Manual accounting’s dark days

Ask any CFO what they love more about Artificial Intelligence or artificial intelligence, and you’ll get an identical answer: no more tedious tasks or repetitive data entry. However, after that, you can try an even more difficult question: What tasks are really menial?

As finance departments begin to incorporate AI in the workflows the question of AI’s place in their workflows will be a subject of debate and litigation repeatedly. We’re only at the beginning however, for the moment AI’s first step in finance appears to be in the middle of the manual accounting process According to a lot of CFOs.

“Anything that is currently manual entry is a prime target, and I would say rightfully so…for automation,” Glenn Hopper, CFO and director of Eventus Advisory Group and author of Deep Finance: Corporate Finance in the Information Age, told CFO Brew. “Those tasks are error-prone.”

Others, such as Sage’s Global CTO Aaron Harris, previously told CFO Brew that any job “that’s repetitive [or] on a cycle” is an “candidate to be automated from end-to-end.” Manual accounting shouldn’t be completely ignored or eliminated, however.

Although it may feel like the bookkeeping system of your grandfather this method offers significant advantages for small companies including opportunities for errors correction to the affordability.

Hopper’s view is that the discussion around mundane tasks in finance should be focused on the best ways to utilize AI for making data entry-based work more rewarding, rather than deciding what manual jobs to eliminate. “No one goes to school to get a degree, or a master’s, in accounting or finance with the dream of becoming a data entry expert,” Hopper declared. “It makes for more rewarding work, and hopefully more job satisfaction, when you’re not lost in the drudgery of just keying in numbers.”

The satisfaction of employees is a important element to the AI puzzle, given an overall shortage of skilled workers in finance. According to the firm that recruits Robert Half 89 percent of accounting and finance managers faced difficulties in finding skilled candidates in the first quarter of the year. Only 64 percent of finance departments expect to expand in 2023, as per the results of a recently released study by management solutions firm insightsoftware.Additionally, any CFO who focuses on the satisfaction of employees in AI implementation plans is likely to be able to reap the benefits too. Stephanie Bell, senior research scientist at the Partnership on AI, previously said to CFO Brew that finance managers are advised to utilize AI “in a way that helps people keep their professional identity secure” while also protecting the aspects “people see joy and meaning from.”

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And who will be able to tell what AI tasks are most suited to help with? “The folks who are really close to the work” usually are the best to know how technology can improve the workflow of a company, Bell points out.

It’s their responsibility to be aware of the changes. “CFOs have to understand the technology landscape, because of what’s coming,” Hopper added, noting the fact that “everyone up and down the chain of command” within the finance department will be well-suited to learning the basics of AI in order to “upskill themselves so that they can bring this extra level of value.”

Other CFOs share the same sentiment. “This is a really significant management of change,” HP Inc. CFO Marie Myers said to The Wall Street Journal in relation to AI. “Finance professionals prefer rigidity, and they prefer structures. This can cause chaos.”

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