The events of the past three years have changed how organisations function for good, with the ripple effects of factors such as a global pandemic and political unrest likely to be felt across social, economic, and political landscapes for many years to come.
Despite ongoing uncertainty, the drive for digital transformation has never been stronger. The permanent shift to the ‘work from anywhere’ culture has required a new digital approach to core business processes.
For example, as organisations scrambled to adapt to pandemic lockdowns by allowing employees to work from home, they revealed significant flaws in their organizational finance processes. Finance teams found that many manual processes were clunky and became a significant barrier to business operations in a remote or hybrid workplace.
Finance teams quickly discovered that they couldn’t go back to doing things the same way as before. In fact, even the role of the finance function itself changed in recognition of the need for organisations to become more agile in an uncertain world.
Considering that finance is at the heart of every business, it has been the function most impacted by the changed work environment. Traditionally, finance teams focused on back-office processes such as expense and invoice management, historic reporting, and auditing.
In the digital workplace, expense and invoice management is automated, with non-finance employees able to process expenses and invoices through artificial intelligence (AI) tools that are designed to ensure business and regulatory compliance.
So, where does this leave finance teams? The good news is that the changes brought about in the past three years have elevated the role of the finance function in organisations.
Automated processes driven by AI and machine learning are giving chief financial officers (CFOs) and their teams the tools needed to move beyond back-office processes and historical reporting to being at the forefront of planning and implementing business strategy.
Tools such as travel, expense, and invoice management platforms are delivering real-time data insights that give CFOs full visibility into organisational spending, which enables them to be proactive rather than reactive. This lets CFOs build greater levels of business agility and, ultimately, better business resilience.
Access to real-time insights is also helping CFOs address issues such as the great reshuffle, where professionals are increasingly reflecting on their work and life choices. In addition to using these insights to support resource planning, CFOs are using automated tools to build more flexible and supportive working environments to attract and retain talented employees.
The new role of finance, driven by automation and AI, means the next generation of CFOs will be the drivers of organisational change and will have more opportunities to do this as strategic partners in their organisations.
If the past few years have taught businesses anything, it’s that uncertainty is here to stay for the foreseeable future. This is why the role of finance must change from being a support function to a strategic planner and enabler of business agility. The solution is providing finance teams with the automated tools they need to access and analyse data in real-time and remove time-consuming back-office tasks so they can focus on building the organisation of the future.