The AI & Machine Learning Imperative
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Who makes decisions within organizations about investments in artificial intelligence tools? Who should? The company CEO and CIO (or other senior technology leaders), of course, but who else?
We contend that while CFOs may not think of themselves as leaders of artificial intelligence for their companies, they can make a bigger leadership impact when it comes to AI strategy and adoption.
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There are two key reasons. The first is that CFOs are heads of the finance function, and many finance processes and tasks can be performed by AI. One survey of U.S. organizations found that 24% of finance managers are currently using AI, and another 50% expect to use it within three to five years.
The second reason is that CFOs are usually the primary custodians of “value for money” appraisals and as such should provide oversight on AI investments. A 2018 Deloitte survey on trends in CIO reporting relationships found that 28% of CIOs report to the CFO. This is significant in terms of AI because a 2020 survey of global AI adopters from Deloitte found that IT is the single most likely area (with 47% listing it as a “top two” application domain, and cybersecurity in second place, with 22%) where companies will apply AI and automation to tasks and processes frequently repeated activities. These include rebooting servers, monitoring networks, supplying user passwords, and capturing and monitoring trouble tickets, or initiatives like helping to validate and prioritize cybersecurity threats. When CIOs make the case for AI investments, CFOs should be alongside the effort, integrating financial evaluations with technology strategy.
While AI is likely to dramatically affect business practices in the future across the C-suite, it’s already having an impact today. In other words, the time for CFOs to step up to AI leadership is now.
If an organization is to transform its finance function with AI capabilities, or to employ a wise investing approach to AI in general, leadership from the CFO is essential.
Opportunities for AI Within Finance Functions
The finance function offers many areas for using AI, and it’s worth ticking through some of them. One of the primary areas to deploy robotic process automation (RPA) is the financial period close, where reporting typically involves the extraction of data from multiple systems, consolidation and reconciliation of journals across the organization, and data transfers from internal groups and to regulators.