Embracing Automation & Artificial Intelligence as a Finance Leader

Technology permeates our world in so many diverse ways – from our smart phones to our revenue models. Add in the potential of artificial intelligence, and many finance and accounting professionals begin to fear change, worried that technology will one day automate them right out of their jobs! But looking around the industry, it’s clear that’s not going to happen…and probably never will. No matter how much you automate or how much technology is driven through the business, there will always be a need for HUMANS to come to the table, to have the conversations, to add the details and create the strategies.  It is unlikely that the human equation, or emotional intelligence, will ever be recreated artificially. At least for now.

That said, learning to embrace and leverage technology is more important than ever before. Not only can it free up valuable time and add efficiencies, it can also drive the reliability and security of your data. Don’t back away from this topic, analyze it with us.

Think of technology as a facilitator, not a sole solution.

Automation through artificial intelligence (AI) or otherwise can add powerful muscle to your team’s daily operations, but ultimately, human beings are needed to make measured decisions and interpret data. For example, some automation applications allow users to create customized dashboards that slice and dice numbers in a thousand different ways but you can’t just send a link and a set of instructions to your clients or your teams and expect them to know how to proceed.

You also have the awareness or knowhow of what information needs to be prioritized or how it should be interpreted depending on the audience.  You have empathy allowing you to “read the room” and understand how to communicate the information being presented or interpreting directly for your audience.  You and your team have the deep understanding of the business and add the necessary context, make tactical recommendations, and add the strategic value to the discussion.

Use technology to bring order to the office.

Replacing manual processes will almost always result in more efficient and accurate reporting.  If everyone works from a single, up-to-date source, the opportunity for errors is much smaller, which means your business can work faster. And that means your team can pivot to their next project or look for value-add opportunities beyond compiling data.

Cloud-based solutions can add an additional layer of opportunity and security for your firm. You’ll be able to produce a cleaner audit trail and effectively gate access to sensitive information. One of the most fundamental expectations of a finance officer is making sure the right data is in the right hands at the right time with the right explanations. These tools can help you quickly do just that, without sacrificing quality.

Finance executives should lead this charge for the organization.
CFOs and other finance leaders are in the perfect position to spearhead a company’s automation efforts. Their level of visibility and foresight is needed to set the tone, establish expectations, and even alleviate fears. Practically speaking, they’re also in the unique position to understand any downstream effects of new applications or systems – seeing potential obstacles outside their immediate number crunching world.  Real, authentic leadership is needed to successfully execute these kinds of changes.

CFOs argue automation is not about reducing headcount.
In fact, they maintain that in order for their finance and accounting teams to grow and develop, they NEED automation. They also extend this beyond their own department to the rest of the business.  Experts also consider companies to be at MORE risk if they DON’T move in this direction. Clients, consumers and stakeholders have come to expect it and many companies will find it difficult to stay competitive in today’s market without it.

Clearly, top finance leaders are excited about the opportunities that automation and AI may bring.  They understand their role in this evolution and the success they can drive through its use.  Yes, human interaction, empathy and insight will be necessary to make sound decisions that everyone can go along with, but who better to do but the finance leaders?