Facing the unknown: Preparing accounting and finance departments for emerging technology

In accounting and finance, the same data is used in so many different ways. An organization might use their Accounts Receivable data to send invoices to their clients. They might also maintain a separate customer list in a spreadsheet or in a marketing platform.

That same organization might find itself entering information into a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform in order to log its client interactions. Perhaps employees there travel among the company’s different locations or travel domestically for business.

These employees might file paper-based expense reports seeking reimbursement for mileage driven, lodging and meals. That’s not even touching on financial reports, departmental expense logs or payments to contractors as well as supplier invoices. Even in this basic scenario, there are inefficiencies and typically an enormous amount of paper.

Thankfully, cloud computing has come to help with the deluge of data — printed and virtual. Integrated systems, backed by cloud-enabled storage, processing and compute power, has brought about a digital agility that has poised accounting and finance functions to forge an application ecosystem aimed at eliminating manual data entry across multiple platforms.

Working with core accounting applications, like QuickBooks Desktop and Microsoft Excel, in the cloud is just one way to gain efficiency and scale.

What might be coming: Artificial intelligence and blockchain

Thinking of where technology could bring business is just as exciting as thinking about how far technology has brought the enterprise so far. Going forward, predications say that artificial intelligence will do everything from adapting websites for personalized shopping experiences in real time to controlling robotic limbs after amputations.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) — what some call “weak AI” — is the use of software to handle repeatable tasks at a fast rate and high volume and is already impinging on the low-level tasks in accounting and finance.

Deloitte is deploying “digital tax helpers” that move data between applications and extract and compile it from very large data sets. It won’t be long before all bank reconciliations, year-end close procedures, order processing and transaction anomalies for audit (among other things), are relegated to the jobs of other AI systems.

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