We hear it all the time: technology is the future.
It’s difficult to identify an industry whose future isn’t being significantly determined by advancements in technology, and Finance is no different.
Each year, InTheBlack explores the latest technology innovations to equip accounting and finance professionals to change the way their organizations work.
At last year’s conference, BlackLine CFO Mark Partin hosted a panel on the Future of Finance, featuring: Molly Boyle, former Controller at Under Armour; Manny Korakis, Global Corporate Controller at American Express Global Business Travel; and Kirsty Godfrey-Billy, Chief Accounting Officer at Xero.
In Part 1 of this blog series, we talked about the changing landscape of talent management within Accounting and Finance.
This blog unpacks the evolution of technology in Accounting and Finance, and its potentially game-changing applications for the future.
Mark Partin: I wonder if the future of Accounting will be something like how NFL coaches use Microsoft Surface Pros to get real-time analytics to decipher past plays and strategize for the next.
It may be a stretch, but is the future of Accounting something similar? Where operators who have finance and accounting skills are getting real-time information to study real-time transactions and react appropriately to optimize the business?
Manny Korakis: When you look at the evolution of the field, you see things today that we consider standardized, simplified, and common―and 15 years ago, they may not have been. So, we’re building on the past and learning from those experiences.
Today, I see significant value in robotics for some of the core transaction processing: the repetitive, rules-based work that was outsourced 20 years ago, when people built captive centers offshore. That was the first wave. And now people are getting a little bit more creative about using it in their operations.
For example, as a business travel company, we process something like 30 billion dollars of business travel per year. That’s a lot of tickets. We’re thinking about how to use robotics to match transactions across the process flow and capture the right information.
But, robotics is just one wave. The future is probably more in machine learning and artificial intelligence. Whatever we use robotics for today will eventually be replaced by machines that learn how to do repetitive transactions in a new process flow, rather than using robotics for the same old process flow.
Mark Partin: How should we think about this and prepare for it?
Molly Boyle: Whether it’s robotic process automation (RPA) or artificial intelligence (AI), the interesting thing is that it’s causing all of us to pause and think more strategically about what we’re trying to do and how we’re spending our time.
As we’ve looked at RPA—and maybe AI is the next iteration—we’ve had to examine our processes. A bad process is still a bad process, automation or not.
The ability to automate has allowed us to take repetitive tasks off people’s plates, to critically evaluate our processes, to partner with the business, and to think about the way we want to do things in the future.
Under Armour was founded on the concept of innovation. And so, we’re trying our best not to ignore AI or blockchain or other potentially useful technologies.
Mark Partin: You mentioned blockchain—someone wrote on the Thrive Wall outside that it’s the biggest change coming to Finance and Accounting. Can you share any perspective you might have on blockchain?
Kirsty Godfrey-Billy: I certainly don’t profess to be an expert in blockchain. But, any new technology like blockchain is a solution. To gauge its usefulness within our organizations, we need to first identify a problem that it is trying to fix.
For example, if you look at financial institutions like banks, where you’ve got some strong players and a huge amount of data that needs to be pulled together quickly, something like blockchain could easily assist.
Manny Korakis: I think it’s one of many things in the evolution of technology. Embrace it and understand it. There may be applicability in your organization and in the systems and processes that you work with, but there’s also a lot more happening.
From RPA to Continuous Accounting, there are what seems like infinite possibilities for the role technology will play in future-proofing our processes and operations―such as how we capture and analyze data to inform strategic business decisions.
Insights like these further equip us all to imagine the ways technology can be used in accounting and finance departments around the globe.
Stay tuned for the third blog in this series to gain an understanding of the power of data and the possibilities it holds for the future of Finance.
It’s not too late to register for InTheBlack 2018. Join a global community of over 1,500 CFOs, CAOs, controllers, and accountants from November 12-15 in Las Vegas to explore the latest technology innovations and elevate your career.