Why financial business leaders are embracing AI and automation

Financial leaders in South African businesses are leveraging innovative technologies like AI and automation to enhance their role and increase productivity.

This is according to recent research from Sage, the market leader in cloud business management solutions.

Sage commissioned World Wide Worx to interview more than 300 senior financial decision leaders at medium and large South African businesses regarding digital transformation.

 One of the noteworthy findings was that 89% of CFOs welcome automation performing more of their day-to-day accounting tasks in the future.

The findings contradict a commonly held fear within the labour space that 4IR technologies pose an enormous threat to job security.

Robots will change – not steal – jobs

Although robotics, automation, and AI will displace or redefine certain human jobs, analysts have said these technologies will also create opportunities for many new positions.

On a very basic level, for example, where a factory worker would previously manually have to count stock and input figures, this job can now be performed by a robot.

However, the worker can be upskilled to an oversight role, where he or she will be expected to double-check the robot’s results and perform hardware and software maintenance.

The growing sophistication of technologies means that these changes will not be limited to jobs with lower skill requirements, however.

Highly-educated CFOs will not be exempt from this paradigm shift.

CFOs are not worried  

The research shows that CFOs are growing increasingly confident in their use of new technology, with 75% saying they are not worried about automation’s impact on their own job security, or whether they’ll be made redundant.

In fact, most senior financial decision-makers cited direct productivity benefits because of these technologies, including:

  • Creating time and opportunity for creative and strategic thinking.
  • Making room for critical analysis and innovation to augment business strategy.
  • Providing accurate forecasting, planning, and efficiency.
  • Enhancing data governance.

40% of financial leaders believe that AI and machine learning will improve forecasting and financial planning even further, while 43% believe emerging technology is the best solution for staying informed about changing regulations.

In addition, 59% of CFOs expect emerging technology to audit results continuously and to automate period-end reporting and corporate audits, reducing time spent in the process.

Technology drives growth – Growth drives employment

World Wide Worx’s Arthur Goldstuck said the research indicated automation and AI were actually creating the opposite effect of what is feared.

“In well-run organisations it creates greater effectiveness, and the possibility of increasing employment,” Goldstuck said.

Sage CTO Aaron Harris echoed these sentiments, particularly with regards to AI.

“AI allows us to elevate the work that humans do to be more valuable and lets humans focus on the unique skills that AI will never be able to replicate,” Harris stated.

The adoption of these technologies is set to pick up even further, with 73% of CFOs saying their organisations are ready for more automation.

Click here to view the CFO 3.0 – Digital transformation beyond financial management research. 

This article was published in partnership with Sage.

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