Intelligent financial and operational investments have become competitive differentiators

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Times 3 Technologies’ Stephen Howe explains that finance as a function has evolved right alongside technology.

The shape of financial management within the organisation has changed. Thanks to the influx of artificial intelligence (AI), automation and machine learning technologies, accounting platforms have shifted from supportive resources to strategic and competitive advantages.

According to the Finances Online Accounting Statistics report, 83 percent of accountants believe that technology is the key to remaining competitive. It is also the edge of the financial management blade, allowing for organisations to refine their approaches and operations – using the capabilities of intelligent technology to transform financial decision-making.

Accounting automation solutions have come a long way in the past few years. A large part of this evolution has, of course, been driven by the pandemic. Companies had to invest into digital as a matter of survival and part of business continuity and resilience relies on ensuring that financial systems are advanced enough to handle the complexities of a digital workplace and the vagaries of volatile markets. Plus, as the Harvard Business Review highlights, the use of intelligent process automation (IPA) is allowing organisations to reinvent themselves, remain relevant, and thrive.

McKinsey believes that intelligent automation solutions are key to gains in efficiency and effectiveness and in giving the business a solid competitive foundation. This is echoed in the Zapier 2020 State of Business Automation report that revealed how well automation can refine an organisation’s processes and deliver measurable returns on investment.

The report found that two out of three knowledge workers found it made them more productive, 65 percent are less stressed and 88 percent find it gives them a competitive advantage. Move forward to 2022, and the 2022 CFO Study on the future of automation and intelligence within enterprise finance paints the same picture, but with added value.

According to the study, 61 percent of chief finance officers (CFOs) believe that automating finance delivers measurable value, while 60 percent plan to increase their investments into financial automation solutions over the next year. Their reasoning is sound – finance as a function has evolved right alongside the technology. Finance teams are under pressure to meet increasingly challenging objectives and targets while taking on an increasingly strategic role.

Organisations rapidly growing in a global market have to juggle globalised payroll, higher admin demands, and intense time pressures, and finance teams have to provide the business with the insights it needs at speed. The days of lumbering financial decisions and processes are fast disappearing.

Companies want to know that they can rely on their financial data and departments to keep up with them, and to support them as they move into new markets or take on new hires. The world is agile and finance has to meet this agility head on. This is why financial tools that automate processes and simplify complexities are critical. Every member of the finance team wants access to tools that aren’t cumbersome, costly and time-consuming.

In addition to speeding up tasks and improving access to financial data and services, automation also improves the quality of the data within the department and how it can be used to facilitate decision-making. The checks and balances that moderate financial solutions to ensure compliance have the added advantage of making the data rich and reliable, plus removing the human element reduces the risk of human error, which adds depth and integrity to the data. These benefits then translate into data seams that can be mined for insights that can improve efficiencies and approvals and can be leveraged to refine older processes that may have, in the past, inhibited the business and caused unnecessary delays.

Using the right technology and toolkits, the CFO can simply remove many of the obstacles that have previously limited finance and inhibited its ability to fully realise its potential within the business. It gives them the space they need to take on a more advisory role and to use existing financial skills and acumen to guide the business more effectively. When teams are tied up in process knots, they don’t have the time to really dig into their roles and provide more strategic support to the business. The right technology effectively removes this problem.

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