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The Future Office of the CFO

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What do robots, cashless commerce and smart machines have to do with the future of Finance? Possibly a lot more than you might think. You don’t have to look very far along the upcoming timeline to see that these innovations driving the current digital disruption will also be transforming the office of the CFO.

In fact, according to Deloitte, over the next seven years, Finance will look and operate much differently than it does today. It will function faster, be more cost-effective and contribute more significantly to the overall success of an organization. We’re on the brink of revolutionary, scalable change that will happen by innovating and reimagining the technologies that exist right now and learning from how they’re applied in other business functions.

Here’s an overview of Deloitte’s eight predictions. They’re based on a straightforward methodology that took a close look at what finance leaders are doing now and the technology available to them. Then the following three questions were considered:

  • What could happen if different technologies were combined?
  • How could the work be done better and by whom?
  • In what ways could Finance impact a company’s success?

Guided by the answers to those propositions, here’s what the future of Finance could look like.

A Look at The Future of Finance

1) Finance will function much like a factory

Touchless transactions will be the norm as the use of automation and blockchain in Finance operations grows. Along with cloud-based ERP and cognitive innovations such as machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI), processes will be drastically simplified. 

As traditional processes and silos disappear, the result will be a freeing up of the humans in Finance. Instead of being tied down by tedious manual workflows, they will be able to focus on tasks that add more value. In addition, real-time data and monitoring will be critical–and commonplace.

With so much of the daily work of finance teams being completed through automation, the human workforce–drawing from traditional employees and contract workers–will need to be made up of people who understand both technology and business.

Finally, the reach of Finance will expand with larger organizations creating finance command centers where finance professionals will use smart dashboards and other technologies to monitor processes.

2) The role of Finance will change

As mentioned before, automation will provide time and opportunity for finance team members to align priorities so they can take on more strategic initiatives and customer service. Some finance departments will evolve into business service centers. Others will shift from preparing budgets and reports to planning and forecasting. The overall role of Finance will be elevated, giving it more decision-making power within an organization.

Routine requests will get handled by computers which will give the human part of the workforce more time for analysis and deciding how resources are to be used. Depending on how agile a team member is, they could be added to the leadership team. 

The takeaway here is that companies will participate in more knowledge sharing across different parts of the business.

3) Traditional finance cycles become a thing of the past

Because actuals and forecasts can be instantly generated whenever they’re needed, periodic reporting will no longer be as necessary or useful. Real-time rules. There will be times when finance teams will need to produce cyclical information, but it will most likely be asked for more frequently.

Tracking sales, inventories and cash flow will be continuous through integrated platforms that deliver touchless, seamless automation, ushering in a demand for the new finance professional–data scientists or engineers who can build end-to-end processes.They will add their skills, along with AI, to deliver real-time data and valuable insights. 

4) Self-service will mean customers can help themselves

Even though Finance is all about control, having self-serve portals so customers can view accounts and make payments on their own will be the preferred way of doing business. Over time, AI will learn patterns and what kind of information customers need and will provide that information before it’s even asked for. And the data that is normally organized in spreadsheets will be presented in a visually appealing and intuitive way.

We’ll say goodbye to accountants and their spreadsheets and hello to chatbots.

5) A new finance operating model emerges

The new model is all about Finance-as-a-service and combines algorithms and robots with a pool of gig workers and freelancers to create a diverse workforce.This integrated workforce will be unencumbered by manual processes and free to complete work that’s more human–investigation and insight-driven activities. No more copy and paste–automation tools will do that work with increased efficiency. This shift will impact offshoring and outsourcing.

Finance will collaborate with IT and leadership. Finance teams will be made up of experts in cognitive technologies, robotics and blockchain. Opportunity for growth–both personal and professional awaits workers who are open to learning, especially across disciplines. Collaboration tools that are easy to use will be critical.

6) Enterprise resource planning 

Move over traditional ERP. Microservices and new finance applications will demand that ERP platforms be cloud-based and include new digital technologies such as automation, blockchain and machine learning. These platforms will get updates overnight to improve standardization. And rather than customized systems, companies will choose features a la carte to build an ERP that serves them best.

7) Data gets an overhaul

The rapid increase in APIs means that data will become more standardized, but there will still be room for improvement. Part of the problem is that many companies and many CFOs don’t truly understand the difficulties–of which a good portion are technical issues–involved in unearthing the data necessary to fulfill their requests.

In order to leverage the full value of digitized data, companies will have to do the hard work of cleaning up their various data issues to ensure quality data. Adding a Chief Data Officer will be a smart move as it usually takes someone with a passion for data improvement to do the job well.

8) Who’s working and where

Get ready for a seismic shift in who’s doing the bulk of the work in Finance. Business analysts, data scientists and storytellers could nudge more traditional finance team members out of the office. 

Starting now, it’s important to make sure new hires are equipped to position you for success. In addition to having the technical skills they need for a specific job, insist that members of your future human workforce have strong customer service skills, are adept at collaboration and communication. The future is full of cross functional teams.

Because predictive modeling, digital assistants and self-serve reporting will increase, your team will spend more time on exception-based investigations and business analysis. 

Despite all the benefits of being connected by cloud-based technologies and immediate access to standardized data which makes remote work possible, the experts predict that in the early days of work planning and projects, visualization will be so important that  finance teams may need to be in the same room.

Of course, no one can know for sure how the future of Finance will unfold. What we can know with a degree of certainty is that disruption is coming. It’s not too early to begin thinking about the path your organization will take and prepare the best you can.

More Predictions to Ponder

Prashant Kumar, Founder and CEO of Payference, has his own view of the future of Finance.

“The CFO tech stack is going through a major transformation,” said Prashant Kumar. "CFOs are looking to get real-time business insights from data and proactively help to manage the business. Traditionally, the finance function has been mostly limited to backward looking data and analysis.”

The demand for collaboration from other departments and analysis requests from other functions in the company also weighs heavily on the resources of the finance team. As a result, many businesses are turning to automation to help with workflows, financial modeling, and gathering and analyzing insights. 

Learn more about Payference

The benefits of automated accounts receivable system are truly transformative–especially if the software leverages ML and AI.  Real-time visibility into current and future cash positions provide what you need for improved cash management, forecasting and other key decisions. Automated workflows decrease manual effort, reduce errors, increase accuracy and improve cash flow.

Payference delivers all these benefits and more. Want to learn more? Schedule a demo today!