Contrary to the belief that emerging technology threatens finance jobs, a recent survey found that many senior financial decision makers are embracing artificial intelligence (AI) and automation to drive decision-making.
With the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, many senior financial decisionmakers had to take the helm beyond the balance sheet to manage workers remotely. Recent data shows that, in just eight weeks this year, the world leaped five years forward in business digital adoption – and many business leaders found themselves at the forefront of managing these accelerated digitisation strategies.
The 'CFO 3.0: Digital transformation beyond financial management' study commissioned by Sage, revealed that 75% of South African CFOs are not worried that automation will have an impact on job security. In fact, AI holds no fear over senior financial decision-makers with only one in 10 believing that it will take away jobs.
Against the backdrop of this newfound confidence in AI, we spoke to Gerhard Hartman, Vice President of Medium Business at Sage Africa & Middle East, to find out more about the benefits and risks of automation in the workplace.
Q: What are the benefits of welcoming more automation into your business?
Gerhard Hartman: Automation is a reliable way of improving the quality of financial data, which can increase the productivity of your financial team members. The benefits of automation include faster turnaround times; reducing the potential for human error; and auto-population using data from ERP (enterprise resource planning) and other systems. Automation also allows the minimisation of manual intervention in financial operations and other accounting-related tasks which in turn improves the use of employee time thanks to a reduction in manual processes.
Q: While CFOs are driving digitisation, should digitisation be top of mind across the board?
GH: When the pandemic hit, it accelerated digital transformation and amplified the associated challenges especially around governance, remote working and cybersecurity. Finance decision-makers are seeing their role transforming from number cruncher to business strategist. As a finance leader, you now have a new mandate: to move beyond the traditional role where you measure past performance to leading your business as a custodian of data and analytics.
Q: What may make companies and senior financial decision-makers resistant to more automation?
GH: There are many reasons why businesses hold back from investing in technology including perceptions that software is expensive; reluctance among older employees or business owners to adopt new systems; and a lingering belief that you need to be an accountant to use these tools.
My top five tips to incorporate automation in your business would be:
1. To understand what kind of automation you need
2. To start automation in the right departments
3. To ask if automation makes economic sense
4. To get management buy-in
5. To work at the right speed.
Q: Why is AI paramount to the success of any future-focused company and not just a trend that can be by passed?
GH: AI is powering apps and systems that make everyday life easier for society. The reduction in errors is another major benefit thanks to AI systems that are less prone to mistakes than a fallible human. AI can process data, unlock insights and make sense of data much faster than a human brain can.
Q: What automation solution does Sage Intacct offer companies in South Africa?
GH: Sage Intacct is a powerful, cloud financial management platform designed for finance professionals. It provides them with deep multi-dimensional accounting; automation for efficient financial operations; and sophisticated visibility for real-time decision making. Sage Intacct’s technology uses open APIs, making it easy to connect with third-party cloud applications and providing a highly extensible and scalable platform.
Since the product launched in South Africa at the end of August, numerous accounting and finance business partners showed interest and changed their business model to sign up as a Sage Intacct partner. For more information on how Sage Intacct can help your business, click here.
This post was sponsored by Sage and produced by BrandStudio24.