What Is The Greatest Impact Technology Has Had On Finance?

technology in finance, robotic process automation

I spent close to twenty years in Finance. As I mentioned in this post, I made a career change because I believed that Corporate Finance was operationally outdated, mundane, and repetitive. Time and time again, I came across areas that I thought could be automated. One of my goals was to bridge Finance and Technology in the next phase of my career. It has been 1.5 years since I made that change. When I saw a global survey jointly produced by Deloitte’s Center for Controllership and Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) on the state of Finance and digital transformation called, From Mirage to Reality: Bringing Finance into Focus in a Digital World, I had to read it. Has anything changed since I transitioned from Corporate Finance?

For years I had heard about the new role finance professionals were expected to play at corporations. No longer the “bean counters,” finance professionals were tasked to serve as strategic business partners to provide more analytical insights and introduce more automation. IMA and Deloitte surveyed 800 finance professionals to assess how far the profession has come in the digital world, looking at three dimensions – work, people, and workplace.

The study analyzed “how technology is changing the way finance works, the skills needed to keep finance relevant in an evolving environment, and realistic expectations for finance professionals to deliver beyond the data.” Sadly, the results showed that 75.7% of surveyed organizations still have accounting processes that are mostly or considerably manual. Only 3.6% of respondents noted that their companies had implemented robotic process automation (RPA), and only 1.8% had implemented artificial intelligence and machine learning.

IMA and Deloitte found that to make finance transformation a reality, companies should develop a comprehensive digital finance strategy. They should also create business cases for initiatives and determine what technologies the organizations should invest in for long-term success. Through these investments in advanced technologies, finance can become more proactive and analytical versus reactionary and transactional.

The study also identified four qualities the Finance workforce of the future would need to possess in addition to strong business acumen and technological skills. Finance professionals would have to be:

  • Analytical: know how to gather data and deliver value-added insights
  • Adaptive: think outside the box and embrace new technologies
  • Agile: be innovative and flexible to serve as a business partner
  • Anticipatory: able to predict business needs based on trends and analysis

The survey found that advanced technologies have a positive impact on the workforce. Emerging technologies allow finance teams to be more efficient in their responsibilities. In addition, automation and disruptive technologies are expected to enable financial professionals to expand their roles into storytelling and become more strategic business partners. As the finance profession continues to evolve, 27% of survey respondents expressed a desire in purpose-driven work.

The discussions about finance digital transformation have been going on for years, but as the above-mentioned statistics indicate, a substantial amount of traction is yet to take place. However, multiple factors, especially COVID-19, have amplified the urgency of digital transformation. IMA and Deloitte asserted that “implementing a more agile digital strategy—with pilot programs, small adjustments, and workable solutions—enables a finance function that is flexible enough to adapt and evolve with the changing landscape.”

Finance professionals can gain more influence through successful digital transformation by playing a critical role in creating deeper and more meaningful work and building a more robust and resilient workforce. Finance professionals can integrate human and machine-based competencies to deliver more insights and strategic value to their organizations.

Leave a Comment