The technological revolution that is currently underway can cause the CFO to react in one of two ways—either it’s all quite daunting and best to let it all blow over, or it’s one of the most exciting times to be a business leader and we look to embrace what automation and robotics have to offer.

My advice is to opt for the latter.

Although accountants have always been the stewards of corporate data—people able to translate data into valuable, decision-enabling financial information—finance and accounting (F&A) finds itself at the forefront of business decision-making like never before. Big data, knowledge acquisition and business intelligence are buzzwords that have been at the center of the F&A world for a long time and play exactly to our skills; skills honed over a long period of time and with much blood, sweat and tears.

And with automation and robotic technologies enabling F&A to shine, these are extremely exciting times for the Finance community, and CFOs shouldn’t miss the opportunity to be boardroom heroes.

However, a change of mindset is required. If you’re an accountant, you need to ensure that you can be an influencer. It’s no longer enough to be able to close your books efficiently once a month, you need to think about how to re-engineer what you do to provide consistent, accurate information to the business on a continuous basis.

F&A powered by intelligent automation is undoubtedly the way to make this happen.

Making sense of intelligent automation

It’s easy to find yourself dazed and confused by the amount of jargon and techno speak around intelligent automation, but you shouldn’t be intimidated by it. At Capgemini, our “Five Senses of Intelligent Automation” approach to intelligent automation helps us understand how automation can transform the traditional way of doing F&A to a new, more valuable way of doing things. It’s not so much about business roles, but about a more human, primeval approach—using the “five senses” to apply a practical, intelligent element to automation. The “five senses” of intelligent automation can be defined as:

  • WATCH/Monitor—assurance that your access to an increasing amount of data from and about everything is being watched, controlled and confirmed.
  • TALK/LISTEN/Interact—have a more a more positive interaction with your budget holders and a 24/7 relationship with your customers.
  • ACT/Service—issues alerts and triggers, or leverages robotic process automation (RPA) to match or progress transactions across your ERP systems.
  • THINK/Analyze—applying artificial intelligence algorithms to undertake pattern analysis in order to identifying trends, identify unexpected occurrences and highlight inefficiencies.
  • REMEMBER/Knowledge—the deployment of automated libraries to easily gather, store and use knowledge to determine what happened last time and what the best next actions to take are.

But this doesn’t fully explain the intelligent bit. That comes when we connect the senses to create an intelligent automation platform. Of course, the application of each sense individually improves a process, but it’s the interaction between the senses that gives us the artificial intelligence—the clever bit. And it’s all of this that enables us to develop an intelligent automation strategy for our clients.

Developing your intelligent automation strategy

There’s no doubt that a successful intelligent automation strategy is built on the right technologies. We’ve already mapped all the different technologies we use to not only do things better, but to do better things.

For example, F&A teams in the past have focused on streamlining the number of reports produced in the name of efficiency; automation reverses this trend and enables you to create many views of your corporate data, boosting a prompt and augmented human decision-making capability. From a procure-to-pay (P2P) perspective, we’ve used artificial intelligence, RPA and analytics products to resolve a process failure.

But it’s not just about the technology. Core to any intelligent automation project is your mindset: think automation first—not people. Make lots of small decisions and be prepared to fail fast, fail small and try again. It’s also important to build, incentivize and enthuse your intelligent automation team to work with the technologies.

I’m lucky enough to have two perspectives on intelligent automation applied to F&A: I’m an accountant and I’m an F&A process expert—and whichever way I look at it, there’s never been a more exciting time to be a CFO!

To learn more about how Capgemini’s intelligent automation can deliver enhanced value to your finance function, contact: carole.murphy@capgemini.com

Click here to learn more about how Capgemini’s Finance Powered by Intelligent Automation offering helps you navigate the myriad of products, tools, and services, enabling your business to benefit from an intelligent solution that combines automation, digital platforms, know-how, and insight.

Click here to read a point of view about intelligent automation within finance that covers the challenges it overcomes, the approach and opportunities it offers, and some practical examples.

 About the author

As head of Business Transformation Services for Capgemini’s Business Services, Carole  Murphy leads Business Transformation Services, a global team of transformation professionals and is responsible for developing and delivering transformational solutions for our clients. Drawing on over 20 years of experience across operations, consulting, and transformation, Carole helps large global organizations achieve their business objectives and operational excellence through BPO-led transformation and alignment of Capgemini’s Business Services and Group assets to deliver efficiency, value, and improved control in their operations. These include industry-specific transformational solutions across Finance and Accounting, Supply Chain, Procurement, and Analytics.