We're in the middle of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) and so far technology has made great inroads into improving the efficiency of treasury and finance departments. Huge amounts of data are already being digitalised by treasury management and e-banking systems – and the adoption of more automated processes will see that data being put to better use with analysis and forecasts created with algorithms and artificial intelligence.
Automation is set to bring more efficiencies to treasury: CFOs this year will prioritise the three key areas of visual analytics reporting, upgrading technology and developing professional skills. Some of the processes most likely to be automated are dashboarding/scorecards and planning/forecasting. This is also having an impact on the skillsets CFOs look for in their staff and Excel knowledge is falling off the list of 'must-haves'. Only 5 per cent of CFOs see Excel as being the 'most important skill' for a treasury professional (although it is still expected). Yet only two years ago, the majority of CFOs (78 per cent) said Excel skills were essential. This is according to the CFO Indicator Report Q4 2017, by Adaptive Insights. CFOs instead prefer new members of the finance department to be adaptable to new technologies.
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Jim Johnson, CFO at Adaptive Insights, commented: “... CFOs recognize the limitations in the way they manage and analyse data today and know it will only get worse with the proliferation of more systems with siloed data. That’s why Excel skills aren’t ranked as a top skill any longer. Proficiency in Excel is a given today. The new skills finance leaders need are those that can use technologies to access, analyse, and amplify data for insights to better manage the business.”
The survey also found that:
- 40 per cent of CFOs are being driven to automation because they are pressured to deliver faster, higher quality insights to executives and operational stakeholders.
- Dashboarding/scorecards and planning/forecasting are some of the least automated processes today but they top the list for automation over the next 18 months. This supports the findings that today 80 per cent of the FP&A team’s time is spent on data gathering, consolidation, verification and formatting, representing a significant opportunity to automate.
- Two-thirds of CFOs say automation has delivered the desired benefit. Citing time savings that frees their teams to focus on value-added tasks, CFOs say automation is delivering on its promises.
- 34 per cent of CFOs cite a lack of time as the biggest barrier to automation, followed by team skillsets (18 per cent).
- 89 per cent of CFOs believe that AI software will have an impact on the finance function in the next five years.
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