How Artificial Intelligence Will Improve Finance’s Workflows

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Artificial intelligence is becoming more of a presence in everyone’s life.

In fact, even the staunchest of technophobes can’t avoid some level of AI or automation. For instance, a quick call to the bank is at least partially AI-based, as these systems use keywords or phrases to either answer questions or direct you to the appropriate representative.

The Adoption Of AI And Automation

Most of this is due to accessibility. Because of the cloud, tools that were previously attainable to only large corporations are available across the board. Whether AI is used for sales, marketing, finance, or human resources, its sheer magnitude is obvious. IDG’s “2018 Cloud Computing Survey” found that 73% of businesses run a minimum of one application on the cloud, and many of those cloud-based applications are automation tools.

Security has also played a role in the rise of cloud-based systems and AI. The cloud is sometimes more secure than hosting everything in-house, and firewalls, anti-malware protection, integrity monitoring, and intrusion preventions (among other measures) can protect sensitive information. This means small businesses can feel comfortable putting sensitive data on the cloud. After all, it has quite literally leveled the playing field.

As AI-driven tools continue to improve operational processes, another opportunity presents itself: saving more time. Time is a limited commodity, especially for finance teams. They deal with many manual processes that take time away from other high-priority tasks (such as account reconciliation and variance analysis). The vast majority of manually generated spreadsheets contain mistakes, for instance, and someone must track down and fix these errors. That’s precious time wasted, especially if the process could be automated.

In pursuit of employee retention, you want to give your team room to focus on high-level initiatives. Even some CFOs find themselves dealing with accounts payable tasks, but that shouldn’t be a core function of their role. Their time is better spent on growth, efficiencies, and international expansions.

According to Accenture, 81% of CFOs feel they should be identifying and targeting areas of new value, and another 77% want to drive business transformation with technology. AI and automation could make that possible. These tools have the power to change the finance team as a whole. And as you begin to implement more technology into your operations, you’ll begin to experience increased benefits.

The Benfits Of AI

One of these benefits is AI’s ability to eliminate manual back-office tasks. Need an invoice or a report? It can be done in a matter of minutes. The same can be said for certain aspects of expense management, procurement and purchasing, and even your monthly close process.

Machines are well-suited for pulling and consolidating data from multiple sources and then reconciling that information. And with many of today’s AI providers being well-established organizations, task-automation tools are not only easier to use and deploy, but the companies themselves also have the governance, infrastructure, and security to support enterprise programs.

AI can also play a role in helping team members act as strategists. That’s because providing teams with the right technology and automation capabilities allows everyone to be more strategic and impactful on a day-to-day basis. Instead of being inundated with mundane or transactional tasks, they’re now able to focus on work that truly elevates the business.

They spend more time analyzing results, deriving insights from information, and leveraging any conclusions to improve operations. Likewise, businesses can focus on continued education for employees, including on-site training. When combined, the best tech, tools, and training can do wonders for improving morale, job satisfaction, operational efficiencies, and overall productivity.

Lastly, AI can significantly improve process efficiency overall. It makes your processes “smarter” by reducing risks and errors, optimizing workflows, and adding any necessary controls.

Take something as straightforward as a workflow approval: An automation tool could help eliminate a number of the “checks” required in the process by filtering out low-risk exceptions based on a set of parameters that would usually be approved regardless of circumstance. That part of your operations now becomes smarter while still offering the necessary controls and reducing risk. Other workflows in your organization could experience the same results: McKinsey found that 42% of finance activities could be fully automated, with another 19% benefitting from partial automation.

As technology evolves, there’s more opportunity to implement automation and allow finance teams to focus on more critical tasks. Your team becomes more efficient and productive — and each employee’s roles and responsibilities will evolve. The sooner you begin exploring the potential of AI and automation, the sooner you’ll reap the benefits of tech.

About The Author

Chen Amit is the co-founder and CEO of Tipalti, a payment automation software that helps businesses manage their entire supplier payments operations by streamlining all phases of the AP and payment management workflow in one holistic cloud platform. Formerly the CEO of Atrica and Verix, Chen is a veteran high-tech executive and repeat entrepreneur.