By Gerhard Hartman, Vice President, Medium Business, Sage Africa & Middle East
The scope of the chief financial officer (CFO) has expanded beyond that of a traditional gatekeeper to financial resources, chief accounting officer and head recordkeeper.
With the CFO’s operational duties and strategic roles changing constantly, financial leaders are increasingly looking at technology to share some of their burdens. Where possible, they are eager to automate and digitise accounting processes to save time and gain better visibility into business performance.
Companies that are further down this road following the implementation of cloud-based business solutions are now considering how emerging technologies can help them better meet the demands of their extended role in the business. In particular, they have their sigths set on artificial intelligence (AI) – the technology could offer a way to build a more agile, efficient, and productive finance function.
Here are five examples of how AI can transform the finance function within the next decade:
1. Continuous accounting
AI could help usher in a world where the books are always ready for reporting, providing CFOs with real-time, complete, up-to-date information about the performance of the business. Automated technologies will help scrub and review data, feeding systems with accurate information in real-time.
2. Automation of routine processes
Many CFOs feel that they’re still spending too much time on day-to-day tasks due to manual business processes. AI, along with other intelligent technologies such as robotic process automation (RPA), enables them to automate more of the routine operational tasks. These technologies can, for instance, streamline processes like capturing invoices, generating expense reports, and logging payment transactions.
3. Conversational AI and bots
Chatbots and voice assistants will make it easier to complete accounting tasks without needing to interact with a computer interface. In addition to making life easier for the CFO, this could enable access to financial data and systems for more people in the business.
4. Fraud and anomaly detection
Sophisticated algorithms can comb data in real time to identify patterns and flag anything that might be amiss. This means CFOs will be alerted on which transactions flowing through business systems require careful review for possible fraud or errors.
5. Big data analysis
With large volumes of rich data flowing through an organisation, AI can sort information and find patterns that a human employee could miss. This enables CFOs to leverage powerful computing capability to analyse data continuously and develop data models for applications like forecasting.
These examples scratch the surface of how AI is becoming an invaluable tool for time-pressured CFOs.
Over the next 10 years, we can expect the finance function to change dramatically, in part due to AI. As CFOs continue to analyse and interpret the vast volumes of data related to their business frequently, AI will become one of the most important tools to driving business efficiency and success.