I've always feared AI, but, day after day I'm starting to see how it can be life-enriching. Whether it's a savings app on your phone that will look at your day-to-day spending and automatically calculate how much you can save, or whether it’s a chatbot on a website, assessing your needs and directing you to the right department quickly. All of these technologies are developed with automation in mind, allowing you to concentrate on what's important.
Although there are many, let’s concentrate on three problem areas common amongst finance teams. These are:
1. Wasted time with data entry and corrections
2. Lack of real-time financial insight
3. Lengthy close periods
Finance teams are generally quite small, even within large companies. This means that any time wasted on low-value activities can have a large impact on the team.
When you look at some of these low-value activities, they're made up of pretty monotonous data entry type activities such as journaling, reconciliations, import/export routines, excel data manipulation, and corrections. Throw a multi-entity/company structure into the mix and you've just compounded those efforts.
Now imagine you could build logic into your journaling, so all you had to do was a quick review at the end of each month and the job was done. Imagine if you barely had to make any corrections because an intelligent platform was spotting anomalies for you.
AI looks to automate the majority of the boring stuff, so you and your team can focus on being more strategic.
On the subject of being more strategic, you're not going to be able to make informed decisions if it takes you half a day every time you need to generate a certain set of reports.
Let's imagine your business has the opportunity to acquire another business and supercharge its growth, but you've only got a very short buying window. Reacting quickly is essential, so you'll need an immediate, accurate and trustworthy view of your cash flow and business performance to enable you to make a decision quickly.
Cashflow forecasting, the elimination of spreadsheets, and using data visualisation to get a real-time snapshot of your business are not new. But let's take this to the next level where you might have a machine learning platform that is feeding you information and spotting new trends. These trends could be the key to maintaining leadership in your market segment and edging out the competition.
In short, AI helps you to leverage your data to make more informed decisions, quickly, with increased accuracy.
Perhaps the biggest drain on time and resources will be your monthly/yearly closes. As you've seen from the previous two points, AI is the key to automating low value and time-consuming activities and is also crucial in providing key business insight.
I can see a future where the is no such thing as a 'close' or 'month/year end'. This will be because all logic and automation will be contained within one intelligent system. Until then, we know that AI, as it exists now, can drastically reduce your time to close for the reasons we've mentioned in this article as well as many more. But we'll save these for another day…
The final point is that the above doesn't leave anyone redundant, it just allows you to leverage the true potential of your team, and ensures that that the finance function can remain lean even as your business grows.
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