“In the office of finance…Machine Learning has been used for optimisation and prediction using different algorithmic structures. Given the high volume of accurate records and quantitative nature of finance, [it] has proven a very useful tool to deliver better decision making tools and improve predictions on cashflow.”
-Clara Durodié, AI Technology Strategist, Chair of Cognitive Finance Group
The Virtual Assistant: AI, Natural Language Processing, & Finance
Right now, working with AI can be complicated. But the interfaces that drive human interaction with the software are growing simpler over time as the technology evolves. AI chatbots, once used primarily for customer service, are beginning to help CFOs and other finance professionals interact with the software in a more natural way. Apps like Slack can host chatbots that are connected to cloud-based AI programs, putting unprecedented analytical power at your fingertips.
The next generation of finance software could be even more hands-free. Imagine the way you talk to Siri, Alexa, or Google Home: These devices are capable of natural language processing. In other words, they speak your language; you don’t have to learn theirs. In the near future, AI will power a fully-functioning virtual finance assistant. Instead of diving into spreadsheets, you could simply say, “Penny, run the second quarter revenue report.”
The end goal is an assistant trained to anticipate your finance office’s needs. You wouldn’t have to ask for reports to be run, or to get the latest insights. Instead, the assistant would analyze data in the background, identify relevant information, and offer it to you proactively.
While the virtual assistant takes on the drudgework, finance leaders will be able to prioritize strategic decision-making that helps guide the future of their organizations. That means AI will actually make your role more relevant, and the office of finance more valuable to the company.
Getting Started with AI for Finance
There are practical AI applications available for finance professionals today, with even more coming in the very near future. Now is the time to prepare for the changes rolling through the office of finance. Here are three ways to start the process:
- Automate Tasks. Look for repetitive, time-consuming functions that are done the same way every time. Tasks that require consolidating data from multiple sources — usually a tedious process — are especially ripe for automation. Clear these tasks from your docket and you will have more time for strategic tasks that require human intuition, empathy and intelligence.
“In the future, anything that can be automated, will be.”
-Christopher Penn, Co-Founder & Chief Innovator, BrainTrust Insights.
- Identify Your Most Valuable Data. A large percentage of data your organization collects will not be useful for generating insight. Focus on the data that holds the most value; data that is worth long-term storage and in-depth analysis.
- Develop Data Analysis Skills. It’s a good idea to invest in developing stronger data analytics skills throughout your team, whether through informal instruction or online coursework through a site like Lynda.com.
“Accounting and finance technology are no longer just systems to handle debits and credits. As accounting standards change and the demand for better financial insight increases, you must incorporate technology to maintain and improve your relevancy and efficiency.”
-Ben Murray, VP and CFO, Cartegraph
AI and Human Intelligence in Finance
Perhaps the most intelligent way to prepare for AI in finance is to embrace the change, rather than fear it. The office of finance will not be automated out of existence; quite the contrary. AI will make the office of finance even more valuable to the organization. The virtual finance assistant can handle operational tasks, while a properly prepared and equipped team can use the insights it produces to guide the organization’s future. Artificial intelligence plus human intelligence can add up to a powerful new role for the finance department.