FINANCE

10 ways automation has changed the role of the CFO

By Magali Michel, Director, Yooz

The role of the CFO has changed radically in recent years. Significantly affected by the large-scale introduction of digital practices in the work environment, CFOs now find themselves at the heart of strategic challenges.

Previously confined to finance optimisation tasks, CFOs now find themselves having to confront new challenges and are becoming increasingly involved in the overall strategy of the company.

The transformation of the CFO’s role in the business is not entirely surprising given the importance of data analysis as well as the various digital risks a company and its employees now face. In fact, it’s probably one of the reasons why an increasing number of CFOs go on to become CEOs, such as PepsiCo’s Indra Nooyi or BT’s Ian Livingston.

 The CFO: implementing the strategic vision

The CFO’s powers are no longer limited to their core business or the purse strings.Under the effect of several years of economic crisis, the ‘traditional’ CFO is now making way for the ‘open and strategic’ CFO – a value creator, performance driver, innovator, communicator, connected and mobile.

This upheaval can be seen through ten major changes around the CFO, their role and their responsibilities in the business:

From silos to an integrated value chain

Automation promotes fluidity of processes and helps to mitigate, and even eliminate, the current silos between the different activities of financial departments.

From the individual to strategic co-ordination

AI-powered automation solutions, through the precision of the algorithms, help improve decision-making and by suggesting the best actions to take.

From asynchronous to real-time

Technological power is making it possible to accelerate the financial processes, to the point that they can be run in real time.

From elitist to “mainstream”

Artificial intelligence is becoming more widespread and is now within the reach of companies of all shapes and sizes. In the financial domain, software solutions that incorporate artificial intelligence offer very competitive quality/price ratios, even if the technologies in question remain ‘invisible’ to the end user.

From mechanistic to intelligence-led

Human interventions are now focused on taking care of complex problem and exceptions whereas repetitive tasks are fully left to the machine. Processes are optimised and the risk of errors is minimised.

From design to Machine Learning

Previous technologies had to be continuously reprogrammed by humans, whereas artificial intelligence is able to learn on its own, allowing faster, better and more efficient processes to take place and continuously enhance.

From an intermediation approach to an interoperability and collaboration approach

The introduction of artificial intelligence contributes to the streamlining of processes, making them more effective and collaborative, is facilitating interactions between the various stakeholders both inside and outside the finance department.

From a forecasting approach to a predictive approach

The learning abilities of Machine Learning are not only making it possible to reach conclusions about the past or the present, but are also making it possible to conduct accurate modelling of the future – modelling that is far more powerful and relevant than the traditional methods of projecting past trends in order to anticipate future trends. Predictive models have, broadly, reached a mature stage of their development and are increasingly demonstrating their effectiveness in finance departments.

From a tedious approach to a staff “empowerment” approach

By eliminating the tedious tasks performed by human resources, artificial intelligence is reshaping skills for the better: enriching the tasks and jobs of staff in the financial departments to focus more time on keeping customers happy and less time filling in spreadsheets.

From a cost centre approach to a value centre approach

Through automation,financial management is being positioned more as a value creation centre than as a cost centre, as a performance driver rather than as a cash manager. According to a study by PWC, 48 % of financial managers at companies of all sizes are of the opinion that automation will allow the Finance position to increase in efficiency and improve internal control.

Automation: the CFO’s secret weapon

The transformation of the Finance position is bringing with it a number of constraints. For the sake of performance and agility, CFOs must now become the embodiment of modernisation to their customers, suppliers and co-workers.

In order to meet the new challenges with which they are now faced, CFOs can now count on automation as a significant ally and an important first step in their digital transformation journey to help optimise processes, gain time and productivity and reduce costs.

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