In a recent McKinsey survey, only 13 percent of CFOs and other senior business executives polled said their finance organizations use automation technologies, such as robotic process automation (RPA) and machine learning.

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SwissCognitiveWhat’s more, when asked how much return on investment the finance organization has generated from digitization and automation in the past 12 months, only 5 percent said it was a substantial return; the more common response was “modest” or “minimal” returns.

While that number may seem low right now, automation is coming to the finance function, and it will play a crucial role in furthering the CFO’s position in the C-suite. Research suggests corporate finance teams spend about 80 percent of their time manually gathering, verifying, and consolidating data, leaving only about 20 percent for higher-level tasks, such as analysis and decision-making.

In its truest form, RPA will unleash a new wave of digital transformation in corporate finance. Instead of programming software to perform certain tasks automatically, RPA uses software robots to process transactions, monitor compliance, and audit processes automatically. This could slash the number of required manual tasks , helping to drive out errors and increase the efficiency of finance processes—handing back time to the CFO function to be more strategic. What Automation Means for Finance Day-to-Day

According to the report “Companies Using AI Will Add More Jobs Than They Cut,” companies that had automated at least 70 percent of their business processes compared to those that had automated less than 30 percent discovered that more automation translated into more revenue. In fact, the highly automated group was six times more likely to have revenue growth of 15 percent per year or more.

In the right hands, automation and machine learning can be a fantastic combination for CFOs to transform the finance function, yet success will depend on automating the right tasks. The first goal for a finance team should be to automate the repetitive and transactional tasks that consume the majority of its time. Doing this will free finance up to be more of a strategic advisor to the business. An Adaptive Insights survey found that over 40 percent of finance leaders say that the biggest driver behind automation within their organizations is the demand for faster, higher-quality insights from executives and operational stakeholders.

Accenture’s global talent and organization lead for financial services, Andrew Woolf, says the challenge for businesses is to “pivot their workforce to enter an entirely new world where human ingenuity meets intelligent technology to unlock new forms of growth.”

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