AI and automation: Shaping the future of finance

Modern technology is developing at a faster pace than ever before. It connects us - giving us access to information and innovative ideas, securing our data, saving time, and increasing productivity. In 2023, it's no surprise that businesses are increasingly moving toward digitalization. This move is especially apparent in the finance industry, where artificial intelligence (AI) and automation of processes are adding more value to businesses worldwide.

Defining artificial intelligence

AI is the development of software to perform tasks requiring human intelligence –e.g., speech recognition, translation, decision-making, and visual perception. The rise of AI has contributed to negative headlines surrounding the displacement of workers across industries – the automation of manual and repetitive tasks has left many without a job. Below, we'll explore the benefits and challenges of AI and automation in finance, what CFOs of the future need to focus on in an increasingly digitalized world, and how AI and automation will create and add value to your finance team and business. 


Finance automation: The benefits

There's a reason that finance departments are moving towards implementing AI and automation; in fact, there are many reasons. Finance teams can benefit from automation implementation in several ways, such as elevating data protection and security, streamlining time-consuming manual tasks, generating electronic audit trails, and creating added value. 

Data protection and security

A large part of working in finance is working with internal and external personal data, meaning that you should monitor and manage the risks. This data contains sensitive information about the organization, employee and customer details, bank account numbers, names, and addresses.

Since Covid-19 locked down the world in 2020, most businesses have had to adapt to a work-from-home model to keep up. In finance teams, the rise of remote work has led to a decrease in cyber protection and an increased risk of opportunities for cybercrime.

Implementation of automation in your finance department ensures that the data is protected and secured against fraudulent activity. It ensures that the correct people have access to sensitive data – for the right reasons. Duties are separated, restricting one person from performing all activities, and lowering the risk of financial fraud.

Streamline time-consuming manual tasks

Finance teams are facing increasing pressure to perform better analyses and provide insight into the business, but they are too busy performing resource-intensive, repetitive manual tasks. These tasks, while necessary, are low-efficiency, low-value functions, such as manual data entry, transaction processing, and approvals.

AI and automation streamline your team's workflow by reducing manual data entry, paper, errors, and waiting times. Improved workflow prevents you from needing to hire more employees to keep up with the manual tasks and allows your current employees to focus on generating more insightful data – saving you money and boosting employee morale.

Generate electronic audit trails

Auditing can be stressful, but it's necessary to ensure that there is no fraudulent activity and that your business's financial statements are accurate. As a business, you need to be fully prepared for an audit and up to date with your bookkeeping. Working with paper receipts, invoices, and other financial documents can lead to lost papers and errors - failure to present correct information can result in devastating consequences for your business.

Automation in your finance department reduces paper as documents are digitized for more straightforward processing. As these documents are digital, it is possible to generate an electronic audit trail containing your entire transaction history, requests and approvals, and supporting documents.

Create value for your business

When your finance team is stuck performing repetitive and time-consuming tasks, you are using resources that could be put to better use elsewhere – slowing down the potential for growth in your company. Implementing automation cuts costs and creates value for your business, employees, and customers. Implementing automation aids your company in:

  • Remaining competitive in the market
  • Increasing employee morale
  • Elevating strategic thinking
  • Creating greater innovation
  • Enhancing customer satisfaction

Automation fosters growth in the above areas, allowing you and your team to contribute more time and energy to value-based prospects and proactively address changes in market conditions.

Finance automation: The challenges

Moving towards AI and automation doesn't come without its challenges – people are resistant to change, especially if it means there's a chance that they may become expendable. The challenge for CFOs will be to identify which areas in their department could benefit from automation and how to transform their current team into value-adding members, balancing talented people with the capabilities of AI and automation. 

Shifting your finance team's attention and resources away from manual tasks will help inspire them daily and work with more strategic and insightful tasks. 

Evolve today – build your finance team for tomorrow

As a forward-thinking CFO, you must prepare for the team you want to lead in the future as the finance industry is becoming increasingly automated and you risk falling behind your competitors.

According to EY’s 2020 report, CFOs of the future are redirecting their efforts into specific areas, such as:

  • Being bold and innovative in choices, e.g., creating new business models, accelerating digitalization, and transforming the current way of working.
  • Focusing on adopting trusted technology to take over repetitive and time-consuming tasks.
  • Creating new talent profiles to expand and elevate their team and business – training current employees to focus on more strategic tasks rather than easily automated tasks.
  • Reframing what value means for the business - changing measurements and communication on corporate value to expand from short-term to long-term value.
  • Balancing competing demands such as protecting current value while enabling future growth or balancing traditional responsibilities with new directives.
  • Focusing on the emotional intelligence required for closer collaboration with their team, C-Suite peers, and other departments across the company.

Unlock growth in your finance team

Failing to implement automation in your finance team can lead to negative consequences as it is becoming a requirement to remain competitive in the market. While the rise of automation helps to cut labor costs, the most significant benefits come from creating value through increased productivity, quality, security, and efficiency.

Your employees may resist adopting automation for fear that their jobs may become redundant; however, this doesn't have to be the case in your finance department. Efficiently reskilling your team will allow them to play a more active role in business operations. Automating these tasks frees up time and resources, which you can allocate toward generating strategic insights from data and collaborating with other departments to ensure growth.

Essentially, automation of the finance function should be viewed as a tool to evolve job roles and unlock growth – increasing efficiency and providing compelling opportunities to your team, such as skill development that complements the functionality that automation brings.

Continia can help in your automation journey

If your finance department is looking to use or is currently using Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central for finance and operations, we can help you in your journey to automation. Continia Software is a leading provider of solutions for Business Central. We create solutions built into Business Central, meaning that you and your team don't have to learn new software applications. The solutions we currently offer are:

  • Document Capture
  • Collection Management
  • Expense Management
  • Document Output
  • Payment Management
  • OPplus

Our solutions automate monotonous tasks, reduce paper and errors, and create space for insightful and strategic thinking in your finance department – increasing overall job satisfaction and creating value. We suggest you head to our solutions page to learn more about how we can help you optimize Business Central processes in your financial department.