In my previous post I highlighted four opportunities for training professionals to partner with their finance teams to help drive business success. Of those opportunities, technology offers the greatest potential. It’s imperative your finance teams continuously develop their tech skills to drive business results.
Technology moves quickly. The Association of International Certified Professional Accountants’s CEO is fond of saying that technology will never advance as slowly as it does today. It will only accelerate. The effect of the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of adopting technology and businesses that are early adopters have a leg-up on their competition.
As talent development (TD) professionals, we must ensure our financial professionals are equipped to take advantage of new technology trends. Robotic process automation (RPA), artificial intelligence (AI), and blockchain are disrupting the way businesses operate while also raising new cybersecurity risks. Let’s take a closer look.
Robotic Process AutomationFor many businesses, adopting robotic process automation (RPA) is a necessity. Common in manufacturing for years, RPA essentially enables computers, machines, or bots to perform standard repetitive processes in place of a human. It increases efficiency and reduces mistakes, leaving more time for finance teams to focus on strategic work that adds to the bottom line.
Today, many finance departments are leveraging RPA to manage simple tasks, like reporting daily accounts payable and accounts receivable. Others are advancing further, trying to automate their monthly expense management or billing systems.
You can help your finance teams maintain a competitive edge by assuring they understand the value RPA brings and by providing them the training they need to implement and leverage the technology to the maximum. If RPA is new to you and your finance team, this 60-second video offers the basics to help you further grasp the concept.
Artificial IntelligenceAI gives computers the ability to think and learn. By feeding computers increasing amounts of data, they can identify trends and begin to make predictions and decisions in advance of information. And natural language processing systems, a form of AI, can scan text, identify trends and concepts, and compile textual information.
The retail and advertising industries are already implementing AI to send consumers targeted ads or to suggest items they may be interested in buying based on past purchases or internet browsing history. It’s only a matter of time before AI systems are implemented in your company’s finance division to identify cost-saving opportunities or fraud. These systems can scan massive amounts of data, financial transactions, and other information to pinpoint redundancies and potential for cost savings or to find and flag outliers and areas of concern.
With so many individuals working remotely due to the pandemic, opportunities for fraud are growing. The TD function can help ensure their organization understands how to use AI tools and systems to catch theft and fraud before they become a major problem.
Cybersecurity AwarenessComputer hackers and scammers are increasingly finding ways to break into systems to steal data, customer information, corporate secrets, or financial assets. What’s more, with each new technological development, bad actors and cyber criminals find new and more advanced ways to take advantage of technology users. This means employees at all levels need to understand cybersecurity best practices, including being aware of the cyber threats, abiding by corporate technology policies, and maintaining skepticism about unsolicited communications and offers.
Implementing a cybersecurity risk management reporting framework can help your organization analyze and track these efforts.
BlockchainBlockchain is the latest technology with the potential to upend corporate financial processes. In fact, the global blockchain market is expected to grow to $23.3 billion by 2023, as more companies adopt blockchain to increase the security and speed of their transactions.
Specifically, blockchain enables cryptocurrencies and smart contracts, creating new financial management models and processes that can change the way business deals are handled. It is a decentralized ledger that records transactions and digital assets. The entire network must approve each transaction, creating records that can’t be modified. The systems can be built internally or publicly. Since the COVID-19 pandemic has forced remote workforces into being, having a secure, distributed ledger system for managing financial systems is more important than ever.
Cryptocurrencies, which are based on blockchain technology, offer a new means of conducting transactions while smart contracts offer the potential for automated transactions based on certain triggers. Through these systems, companies can enact financial transactions with clients, partners, or suppliers, without the aid of an intermediate payment processor, reducing time and cost. Blockchain also has the potential to simplify supply chain management by reducing paperwork, streamlining workflows, and increasing cost-saving efficiencies.
Most importantly, blockchain presents an opportunity to substantially streamline financial record management and audit processes. Currently, an audit requires an auditor to gather account reconciliations, trial balances, journal entries, sub-ledger extracts, and supporting spreadsheet files to get started. Blockchain enables an auditor to receive real-time data through read-only nodes, allowing them to continuously audit an organization over time. Plus, the digitization of that information permits auditors to implement robotic process automation or artificial intelligence systems to manage much of the audit process.
As blockchain technology expands and new uses for it are implemented, it will become increasingly important that your finance professionals fully understand its potential, how to leverage it to stay ahead of the competition and remain compatible with suppliers’ and customers’ systems.