AI can increase efficiency by automating manual, FTE-heavy finance processes such as the order-to-cash cycle. It can also help optimize data profiling, remediation, and integration. Cleaner data, greater accuracy, and more opportunities for efficiencies, which can lead to improvements in days sales outstanding, working capital, and margins. AI can uncover discrete patterns in complex structured and unstructured data, giving finance managers new insights that can support more meaningful analyses while increasing forecasting and financial planning speed and accuracy. By automating customer-facing finance processes such as invoicing, AI can enhance the customer experience, improving customer relationships and brand perception. AI mimics human intelligence to automate activities that nonintelligent technologies cannot, which can free more finance professionals to focus on value-driving activities.
A few years ago, The Coca-Cola Company began reviewing its existing balance sheet reconciliation process across 50,000 general ledger accounts. Multiple systems and manual processes had created serious challengeswhich sawmore than 800 associates spending 14,000 hours a month on reconciliations alone. By moving from manual processes to automation, Coca-Cola was able to reallocate 40% of the team involved in manual and routine reconciliations. The team was then able to focus more on activities like metrics, reporting, IT controls, and change governance. Since the shift in 2015, the company has realized millions of dollars in efficiencies that have been reinvested into the accounting function.
But not all of our salespeople were even that diligent about Salesforce, so one day our COO grounded the entire sales team for a week in a sweaty, windowless conference room so we could clean up our CRM. We spent five days manually updating Salesforce but didn't even make a dent since the data was so incomplete and inaccurate. It felt like a complete waste of time to take the sales team out for an entire week of revenue-generating activities. Fast-forward a few years to when I was building out the sales team at a company that I founded and was shocked to discover that in nearly a decade, nothing had changed. CRM data was still a mess, and now I was the one frustrated by not having this mission-critical data at my disposal and wasting sales time and capacity cleaning it up.
RPA is changing the Finance and Automation (F&A) function. It is now possible to remove most of the manual work and help talented F&A team members focus on business growth. Would you like to radically improve your cost efficiency? Are you looking to innovate and improve speed and accuracy? Would you like to utilize your Finance team better?
The deluge of stories about artificial intelligence and robots has sparked a renewed interest in the capacity of machines to work better, smarter and longer than humans. Fuelled by the well-publicised examples of smart systems winning gameshows and trouncing a world-champion in the notoriously complex game of Go, many businesses are considering the potential of automation. But away from the speculation about the capabilities of near-future AI and robots, what are the practical considerations for any firm thinking of going down the automation route? The first rather obvious question for a business to ask is whether it is technically feasible to automate a particular activity, or will be in the near future, according to the consultancy McKinsey. This question shouldn't be drawn too broadly, and should focus on individual aspects of a person's role rather than their job in its entirety.