Alleviate financial anxiety and take control with advanced technology
For many, it feels like we are living in an age of fear. From the continued impact of Covid to the doomsday challenges of climate change, global anxiety feels pervasive. Business leaders are not immune from this swell of fear. Tasked with building strong and successful businesses that can weather a plethora of storms, the weight of responsibility is heavier than ever. Nick Jackson, Finance Transformation Leader at Oracle comments
t is perhaps unsurprising then that as a result of the pandemic, financial anxiety and stress have increased 213% among business leaders in the UK; nearly nine in ten people have reported feeling greater financial fear and sadness.
Anxiety and fear are often a result of feeling out of control. When nearly a third of business leaders were worried about bankruptcy during the pandemic, this fear is understandable. To conquer this anxiety and remain resilient and positioned for growth, leaders must therefore focus on what they can control. When it comes to money, in a modern organisation, greater financial control can come in the form of digital transformation. In this age of anxiety, leaders know that they are wasting too much time and human energy on time-consuming, repetitive finance tasks that take much-needed resources away from strategic problem-solving.
So, what avenues in technology should they look towards investing in, to alleviate this strain?
Nick Jackson, Finance Transformation Leader, Oracle
The technology advantage
Exploiting the latest in robotics, AI and machine learning can relieve leaders of the burden of operational anxiety. In fact, 81% of UK business leaders believe that organisations that don’t rethink finance processes will face more risks, including falling behind competitors, increasing stress on workers and inaccurate reporting.
When being asked to make high-level financial decisions in response to crisis, business leaders cannot afford to waste time bogged down in operational detail or process-heavy decision-making. By taking control of where energy and precious human resource is invested, more intelligent decisions can be made, alleviating fear and strengthening resilience.
Digital transformation through the embedding of AI and machine learning is revolutionising financial processes and, in turn, the wider business. As our recent research into the impact of technology on our relationship with money suggests, over three-fifths of UK business leaders would trust a robot over themselves to execute finance-related tasks. Furthermore, 77% say they want help from a robot for key finance tasks; the top four being approvals, budgeting and forecasting, reporting and compliance and risk management.
The most important investment for a decade
As Clement Christensen, director at Gartner says, “AI will probably be the most important investment that you’ll make in finance for the next 10 years.”
Further analysts warn “through 2024 businesses will be forced to accelerate digital business transformation plans by at least five years to survive in a post-COVID-19 world.” (Gartner).
However, to reap the real benefits of digital transformation, the use of AI must go beyond simple financial automation. As Deloitte recognises, “by 2025 the role and value of the finance organisation will be less about manually handling transactions and more about automating and streamlining processes. Finance will focus less on booking accounting entries and reconciling data, and more on delivering value and services that drive improvements across all business activity.”
In today’s digital workplace, the use of AI and robotics to automate day-to-day business processes such as invoicing or expenses should be regarded as low-level must-haves, not the pinnacle of modernity. Put succinctly, “AI should do more than just modernise. It should transform your business,” says Gartner’s Christensen.
Regaining control over financial processes
From RPA (Robotic Process Automation) to intelligent chatbot applications, blockchain and IoT, new financial technologies deliver next-level visibility, compliance, reporting, and enhanced employee experiences.
These technologies prove truly transformational in how they aid higher-level analytics and decision-making. A company’s data is its most valuable resource – especially in today’s climate of uncertainty. However, few finance teams make the best use of their data. They don’t have the time, resources, expertise, and tools to sort through mountains of data to extract useful information, especially when they are still focused on repetitive, operational tasks.
Embedding artificial intelligence solutions across financial data can unveil insights and opportunities otherwise lost in swathes of information that humans alone cannot harness. AI can be used to leverage data to improve financial performance, optimise cash flow, and increase agility across payables, receivables, procurement, and inventory.
With processes automated, and more significant insights delivered by robotic colleagues, the office of the CFO is now free to take a more strategic role, driving initiatives and exercising greater influence over the direction of the business.
By taking control of operational burdens, energy is spent where it is needed – seeking novel and innovative ways to answer the challenges of ongoing, evolving external crises. And, as Gartner’s Christensen warns, time is of the essence to embrace AI for financial transformation.
Fear results in fight, flight or freeze. In crisis there is opportunity. There is only one option for businesses. In the fight to secure financial futures, there is the opportunity to embrace next-generation technology – not just as a one-time ally, but as a strategic imperative.