Finance professional, embracing AI solutions can free up your time

Oracle's Audrey Mbuyazi: Technology frees finance professionals from mundane tasks, giving them more leave days.

How would you spend 19 days if they were allocated to your annual leave count?

This was what Audrey Mbuyazi, the business solution lead at Oracle South Africa, asked the audience at the Finance Indaba Africa last week during a discussion about finance professionals reinventing themselves at a time when technology is disrupting their profession. 

Audrey said she would spend the 19 days watching a soccer or netball match and “taking more time to innovate outside of the finance space”.

Meanwhile, some finance professionals in the audience murmured that they would continue working – essentially, they would not take time off.  

These 19 days of possible leave were not a thumbsuck by Audrey. 

According to PwC research, which she cited, employees spend 19 working days per annum (on average) doing reporting functions such as searching for data, data entry, processing and analysing. 

She argued that if more finance professionals embraced artificial intelligence (AI), they might cut the time spent on reporting functions, freeing up their time to do other things, including personal favourites, outside of work.

If adopted, AI solutions would “handle high volumes and repeatable tasks that previously required humans to perform.”

She told the audience: 

“AI and machine learning solutions will help us to not do repetitive things, help us innovate and add value elsewhere. We want to use technology to free us from the mundane to high-order thinking, to innovate and do things better.” 

She predicted that AI will have the biggest impact on finance departments over the next three to five years. But the impact of technology in organisations might be largely on jobs and security of jobs. 

According to research by McKinsey,  jobs that might be safe from the proliferation of technology are linked to business development, which Audrey said requires the opinion and insight of finance professionals.  However, about 77 percent of general accounting functions will be “fully automated as you can introduce a machine to do this function.”

Although this might conjure up concerns about job security, she said finance professionals should not be fearful. They will be required to upskill and learn about AI solutions, which might, after all, free up 19 days of additional leave. 

She said there are AI solutions available for mundane tasks such as data entry or loading invoices that are sent to suppliers. 

“It starts with data. For example, if you have one key supplier and you want to make sure that payments to them are prioritised and processed on time, there are AI systems available for this.

“The systems will inform you that if you pay your suppliers on time, you will get a discount. As the system begins to see payment patterns, there will be continuous optimisation in your finance department. There will be less manual entry of invoices, less personal analysis of your data, greater efficiency, less risk and better retention of suppliers.”

Oracle has a cloud-based software called Touchless Payables, wherein a supplier sends through an invoice and it is automatically loaded to a company’s systems without it being manually loaded.

“The system recognises that a supplier is either authorised or the amount owed to them is authorised. It can even inform you if the invoice needs to be redirected to someone who can approve it.” 

So, how will you be spending your 19 days?