Futurist Edie Weiner coined the term “templosion” to describe rapid and massive changes in increasingly short timeframes. And guess what? The disruptive technologies fueling it are about to crash through the door and shake up the finance function like never before.
Covering this compelling topic on Coffee Break with Game Changers Radio, four tech experts shared their insights on the future of finance. The Web-based radio series is presented by SAP and hosted by Bonnie D. Graham (follow on Twitter: @SAPRadio #SAPRadio). Listen to the full episode.
For Sam Parikh, managing director of the SAP Practice at Deloitte Consulting LLP, technologies like artificial intelligence, cognitive learning, and natural language processing are about to make a big impact. “All these capabilities are giving finance what I would call ‘additional weapons’ to address some age-old challenges – reduce cost, reduce risk, and increase insights that drive top- and bottom-line growth.”
Indeed, these technologies will result in a reduction in human effort. Just the simple matching of invoices from vendors can involve two or three people today, but a machine can do it in seconds. And smart scanners are available to handle simple back-office processing or rendering while scanning, Sam noted.
Srikanth Tamma, a senior manager in the Deloitte Consulting technology practice, agreed that artificial intelligence will not only help streamline back-office functions; it will make an impact at a higher level. “I think artificial intelligence will also help in the behavioral analysis of past trends and past data, and then predict future trends.”
Predictive analytics is a key technology that has finally come of age, enabling finance to significantly improve decision making.
“I was talking about predictive analytics two to three years ago, and at that point, it was a very forward-thinking topic,” said Jon Essig, senior solution director, Enterprise Performance Management at Simplefi. “A couple of months ago, I was meeting with a Fortune 500 company, and the VP asked, ‘Why wouldn’t we be using predictive analytics?’”
“Predictive analytics is one area where organizations will see the ease in planning or budgeting one to three years in the future,” added Srikanth.
And Karuna Mukherjea, senior director of Product Marketing, Enterprise Performance Management at SAP, emphasized the real-time capabilities of the new technology. “Companies now have the ability to forecast and plan what’s going to happen not just at the end of the quarter, but at the end of the day. Retail is doing a lot of that in terms of how to price, how to position, how to discount product.” She added that smaller companies are already adopting advanced technology as a more-cost effective option. “If you start offering Apple Pay to your customers right there, you solve a lot of issues around payments and security. So I think the trend is happening.”
Cloud computing is clearly on the uptake, too. “The majority of companies that I’ve been working with, even large-enterprises, are looking at the cloud,” said Jon.
“I think that it’s made technology accessible and for me, that is the biggest benefit of the cloud – that I no longer need to spend two years implementing the solution I need today,” stated Karuna.
“In a world where there is a need to move fast, simplify the more routine processes, and allow the business to focus on their core competencies, I think the cloud just becomes a very obvious choice,” added Sam.
Training your intellect
Karuna pointed out that organizations may have more information available to them, but people will also need to train their intellect.
“We are talking about people making ever-faster business decisions,” she said. “A delayed decision can cost you millions of dollars, so it’s really about finding that balance: how are we going to leverage the data that is available to us? You want your instinct to have the capacity to read that information, to quickly understand the nuances, and make the right decision, whether it’s finance or anything else.”
What did each panelist see in the crystal ball? Here are their predictions.
Sam: “Cloud, robot process automation, and cognitive learning are here to stay. In the next three to five years, I can see the world of finance completely revolutionized in the way it works and the way we do the analysis.”
Jon: “Finance in general needs to focus more on analytics and less on data stewardship to be able to add value to the business in the future.”
Srikanth: “By 2020, every finance person in every organization will have a one-stop shop, one window on their computer to perform all of their business functions.”
Karuna: “I think it’s going to be a high-touch, high-tech, high-growth environment, and that is all going to come together while we continue to provide products and services.”
The message is clear. Finance needs to open its doors, windows, and minds to new technologies to help reinvent how it operates within the business. As Srikanth astutely put it, “I think these technologies will help finance to not just be a steward, but a strategist that collaborates better with the COO and the CEO to be able to make better decisions.”
This excerpt from Coffee Break with Game Changers, presented by SAP on the World Talk Radio Business Channel August 31, 2016 was adapted for the Digitalist Magazine. It is available on demand.
- Get the full, live picture of how technology is allowing finance organizations to reinvent themselves at the SAP Financial Excellence 2016 Forum, October 11-12 in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania.