Andy Bottrill, Regional Vice President at BlackLine
The point of using the best automation technology tools in any company’s finance team is simple: it frees up finance directors, accountants and other finance executives from repetitive, boring and time-consuming manual work. No more long hours of overtime in the office updating spreadsheets or compiling weekly or end-of-month reports. Which, in turn, allows them to concentrate and focus on far more valuable and productive areas such as big data analytics, compliance and fraud monitoring and detection.
The results of our most recent research into the changing roles of finance teams at medium and large UK businesses threw up some interesting insights into the ways in which British business decision-makers perceive their accounting and finance departments. CFOs and their teams are often considered to be an underutilised resource, with over one-third (34%) of those surveyed noting that CFOs and their finance teams are still under-valued in the business.
That’s why we passionately believe in developing the best tools and technologies to help and assist enterprises to automate their financial processes in the best way possible. By doing this, you are making a direct investment and showing a strong vote of confidence in your FD or CFO and their team.
Continuous Accounting: agile, cloud-based technologies
The real buzz in finance tech right now is around Continuous Accounting, which is basically a term to refer to the process of freeing up finance teams from the repetitive drudgery of compiling time-consuming spreadsheet-based reports.
Instead, Continuous Accounting is the intelligent application of agile, cloud-based technology to help finance teams transition away from old-school manual accounting methods. Plus, it means smoother workflows, fewer last-minute late night or weekend “crunches” and unfailingly accurate data and visibility of all necessary and relevant financial information at all times.
It’s a clever use of automation to enable AI-driven real-time reporting in order to free up the key financial executives within a business. It’s a superb example of technology being used to help and inspire ambitious CFOs to become the thriving CEOs of the future.
All of this means that data analysis is going to be the main job of finance teams in the future, with Accenture predicting that productivity in finance will increase by a factor of two to three times by 2020, with organisational costs declining by 40%.
There’s little wonder that our results also show that the vast majority (82%) of CFOs are now embracing cloud applications as the future for their business. They don’t need their teams to sweat the small stuff, when software can do that. They want them to be working on tasks that add real value to the business.
Adopting finance automation and artificial intelligence
The widespread and positive media reaction to the government’s recent Science and Technology Committee’s report on‘Robotics and Artificial Intelligence’ for the UK is a particularly interesting case in point.
Lots of national media picked up on the importance of truly understanding and responding to the opportunities opening up by the latest AI and automation technologies. BBC News, the Financial Times and the Daily Mail all reported on the types of skills we need to develop in a “post-AI world” discussed within the report, with technological automation and AI applications being seen in a positive light.
The most encouraging thing here is that the debate is centred around the “human cost” of new technologies, robotics and AI (i.e. on headcount reduction) that is all too often associated with reports on automation and AI in the enterprise.
“Instead of focusing on job creation or destruction, some witnesses considered the potential for robotics and AI to support, or augment, existing roles,” the report notes. Interestingly, and as I intimated above, Dave Coplin, Chief Envisioning Officer at Microsoft, also thought that by framing the “conversation [as] all about humans versus machines” the discussion began “on the wrong foot”.
“Tech had never been about humans versus machines…the story, certainly from our perspective, in the personal computer revolution is about how we augment humanity and how we enable human beings to rise up and achieve more than they could on their own.”
And this is our mantra. Tech is about enhancing the potential of humans and of the organisations that they work in.
At BlackLine we are offering our customers a simple yet vital change to their finance function – replacing spreadsheet-based manual processes with automated, cloud-based ones. Which, we believe, will directly enable our best accountants and most talented CFOs to unlock their true potential and put them on track to a CEO role.
Exceptional accountants can become inspiring and excellent CEOs, but only if they are allowed to focus their time, energy and effort on what matters.