In my last blog, “The Third Wave of Financial Automation – CPM + Artificial Intelligence” I discussed that by leveraging Artificial Intelligence (AI), more specifically Machine Learning, it can be applied to help automate and speed up financial processes while minimizing financial loss and risk.
Now let’s look at another problem. Financial software solutions, regardless of if they are AI-centric or not, only provide the efficiencies and the ROI they promise if they are properly utilized by employees. However, in way too many situations, this is not the case.
So, let’s think about this:
- Most finance departments are already too busy executing on their day to day tasks
- Most finance departments experience employee churn and with that is a loss of IP on processes and business systems
- There is higher-value work that needs to get done that simply doesn’t get tackled during work hours, and if it does, it‘s usually done during late nights and weekends
- These time pressures sometimes lead to employees not having enough time to learn the company’s business application to make them truly effective and this issue compounds with the addition of new employees in the department
- The modern hyper-connected employee has an expectation they can work where and when they need to and some business apps are simply not mobile–ready yet
- This results in a serious under-utilization of the business applications and therefore the company won’t experience the results they were expecting
- Quite often the software vendor shoulders this burden
In my previous world working in the ERP space, I heard this a lot. ERP systems are powerful software solutions for running a business, but I can’t tell you how many times I heard the client is not happy with the system only to find the client wasn’t using the software to its fullest such as not utilizing all of its capability (available modules) or the employees simply did not use it as it was intended. This typically results in a low satisfaction level with the software and more importantly, you will not experience the benefits you were expecting.
Herein is the problem, you make a big investment in the investigation, procurement and setup of your business software, but if your employees don’t have the time to fully learn it or more interestingly, simply don’t want to learn it, or don’t feel they have the time to properly use it during their busy day-to-day schedules they will typically resort to short cuts or workarounds. So, after a while, based on a lack of results you come to the conclusion your software is not satisfying your needs, so you begin a search for another solution. Simply put, this is an expensive, highly distractive and time-consuming process to repeat again and again, especially when your current software might very well meet all of your current needs.
If this sounds all too familiar, rest assured you are not alone. The words that need focusing on here are “time” and “want to learn.”
So now let me ask, “What if:
- You didn’t need to fully understand the technical nuances of your business software user interface?
- You could free up more time for your staff or yourself?
- Your employees used your business software more?
- They “wanted” to use it because it was easy, intuitive and available to them wherever they might be?”
Would that make a difference? Well, it sure would, but how?
The good news is that Artificial Intelligence, specifically Natural Language skills can help:
- Defined: Natural Language Generation (NLG) is the use of artificial intelligence (AI) programming to produce written or spoken narrative from a dataset. NLG software has the ability to mine large quantities of numerical data, identify patterns and share that information in a way that is easy for humans to understand.
- Defined: Natural Language Processing (NLP) is a branch of artificial intelligence that deals with the interaction between computers and humans using the natural language.
In a nutshell, Natural Language simplifies communication between humans and computers using our own language for interaction.
Researchers estimate that AI could automate repetitive tasks that eat up a third of finance managers’ time, freeing them to work on more strategic operations.
By leveraging Natural Language your employees can now get the machines working on their behalf by simply talking to the business application and asking it to automate their time-consuming routine tasks, generate reports or distribute them and gain the deep and consistent insights they need to do their jobs faster and with greater accuracy?
How would this be achieved?
- Your employees old or new would engage the business software to get things done more naturally by simply talking to it. This would mean less training and a possible increase in productivity by engaging a business system by communicating in a manner more natural to humans.
- Repetitive, routine tasks can be automated by asking the software to perform them meaning there is more free time available to tackle the higher-value, more strategic work. Natural Language is a key enabler to automation solutions like virtual/digital assistants. “Hey Siri or Alexa”
- Natural Language Generation can mine massive amounts of data quickly, identify patterns and easily share that information visually or by spoken word for quick and relevant insights on dashboard charts and more.
- Since Natural Language Generation provides a single voice of the truth, the insights it provides are consistent meaning everyone who has access to certain KPI’s has the same interpretation of the data improving communication and alignment across groups or lines of business
- And given all of this AI capability is available only in the cloud, it is available to work for you anywhere, anytime from any mobile device.
This facilitates new levels of efficiency, mobility, and insights by enabling us to communicate with our business systems in a way most natural to us.
Natural Language is at the heart of the Task Assistant and Chart Insights capability found in the Virtual Financial Analyst powered by Prophix AI. The Virtual Financial Analyst is literally your own personal analyst there to facilitate and improve human interaction with Prophix CPM while handling your repetitive tasks and provide intelligent insights with the speed and accuracy no scale of humans could affordably provide.
Companies around the globe are increasingly turning to AI as part of their digital transformation strategies to help transform their businesses. The efficiency gains, deep insights, general affordability, and long-term ROI are simply too compelling to ignore.
So, how might artificial intelligence be used in FP&A in the future? It’s hard to say exactly, but as I said in my last blog, AI is not here to replace your highly skilled and experienced analysts, it‘s here to clear the way for them to proactively work on more important value-add projects. Not only will they be doing more of what you are paying them to do, but this can have a profound effect on the productivity of the finance department and increase the department’s strategic value within the organization.