When considering investments in artificial intelligence, finance also needs to maximize its use of existing digital tools to add value. Kurt Grichel, a partner with Bain's Corporate Support practice, examines how finance departments can make the most of their digital toolkits to reach full potential.
Read the transcript below.
KURT GRICHEL: Artificial intelligence in all its forms—robotics, machine learning, natural language processing—is captivating finance departments. A recent Bain survey found that adoption of [robotic process automation] in the finance function is going to double over the next two years. And there's good reason that companies are rushing to invest. These new digital technologies have the potential to create significant value for the finance function.
However, most are not taking the secondary step of also wringing full potential out of the existing store of technologies that they already own. For example, in accounts payable, most companies don't pay the majority of their invoices electronically. In accounts receivable, they're not using proven tools such as e-invoicing and self-service portals. And the risk here is that stacking of new technologies on top of existing tools creates significant complexity. Leading finance departments know how to use the full range of the digital toolkit effectively.
This begins with, first, making the most of the tools you already own. Second, setting a clear digital goal and objectively evaluating your team's ability to execute in order to build a realistic digital roadmap. Third, when you evaluate new technologies, look beyond just the cost savings, as many companies are finding the bigger benefits come from areas such as increased speed and greater accuracy. And finally, simplify and streamline the underlying systems and processes to avoid automating an inefficient way of working. For the finance function to make the transition to a true business partner, this will hinge on effective use of existing technologies while also testing new digital tools to find the handful that will really make an impact.
Robotic process automation and machine learning may be hot, but many existing technologies remain vastly underutilized.