Technology & Innovation

Top AI and automation tools you need to win as a modern CFO

Learn how CFOs can help their businesses face future challenges with the help of artificial intelligence and automation tools.

What’s the outlook for the future of chief financial officers?

As a CFO, do you believe you have the capabilities to manoeuvre your enterprise through the challenges to come?

Have you considered how you can use AI and automation to bolster those capabilities?

In this article, we highlight the top AI and automation tools you need to win as a modern CFO.

Here’s what we cover:

AI and automation: Game-changing tech for CFOs

Today, you are under more pressure than ever to provide a genuine and tangible impact on your business.

You have to provide the essential context needed for good strategic organisational decisions and collaborate with the wider organisation.

And while you’re doing that, you need to keep departments in line, making sure costs are constrained while opportunities are progressing.

Understanding how to use enterprise tech tools is vital to achieving this.

The good news is that many of today’s enterprise tech tools come with a revolutionary feature: AI.

AI and automation are game-changers for CFOs, enabling manual financial processes to be carried out without human intervention.

With AI-powered automation, tasks can be completed more quickly and with far greater accuracy, leaving you with more time (and better data) to do more valuable, impactful work.

A report by Deloitte found that 76% of CFOs expect digital transformation and technologies to play a greater role in 2024, with 80% expecting their organisations to embed more automation and digital technologies into their operations in the coming year.

The use of AI and automation in enterprise tech is becoming the norm, not only due to its effectiveness but also the broad range of processes it can be applied to.

And that includes a number of use cases that CFOs in particular need to be aware of.

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Financial process automation

Three-quarters of finance executives agree that manual tasks still absorb too much of their finance teams’ time and effort.

AI and automation can help you change that.

Broadly speaking, using AI and automation allows you to focus on advising the business, rather than focusing on number crunching.

You can automate routine tasks such as data entry, reconciliation, and reporting, freeing you and your team to focus on strategic planning and analysis.

These technologies can also go a long way towards reducing errors, with IBM reporting that AI can help reduce financial reporting errors by up to 37%.

Automation can make financial processes faster and smoother for the data-driven and technology-savvy CFO, improving the quality of data and increasing the productivity of finance and accounting staff.

There are many benefits you can gain as a CFO by using these tools.

AI and automation can:

  • Reduce the need for manual intervention in financial operations and other accounting-related tasks such as ledger entries and reconciliations
  • Auto-populate fields using data from enterprise management and ERP systems to complete filing templates
  • Reduce the potential for human error and deliver consistency in repetitive tasks
  • Increase and expedite the turnaround of financial processes and tasks
  • Make better use of resources by reducing manual process such as reporting.

Finance automation is already being employed to great effect by CFOs.

If you’re wondering where to start, CFOs outlined the areas where they believe applying digital technology is most useful in a recent survey from automation firm Tipalti:

  • Expenses (67%)
  • Tax compliance (66%)
  • Automated payments (62%)
  • Corporate credit card spend management (61%)
  • Purchase order management (58%).

“By automating areas like expenses and payments, CFOs can unburden their teams from many manual tasks while also minimising their error rate—ultimately reducing the time and effort CFOs themselves need to spend on manual interventions and oversight,” says Paul Henderson, chief accounting officer at Tipalti.

“CFOs can reallocate that time and effort to more strategic concerns, such as analysing data and insights and applying them to decisions that drive enterprise value.”

AI-driven analytics

Using analytics doesn’t mean using data for data’s sake. It means using information from all parts of the business to be a true business partner to a CEO (and the c-suite as a whole).

In accounting, big data and analytics are particularly useful around risk management, fraud detection and commercial analysis—spotting patterns others would most likely miss.

To do what your business demands, you need to look at enterprise technology solutions that offer fast and easy access to real-time financial data, while providing capabilities that allow senior finance staff to use it to make decisions.

Solutions that use AI and automation to generate financial insights can have a transformative effect on your operations.

Automation can produce real-time financial reports, based on vast amounts of data from across the entire organisation, with one click.

Faster reporting not only means more time to spend on strategic tasks but also faster closes.

Automation is far better at collecting and handling large amounts of data.

And that offers many benefits to you as a CFO looking to generate accurate, engaging financial reports.

Using automation in your reporting can:

  • Improve financial data by providing it with context and a clear story
  • Aggregate data and analytics from various transactions using dimensional reporting, which allows multiple codes to be used to generate charts from compounded sets of data
  • Provide real-time metrics that improve the quality of related downstream data
  • Reduce the turnaround time needed for complete reporting
  • Avoid gaps in financial data.

AI and automation not only deliver more complete and accurate analysis, they can also unearth insights that traditional analytics can miss.

Using advanced data analysis and predictive modelling, AI and machine learning (ML) can identify trends, anomalies, and insights that can help you make more informed decisions and manage risk more effectively.

Even finding the answers you’re looking for becomes simpler with AI.

Through natural language processing (a technology used by chatbots), CFOs can quickly discover financial insights without manual effort, searching, and reporting building.

By using an AI-powered bot, you can simply ask a question like “show me financial statements from 2021” and get the data you need.

Ultimately, this technology enables you to better prepare for the future.

With AI, you can generate data-driven forecasts that help you get ahead of key financial health indicators such as cash flow.

Insight into cash balances—and the analysis of how to use that cash—is key to unlocking working capital. Predictive analytics will also support you in cash forecasting and improve your ability to invest working cash effectively.

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Generative AI tools for CFOs

Generative AI is already proving disruptive across every area of business.

For CFOs, the use cases might not be as clear but that doesn’t mean that generative AI can’t be an advantage.

Essentially, it acts as a translator between humans and vast amounts of unstructured data. This ability to pull actionable insights out of huge data sets can be a real boon for CFOs.

We’ve already mentioned how chatbots that use natural language processing can help you get to the information you need more quickly. But using tools that use generative AI can do a lot more to make you a more productive CFO.

These tools can provide a simple gateway through which you can retrieve real-time analytics, predictive budgeting, and financial forecasting instantly, saving you time and cutting the costs associated with manual processes.

As well as assisting with data-powered decision-making, AI-powered virtual assistants such as Sage Copilot can help you stay on top of your workload with workflow automation, task management, and personalised to-do lists.

This technology can cut down time spent on manual, everyday tasks from hours to seconds, giving you more time to take on high-level tasks.

Generative AI is already being utilised by countless finance departments, due to its potential to save meaningful amounts of time and resources.

Many experts consider it to be the third wave of digitalisation—and it’s fast becoming table stakes for finance functions.

Final thoughts: AI and automation mean more time for strategy

As CFOs are increasingly expected to do more with less (and in challenging economic circumstances), there’s a growing understanding that utilising AI and automation will prove to be invaluable.

In fact, 83% of finance leaders recognise the importance of adopting AI and ML for their business’s future success.

And while AI and automation bring a multitude of practical benefits to finance teams, the overarching advantage for CFOs is freedom to spend more time on strategy.

By making so many financial tasks and processes simpler, faster and more insightful, this breakthrough technology allows you to focus on the bigger picture.

In short, AI and automation mean you spend less time fighting fires and more time planning for the future, and driving direction that will foster the long-term growth of your business.

Editor’s note: This article was first published in January 2018 and has been updated for relevance.