), concurrently or subsequently (retrospectively). In connection with controlling, only the lagging option is usually understood, which is based on data from the past. The time lag between the creation of the data and the control intervention after evaluating such data is tolerated.

After the systematic monitoring of the course of business (by comparing the actual values ​​achieved with the planned target values), control is to be understood as the (re) control through certain measures. In addition to the originally set plan values, it is advisable to separately document the changing, concurrent setpoints. This is the only way to enable a meaningful review of the course of business at any conceivable point in time. These deviation reports require a functioning reporting system. They also support the achievement of goals by ensuring the behavior of managers and employees with regard to compliance with the specified budget.

The tasks of controlling go beyond the pure target / actual comparison (implementation check). As part of the deviation analysis, the controller analyzes any deviations, determines their causes and their effects on the course of business. If necessary, he indicates the need for action and triggers countermeasures from management to achieve the goals.

At this interface to the areas of responsibility of management, the agreement of the controller and the business or division management is of the greatest importance. Constant conflicts of opinion about the premises of the business plan and disagreement about control methods lead to political influence on the part of management, which make any planning seem absurd. Controlling influence in the course of business is first and foremost influencing the behavior and understanding of the role of management, underpinned by figures, data and facts from controlling, which are evaluated by management to shape their business strategy.

The controller also creates forecasts (forecast calculations) about the expected course of business so that potential deviations can be recognized in advance and undesired developments can be avoided. The three main projections are:

  1. The performance budget (plan P&L): Determination of the expected annual surplus
  2. the budgeted balance sheet
  3. The financial plan (plan cash flow statement): Determination of the expected cash requirements

Newer controlling concepts make a control claim that goes beyond the aspects of financial controlling. For example, the concept of the balanced scorecard focuses on the four perspectives of finance, customers, employees and processes. In addition to an all-encompassing organizational control concept for systemic management, the approach of systemic controlling also includes connections to the learning organization and to organizational development.

Coordination tasks

The focus here is on the one hand on the general targeting and on the other hand on the coordination of the planning and control system with the information system. A distinction is made between a system-forming and a system-coupling coordination task. System-building coordination means providing a functional planning and control system or information system as well as carrying out ongoing design, adaptation and coordination tasks within these sub-areas. System-coupling coordination means the coordination between the sub-systems, i.e. in particular the coverage of the information requirements of planning and control processes by accounting and reporting. An important system-coupling task is, for example, to set up an accounting system that adequately depicts the effects of possible alternative courses of action.

Rationality assurance tasks and decision preparation

As an extension of the coordination tasks, controlling is also seen as ensuring the rationality of management. Management is carried out by economic actors (especially managers) who pursue independent goals and who have cognitive skills for this. Accordingly, a distinction can be made between two types of rationality deficits: restrictions on willingness and restrictions on ability. Voluntary restrictions are taken to mean actions that ignore the goals of the company as a whole in order to gain personal advantage. Ability restrictions result from limited skills, for example a lack of specialist knowledge and limited recording and processing capacity ( bounded rationality ). The task of controlling as a safeguard of rationality is therefore to reduce or avoid these deficits. The aim is to increase the likelihood that the management will act in the optimal sense for the company and its owners, despite existing deficits. In particular, controlling should support the preparation of business decisions, e.g. For example, by showing the implications of an option for action (e.g. investment) for the future expected income and the associated risks (opportunities and dangers from a risk analysis ). In this way, controlling enables the effects of income and risk to be weighed up and thus a risk-based assessment (e.g. by comparing the expected return on an investment with the cost of capital depending on the scope of risk as a return requirement). Controlling thus helps to meet the legal requirements for the preparation of business decisions (see Business Judgment Rule ).

Control tasks

According to the literal translation, controlling is often wrongly understood as an instrument of formal control rather than a control instrument. In many companies, controllers are therefore seen as controllers and not as experts for managing corporate processes.

Historical development

Historically, controlling was first developed for private companies. Early controlling concepts were initially established in industrial companies and transport companies in the USA. There are older synonyms such as Controllership and Comptroller , which in their etymological meaning illustrate the development of controlling from accounting. The French neologism comptroller can be seen as a so-called portmanteau word . The French words compte (invoice) or compter (to count, to count) and controleur (controller), contrôler or contrer (to check) merged to form the comptroller (auditor, controller). The first chair in Germany to focus on controlling was established in 1973 at the Technical University of Darmstadt (today Technical University of Darmstadt ) and filled with Péter Horváth .

See also


  • Burkhard Huch, among others: accounting-oriented controlling . 4th edition. Physika-Verlag, Heidelberg 2004, ISBN 3-7908-0094-5 .
  • Johannes N. Stelling: Cost Management and Controlling . 3. Edition. Oldenbourg, Munich / Vienna 2009, ISBN 978-3-486-58780-7 .
  • Andreas Daum, Wolfgang Greife, Rainer Przywara: Business studies for engineering studies and practice. 3. Edition. Springer Verlag, Wiesbaden 2018, ISBN 978-3-658-20466-2
  • Jürgen Weber , Utz Schäffer : Introduction to controlling . 14th edition. Schäffer-Poeschel, Stuttgart 2014, ISBN 978-3-7910-3241-2 .
  • Péter Horváth , Roland Gleich, Mischa Seiter: Controlling . 14th edition. Vahlen, Munich 2019, ISBN 978-3-8006-5869-5 , pp. 600 .
  • Lukas Rieder (Ed.): Controller Guideline. The standard work for effective controlling and effective controller activity . WEKA, Zurich 2010, ISBN 978-3-297-01982-5 .
  • Laurenz Lachnit, Stefan Müller: company controlling . 2nd Edition. Springer Gabler, Wiesbaden 2012, ISBN 978-3-8349-3141-2 .
  • Volker Schultz: Basics Accounting: bookkeeping, accounting, cost accounting, controlling (=  Beck economic adviser in dtv . Band 50957 ). 8th edition. CH Beck, Munich 2017, ISBN 978-3-423-50957-2 .
  • W. Gleißner: Controlling and risk analysis when preparing top management decisions. In: Controller Magazin. Issue 4, July / August 2015, pp. 4–12.
  • T. Günther: Value-based controlling. 1999.
  • H.-G. Baum, A. Coenenberg, T. Günther: Strategic Controlling. 2013.
  • Journal for Controlling,

Web links

Wiktionary: Controlling  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Andreas Daum, Wolfgang Greife, Rainer Przywara: Business studies for engineering studies and practice . 3. Edition. Springer Verlag, Wiesbaden 2018, ISBN 978-3-658-20466-2 , pp. 77 ff .
  2. Volker Schultz: Basic knowledge of accounting. Beck, 2017, p. 233.
  3. a b Horváth & Partners: The Controlling Concept. The way to an effective controlling system. (= Beck economic consultant in dtv ). 4th edition. dtv, Munich 2000, p. 5.
  4. Andreas Kosmider: Controlling for SMEs. An examination of the design and application of controlling in medium-sized industrial companies. 2nd Edition. Stuttgart 1994, p. 139.
  5. ^ Horváth & Partners: The controlling concept. The way to an effective controlling system. (= Beck economic consultant in dtv ). 4th edition. dtv, Munich 2000, p. 48.
  6. Stephan Hostettler, Hermann J. Stern : The Value Cockpit . Wiley-VCH, 2004.
  7. Codec GmbH: A day in the life of the CFO. March 10, 2016, accessed April 27, 2016 .
  8. Christoph Binder, Utz Schäffer: Controlling chairs and their owners - an overview. In: Jürgen Weber (Hrsg.): Internationalization of Controlling: Position determination and options. 2005, p. 16.