How AI will transform the CFO’s role

With smarter automation taking over rote tasks and AI improving analytics, finance leaders can become powerful strategic advisers

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Perhaps no business function — or C-suite role — offers such fertile ground for automation and AI to help spur growth as finance.

CFOs are uniquely positioned to lead a broader organisational shift into digitization. They have insight into all business units and can help leaders from every area of the organisation understand the why of finance data, not just the what — ultimately leading to smarter business decisions throughout the enterprise. Here’s how CFOs can lead this change:

Set targets for outcomes and benefits

  • What’s most important to your organisation? Efficiency, effectiveness, expansion or disruption?

  • Robotic process automation (RPA) can help increase both efficiency and effectiveness.

  • To expand into new markets, disrupt an industry or tackle complex problems, you’ll need to employ more advanced tools, like AI and machine learning.

 

Directly involve frontline employees

  • Automation and analytics can seem like a disruptive threat to many employees.

  • CFOs can overcome resistance and generate buy-in by giving people the right training, tools, autonomy, incentives and appropriate governance structures.

  • This may include giving the finance workforce a hands-on role in developing and deploying a digital tool kit that ultimately automates and streamlines processes, freeing employees for higher-value work.

  • Look for ways to bring finance experts together with data scientists to marry specialised expertise with technical ability.

Define your area of focus across people, processes and performance

  • How you integrate automation and AI should fit into a broader finance transformation strategy.

  • The goal is to strike the ideal balance — unique to your organisation — across people (upskilling employees and improving the value proposition of the finance function), processes (making that function more effective) and performance (generating bottom-line financial results for the company).

In PwC's 22nd Annual Global CEO Survey, 55% reported that a lack of key skills is inhibiting their ability to innovate.

Put a governance structure in place, both for data and for AI overall

  • Create a governance structure that lets finance pull data from the right sources, ensure that it is accurate and clean, and give access to the right people at the right time.

  • Help business leaders integrate insights from data by providing them with ways to visualise it and create side-by-side comparisons.

  • Provide structures for governance of AI models to help ensure end-to-end AI governance, from the definition of your AI strategy, through training, testing, deploying and monitoring AI and the data used to train it.

Prepare the workforce

  • Frontline employees need structured training and upskilling programmes to be able to contribute high-value work in a finance function where more tasks and processes are automated.

  • In addition to training and upskilling, you may need to spearhead cultural change, helping traditionally risk-averse finance employees see that, in some areas, trying new things with AI — with the proper controls in place — could create value in the long run.

Contact us

Bob Woods

Bob Woods

Partner, PwC United States

Brian J Furness

Brian J Furness

Global Consulting Finance Leader, Partner, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)20 7212 3917

Gori von  Hirschhausen

Gori von Hirschhausen

Finance Consulting Leader Europe, Partner, PwC Germany

Tel: +49 89 5790-6698

Anand Rao

Anand Rao

Global Artificial Intelligence Leader, Principal, PwC United States

Tel: +1 (617) 633 8354

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