‘Is the future of Irish finance new technology or new people?’
It is neither one nor other, but both.
Monday’s Irish Independent newspaper reported that ‘heads of finance in Ireland appear to be behind the curve when it comes to planning for the future impact of technology on their firms’ with 9 out of 10 CFOs reporting that they do not have a high level of automation in their processes.
Whilst the 90% figure is high this is not entirely surprising.
As recently as April, EY released a report entitled the ‘DNA of the CFO: Is the future of finance new technology or new people?’. EY’s report was drawn up following a survey of 769 CFOs and finance leaders in 32 countries and in-depth interviews with 22 CFOs. EY found that 47% of respondents do not have the right mix of capabilities to meet their future needs; whilst 69% of respondents saw the finance leader role fundamentally changing as traditional finance tasks are automated or managed in shared services centres.
With 3 in 5 CFOs saying that cumbersome, manual processes and the operational burden of the traditional finance reporting role are hindering them from focusing on the strategic priorities of their firms, Irish CFOs must take bold actions to ensure their finance functions are fit for purpose.
Technology can transform how Irish finance functions can add value.
Advances in technologies such as the cloud, big data, analytics, sophisticated forecasting tools, artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain and robotic process automation (RPA) offer CFOs an exciting opportunity to reimagine what the finance function should look like (i.e. a digitally enabled, data driven function that partners to improve business effectiveness, increase efficiency, save costs, manage risks and increase decision insight).
Irish CFOs must make bold moves to build finance functions that have the right people with the right skills (i.e. finance executives with finance, technology and data science skills) to retain their value-add position within firms.
In what maybe a world first, it is fantastic to see that the Chartered Accountants Ireland is introducing modules on blockchain, crypto-currencies, and robotics into their courses to qualify as an accountant. Let’s hope this is the start of something great in an environment where change has become the status quo.
As EY report, the success of CFOs will very much depend on their ability to strike the right balance between technology and people, and their combining the intelligence of smart technologies with the brains, emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills of talented finance people, continually working to focus each on the tasks that best suit their skill sets.
If they get this balance right then leading Irish CFOs will become free to drive their businesses forward more rapidly within an ever-changing business landscape.
The time to begin has not yet passed, but the time to begin is surely now.
#IntelligentAutomation #RPA #Finance
Note: The above are the authors’ personal views.