Self-driving technology for CFOs

4 steps on how self-driving technology can help CFOs become business partners

Posted by  Sjoerd-Jaap Westra

In the modern organization, all eyes are on the CFO and their team. They are expected to perform the roles as numbers experts and strategists with equal assuredness. Senior colleagues and departments across the business expect advice and direction based on accurate, up-to-the-minute data.

Factor in the rapid rate of technological change, and the challenges facing CFOs and their teams are unlike any they have faced in the past. This situation is described in The Changing Role of the CFO report, by the ACCA:

“Operational excellence, in the traditional roles of transaction processing and financial reporting, is now taken for granted. The rules of the game have changed for CFOs, reflecting a more uncertain, dynamic and global economic environment in which their businesses operate. This is compounded by an extraordinary rate of technological change.”

To respond, CFOs need a new way of operating – and of deploying the tools the Digital Revolution has given us. For instance, a term you may have heard in the past, “Self-Driving Technology”. Here’s how we see self-driving technology transforms four key areas of a CFO’s responsibilities.

Daily Bookkeeper - Don’t get caught up in transactional tasks; make progress every day

Business clearly relies on the accuracy of its data to drive performance and improvement. But is relying on colleagues to accurately input the data a sensible or sustainable option? How many hours are wasted, not just on the data entry, but also on checking veracity and making endless changes?

Surrendering core financials’ accuracy in this way holes any attempts at process and performance improvements below the waterline. But what if there was another, smarter, self-driving way?

Think of two core functions performed by people across an organization; expenses and procurement. They are usually manual processes involving spreadsheets, while modern software can extract the relevant data and enters it in the appropriate fields based solely on a photo of the receipt or invoice. This seemingly small innovation ultimately frees an enormous amount of time that can be spent on adding real value.

Performance Improver - Don’t settle for the status quo; unlock your company’s latent potential

Intelligent automation analyzes data and puts it to use.  It eliminates repetitive and time-consuming manual tasks with a couple of mouse clicks, or even no mouse clicks at all.  Anomalies in harvested data are automatically flagged and alerted, enabling employees to deal only with exceptions that warrant their scrutiny.

With self-driving technology, embedded analytics scour every bit of big data.  Decisions are based on current and complete information, saving time, money, do-overs, and occasionally embarrassment.  Accurate reports can be used to predict timelines, costs, and profitability and support managers to perform complex tasks faster and more collaboratively.

Performance Predictor - Hope is not a strategy; become a business driver by creating your future

With self-driving technology supporting the modern finance professional, decisions aren’t just real-time decisions, they are better decisions It’s also 24/7 insight into your business and what we like to call as “self-service intelligence”. With predictive analytics, the software engine finds patterns and makes recommendations.  It automates processes. It alerts the user when user-set thresholds are exceeded.  It alerts the user to problems hidden among a massive deluge of disparate data.  Human and computer intelligence merge to make the better decisions. Analytics predicts what will happen and prescribes the actions needed.

Here again, after the data is crunched, user interface is reduced and frequently eliminated.  This is a streamlined experience that empowers CFOs and their teams to make better use of their skills and experience. The dramatic decrease in screen interactions results in a dramatic increase in simplicity, clarity and intuitive understanding. 

Communicator and Reporter - Reach the entire organization; become a trusted business advisor through engagement  

“Today’s CFO is expected to work in collaboration, by serving as the integration hub for key business processes, as a catalyst for change including business transformation, and as a consultant or trusted business advisor in helping to create sustainable growth,” Jeff Thomson, President and CEO of the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA).

To meet this new expectation it’s vital to have and properly deploy fitting technology for your organization. Analytics built into the heart of the business application allow colleagues in different job functions to analyze any data set they like and work with the CFO to formulate the best response.

By embedding analytics capabilities into business applications in real-time and in the context of a business process, the system of record becomes a system of insight. Accurate reports can be built quickly and improve the decision making process.

Storing and accessing data in the cloud offers a collaborative hub that speeds decision-making while maintaining company information far more securely than exchanging documents through email. With the cloud, you can eliminate version control concerns. All your reports are automatically updated and historical data is searchable by date or region. Furthermore, you can instantly pull in global data for analysis, seize opportunities on the spot, and create a better customer experience from real-time insights.

Self-driving technology is delivering on the promise of automation to free up finance leaders for more valuable tasks. Smart CFOs can spend more time on long-range planning and be more of strategic partner for the organization as a whole. Automate, work smarter, collaborate everywhere and prove your worth.

Sjoerd-Jaap Westra

Sjoerd-Jaap Westra

Within global product marketing of Unit4, Sjoerd-Jaap is responsible for the 'Office of the CFO' suite. This suite contains best-in-class solutions for financial management, planning & control management, and corporate performance management.


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