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How AI is Turning the World of Finance on its Head

on October 04, 2019

In the age of digital transformation, the role of the CFO and other finance leaders is changing drastically. To put it one way, they are trading in their calculators for cutting edge technology like artificial intelligence, and are going from a focus on “keeping the books” to sophisticated data mining and analysis. The impetus for this change is simply that just about every CEO (82 percent to be exact according to Gartner research) has a digital mandate as part of their business strategy and key objectives.  This mandate quickly flows to the CFO who is tasked with finding a way to operationalize that mandate and digitize processes through new technologies.

Digital tools are incredibly effective at adding efficiencies and driving process changes. Before a digital transformation occurs, most finance organizations will likely have about 80 percent of their time and labor focused on gathering, entering, and managing data with only about 20 percent of their resources focused on analyzing. Implementation of tools like AI can turn this equation around.

Artificial intelligence gives organizations the ability to analyze large volumes of data in very short amounts of time. The nature of work is also drastically impacted by AI, especially as it relates to the use of these technologies. Finance employees will need to go from being auditors or gatherers of data to analysts and optimizers of data. With this opportunity for increased efficiency, finance organizations have the opportunity to deliver a different outcome than what they were capable of before. The end result is a larger portion of time and resources dedicated to analyzing data and providing value to the organization.

Not sure where to begin? Here are some practical ways to start the digital transformation journey:

  1. Understand the skill sets you have in your business today. Are they the right skills to have in the future? Consider where your teams currently spend their time. Is it on gathering data or analyzing and creating actionable results? Determine if there is a way to shift the balance using technology between tests that are technology-centric and tests that are people-centric.
  2. Keeping your eyes on the goals you want to achieve. The overall goals of finance aren’t going to change - optimizing cash flow, managing risk, and ensure a good control environment. Look at where technology can shift the balance between data gathering and admin to actual data analysis. By doing so, finance organizations can become more strategic contributors to the business objective and take advantage of those opportunities.

By taking the available resources and closing the skills gap created by new technologies, successful finance leaders can deliver an entirely different type of outcome than what is typically expected of a finance operation. Focus can shift from the nuts and bolts of accounting and processes to some of the softer and more operational skills like how to optimize cash flow, how to modify policy and how to better manage risk effectively. These types of focus areas will play a larger role in the organization and will become more important than the administrative skills that traditionally have defined many finance roles in the past.

Want to learn more about the CFO’s role in digital transformation listen to our conversation on Gartner’s ThinkCast.

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