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From Palm Pilot to AI: How Today’s Technologies Will Shape the Modern Finance Office

11/21/2018 By

Spend Matters welcomes this guest post from Melissa Hendrick, Yooz North America’s vice president of marketing. 

Remember the early days of personal digital assistants and cellphones? Before they were “smart”? We were wowed by the first hand-held computers like the Palm Pilot and BlackBerry, but few among us knew then that in a few short years, we would become dependent upon them in all aspects of our personal and business lives. Technology and time march swiftly on, and business moves fast. Senior finance executives need to understand how today’s emerging innovations are already impacting business operations, profits and productivity, and how to adapt or consequently fall behind.

While early adopters covet the latest technologies and all the bells and whistles that come with them, for CFOs it is not simply about having another cool tool. It is about reimagining not only the finance function, but also the entire organization — and how work gets done more efficiently, all while driving profitability.

As modern finance leaders focus on strategic priorities, workflow automation will become even more critical for handling routine accounts payable tasks such as invoice processing, approval, payments and vendor audits. Finance professionals of the future will embrace these five emerging technologies to scale gracefully and remain competitive.

1. Data and Analytics

Finance leaders are looking at the best strategies for organizing and standardizing their data, which is a pain point for many organizations. But while getting a better view of internal data is critical, advances in machine learning and unstructured data processing will assist CFOs in becoming more accurate in estimating revenue and profitability — and making smarter business decisions.

And that is only the first step. Looking ahead, prescriptive data analysis will identify new markets, customers, services and channels — all leading to profitable growth.

2. Risk Management

Many CFOs and risk managers share a common frustration, having a human who can actually decipher information from risk evaluation — a nearly impossible task. Fortunately, that is changing. Now, artificial intelligence (AI) and more robust data analytics will enable AP departments, as well as the finance team, to make more informed decisions about cash management, investments and lending, thus reducing the risk of being caught short of capital to fund mission-critical projects. Future AI tools will have the ability to analyze a lot more data than is currently possible to detect fraud before it gets too far.

3. Robotic Process Automation (RPA)

While today’s “robot” may not wander around your finance offices flailing its arms and shouting “Danger, Will Robinson” (for those of you that admit being old enough to remember the 1960s TV series, Lost in Space), it might be your new favorite co-worker. Adoption of cloud-based AP automation platforms that leverage a form of RPA powered by AI and machine learning is expected to become more widespread, streamlining and improving the entire financial planning and analysis process.

4. Blockchain

Cryptocurrencies continue to be a darling or a devil in the finance industry, depending on what day you’re listening to the news. But blockchain is emerging as a potential solution to supply chain payments and other financial transactions. One of the key pain points for CFOs is a lack of visibility into the payment process, from both the supplier and vendor side. Blockchain holds the promise of creating a payment ecosystem with valuable partners that provides a fast and secure way to process transactions. It can help finance leaders in a number of other ways as well, including:

  • Saving time by streamlining everyday business transactions and eliminating inefficient processes
  • Identifying and limiting risk
  • Eliminating overhead and multiple intermediaries
  • Creating a strong audit trail

5. Cloud Applications

Being connected 24/7 and needing real-time information anywhere at any time has sparked an increase in cloud applications. Business leaders are pushing for faster and more agile applications, and cloud applications perform data processing at the edge of the network, near the source of the data, to provide users with the fast, real-time analysis needed for smart decision-making.

The cloud will become the dominant platform for ERP and CRM applications, providing better visibility into spend. And AI, RPA and machine learning will be the leading catalysts to drive greater cloud computing adoption in the next two years.

Many P2P automation platforms are already leveraging all five of these key technologies, providing finance teams of the future the tools to escape mundane processing tasks, up-skill and prepare to scale gracefully and remain competitive, build a P2P automation ecosystem that is easy to manage, and increase collaboration between co-workers, vendors, partners and customers.