From hindsight to insight
Making Finance agile, intelligent and disruption-ready
For many companies, finance solutions are tethered to rigid, static legacy systems impeding agility, and the ability to pivot to support new business models needed to thrive in today's extremely challenging marketplace.
Artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotic process automation (RPA) tools are helping to transforming the function from pure play data and reporting roles to a highly valuable business partner that drives real-time insight, rapid responsiveness and ‘cognitive finance.’ There’s no question that this new wave of technologies has impacted CFO decision making.
Throwing off the legacy shackles
For companies undertaking digital transformations to become agile, kinetic enterprises, Finance is rarely first on the technology list. For Denise McGuigan, principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP, that needs to change. “It's really important to understand the actual scope of the transformation and when you think about it finance interacts with supply chain, human capital, payroll, sales and billing … it goes on and on.”
If any of those processes are broken, companies will likely fail to realize the results that makes a massive transformation worthwhile. “The explosion of data and these emerging technologies have really made it possible for finance to be that true business partner.” By not throwing off the shackles of legacy systems, finance is now at the mercy of data and the speed its delivered.
Finance as analytics tech drivers
CFOs are realizing they need to move the needle in technology and with that comes data and comes process. Ranjit Rao, principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP, offers that many finance organizations are expanding their data analytics capabilities to include predictive and prescriptive analytics to help them deliver smarter insights. “From a Finance perspective, they are helping to deliver more growth to the bottom line through predictive analytics.”
Broader scope, better business partner
Arjun Krishnamurthy, managing director, Deloitte Consulting LLP, posits that companies can apply finance intelligence and tech to advise other areas of the business – and bring in consumer attributes when they do. “Why can't we adopt a lot of that learnings and in the area of finance especially when the definition of finance is broadening with it with especially with in memory? This isn’t your grandfather’s ledger.”
He tells of a CFO that applied predictive analytics and real-time insights to the company’s supply chain. Once reliant on weekly store reports, the team moved to an alert system if margins dipped below anticipated levels, allowing their teams to swing into action with in-market promotions. “Because finance has rich data, they are able to make those insights instantly and drive those decisions that happen on the ground. We could actually use more of the cloud capabilities, IOT to broaden that definition of what traditionally finance was.”
Beyond spreadsheets with ‘cognitive finance’
Over the last several years, innovations and cognitive technology have allowed finance to move from ‘hindsight to insight,’ and gain significant foundational efficiencies with by automating processes and controls.
This could be the game-changer according to McGuigan, that pushes the function well beyond spreadsheets. “Imagine a world in which financial shared services runs itself, where machine learning and bots automate the most tedious and laborious processes, and it can get proactive insights – where cognitive can actually read and hear, look and feel, speak and write. The possibilities are endless.”
Rao sums it up nicely “As we all know, the economy ebbs and flows and more companies are looking to finance to step up and lead the organization through turbulent times. I believe that finance does now have the arsenal of tools at its disposal and it can and will rise to challenge.”
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