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Controller involvement in management: an empirical study in large Italian corporations

Laura Zoni (SDA‐Bocconi, Bocconi University, Milan, Italy and Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Milan, Italy)
Kenneth A. Merchant (Marshall School of Business, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California, USA)

Journal of Accounting & Organizational Change

ISSN: 1832-5912

Article publication date: 27 March 2007




The purpose of this paper is to report the findings of a study designed to understand how involved controllers are in management decision processes, what causes more or less involvement in those processes, and whether involvement is significantly associate with performance.


To test the research propositions developed from a review of prior literature, data were collected from large Italian corporations using a questionnaire survey.


The results show that most of the controllers are at least somewhat involved in management decision processes, and some are highly involved. A complex set of factors determine the extent and breadth of controller involvement. Controller involvement in either strategic decisions, operating decisions, or both types of decisions is positively related to some situational variables, including capital intensity, operating interdependency, line managers' financial competence, formalization of strategic planning and budgeting processes. It is negatively related to the use of controller positions as training for line roles. Overall, controller involvement was found to be positively associated with performance.

Research limitations/implications

This study provides support for some prior research findings and some extension of prior theory. Some findings were not consistent with expectations. This study was based on a small sample – 17 organizations; it used some crude measures and scales; and the findings can be generalized reliably only to the population studied here – large Italian industrial firms. More research is needed for further tests and explorations of these findings.

Practical implications

This research supports modern advice given to involve controllers highly in management decision‐making processes, but it also refines that advice by showing where high involvement is more (or less) desirable.


These results provide some useful support of prior findings and some modifications and extensions that further our understanding in this area of importance both to researchers and practitioners.



Zoni, L. and Merchant, K.A. (2007), "Controller involvement in management: an empirical study in large Italian corporations", Journal of Accounting & Organizational Change, Vol. 3 No. 1, pp. 29-43.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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