Technology is going to change the way we work

Innovation Series: Artificial Intelligence in the Office of Finance

By the time my daughters are old enough to get their driver’s license, cars will no longer need drivers.  It’s interesting how quickly this idea of self-driving cars is becoming a common belief.

I don’t think I am saying anything new when I say, “technology is going to change the way we work.”  We all know this is true but what I find most exciting is how artificial intelligence is going to transform what our jobs look like.

In my previous post, I talked about how the way consumers interact with tech is evolving to a ‘natural state,’ where apps are intuitive and perform tasks like a human.  This approach in the consumer world is spilling over into B2B apps.  This is possible through artificial intelligence (AI).

How does AI fit with Accounting?

Or better, what will AI do to accountants?  There are three key areas related to the Office of Finance where AI technology is going to improve and evolve the function.  AI thrives in environments where there are repetitive tasks, such as month-end close, where you generally follow a structured set of rules in a repetitive process.  AI works well to detect anomalies in data to serve them up to you faster than manual effort, and AI is particularly effective at pouring through large sets of data and providing insights that may have been hard for people to detect.

Slow your roll Alok, isn’t that what Finance does? Are you saying AI is going to eliminate the need for Accountants?

AI is not going to eliminate accounting jobs – however, it will turn accounting on its head!  AI will shift how you spend your time!  Less time on manual processes, more time focused on understanding exceptions, communicating them to the right stakeholder, and determining what to do about them.

Prophix Innovation Series: Artificial Intelligence in the Office of Finance
SOURCE: PWC

How will AI transform the Office of Finance?

Here are a few examples of where I see AI playing a major role in Finance processes.

Audits: the typical audit process reviews all transactions and applies standard rules to look for any exceptions. Once exceptions are found, Finance sits down with the budget owner to determine what to do. The lion’s share of the audit work is looking for these exceptions. Apply the rules, look for exceptions, rinse and repeat. AI technology is a looming threat to this industry, and the big accounting firms are all over AI – they have to be.  The days of rolled-up sleeves, long nights and huge teams crunching numbers is coming to an end.

Imagine the impact on the accounting world, when AI tech replaces the role of the junior accountant in the audit?  Then think of the ripple impact to corporate accounting when the cohorts of CPAs that are being training annually start to dwindle.  Scary or exciting?

Account reconciliations: The next generation of reconciliation systems will leverage Cognitive Learning to understand business knowledge, identify patterns and ultimately create evolving matching algorithms.  This will replace the need for manual reconciliations, and focus effort on inspection and exception management.

Exception reporting: Today time and effort is spent pulling together big monthly management reports.  We’ve all been talking about moving from data crunching to data insights for many years.  There are tools already in the market to make data/report distribution autonomous, while Machine Learning can help with anomaly detection.  A Financial Analyst’s role in the future is going to be focused on interpreting exceptions and serving them up to the right stakeholder.

Data analysis: your time is better spent analyzing information and uncovering insights that enhance decision-making, allowing you to confidently offer predictive insights, not just report on the past.  This is the key to the transformation of the Office of Finance.

Predictive insights.  Understanding what is happening, crunch giant sets of data and helping the business anticipate what is going to happen.

A few years ago, the idea of self-driving cars was a wild fantasy.  Today is on the cusp of reality.  Advances in AI are happening at lightning speed; the key is to figure out how to get on board so that you are not left behind when your competition beats you to market.  Get your head around this, test the waters, invest in people, invest in technology and most importantly, shift your thinking to the very near future.

Star Trek is closer than we think.  Beam me up!

“AI exists in instances where machines can sense, think, or act.”

Alok Ajmera

My passion is excellence; mantra is velocity; and guiding principle is compassion. As Prophix’s President, I am responsible for ensuring that every customer, prospective customer, partner, employee and shareholder around the globe has a memorable and positive experience with the company and its products.

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