As technology advances at a rapid pace, the benefits to a business can be revolutionary. The sheer amounts of data and information available within an organisation – and your wider industry – can help to gain a competitive edge, but requires strong data analytics to fully understand trends and insights, and in turn make informed financial decisions. But in the future, who will be performing these tasks? Will the CFO role as we now know it become obsolete?
Although there is often discussion regarding artificial intelligence (AI), automation and computers replacing the need for humans in key financial roles, it is likely to occur only in relation to tasks that are repetitive or functions that would benefit from either an efficiency or financial perspective.
“Computers are great at things like calculations and repetitive data entry, but it’s a stretch to think it will replace strategic thinking and interpretation of data – which is what humans are great at,” says Raymond Lau, Founder and CEO of LeapFin, a revenue operations platform. “AI has reached buzzword-level. Automation should and will replace any work that’s repetitive like data entry, but the future is a combination of human and computers, focusing on their own strengths.”
Positions and tasks that require qualitative input or strategic thinking will continue to require ‘real people’ and will leverage artificial intelligence and data mining to their advantage to help inform business decisions or support an existing strategy: “There is a wealth of information in your data,” says Edward McDonnell from the Centre for Applied Data Analytics (CeADAR). “It’s a bit like a diamond mine – the challenge is that you have to chip away to get those diamonds of information to help you make key decisions.”
AI has the potential to make fundamental change in how we do business, and most importantly, help businesses to fully take advantage of the information they have access to. The role of a CFO and the wider finance function is destined to look very different in the future, but the benefits are clear for those who embrace AI – greater efficiency, reduced costs, targeted customer offers, and the ability to identify and address issues quickly.
“Finance functions will be far more efficient and effective,” says Tim Lea, CEO of technology business Veredictum.io. “It’s not just about replacing roles in the finance team. AI is more about getting access to a lot more information and giving the customer a better end result.”