Next June, the 4th Annual Financial Controlling Toolbox will launch in Bratislava. Financial Controllers attending our event can learn to master their skills, whether it is technical proficiency, leadership talent, or remarkable communication. Among our exceptional speaker panel is also Tomas Otava, Head of Controlling in Northern, Central & Eastern Europe from Sodexo. I interviewed Tomas last week and before his short business trip to Vienna, we had the chance to talk about his session during the event but also about the changing role of financial controllers nowadays.

Before we dig into our interview, tell me a little about your background and what’s the most challenging part of your job?

I studied Economics and Management in the Czech University of Life Sciences, and during my studies, I started working in the Financial Department in Adecco in 2005 as an assistant to the chief controller. After I finished my studies, I was involved in business and financial controlling. I was closer to the business, our branches and our sales managers and I cooperated more on pricing. After 5 years, I decided I wanted to take a small sabbatical. My intention was to spend just a few months in Ireland but eventually I started working at the Sales Department of IBM and decided to settle there for one year. It was a small experience but really important for me because I experienced how one of the biggest companies works. After I returned to Prague, I started working for Sodexo. I have been working  here for four years now. I started as the Financial Controller, then I was offered a job of Head of Controlling of the Czech Republic and recently I was promoted to the Head of Controlling for Northern, Central & Eastern Europe. So my experience is both on business and financial controlling.

Even though I have a short experience in this position, at this time of year it’s budgeting time. One of the most challenging parts is the strategic and effective communication with all stages in this progress, with CFOs, with controllers. Secondly, from a more financial perspective, it is the ability to be the right business partner for the sales department in order to help them keep the same profitability. The financial environment is changing rapidly now that there are new players on the market. The third point is the ability to understand the technical and legal framework for products so that you will be able to manage business models better. It is getting more demanding to know how to understand financial and non-financial people.

What were some of the biggest lessons that have impacted the way that you work?

Recently, I was part in a leadership program and it helped me to get to know myself better. I discovered new ways to manage myself, how to have better time management and also how to communicate with people. It made my work more efficient, knowing what others can expect from me and what my strengths and weaknesses are.

The topic of your case study is “The Impact of Digitalization on Controlling and Finance Departments”. Could you please elaborate more on what you will be presenting during our event?

During my presentation, I will focus on digitalization in the NCE (North, Central & Eastern Europe) region. It is important for the financial team to know where they should get the right information, where they should be more proactive and how to be the right business partner for sales and marketing. I will also talk about the impact of digitalization in the back-office tasks and systems.

What do you believe is the #1 takeaway of your presentation for those attending the event?

The Impact of Digitalization on Controlling and Finance Departments is an opportunity to emphasize a financial role in a company.

Learn more about Tomas Otava and how digitalization can help your organization by joining the 4th Annual Financial Controlling Toolbox in Bratislava on the 16th and 17th of June. Don’t forget to like our Facebook Page and follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter!