Date posted: 02/04/2024 5 min read

How AI and other tech can help businesses weather volatility

Emerging technologies have the potential to solve an abundance of issues facing finance departments – and, in turn, benefit the broader business. Brought to you by BlackLine.

Finance offices have a lot to deal with in the current operating environment. Privacy laws and governance are continuously changing, talent shortages and staff churn are impacting culture and efficiency, and manual, repetitive and fragmented systems are slowing things down.

Automation and emerging tech have the potential to alleviate many of these challenges, and it seems those in the finance sector are ready to embrace them. According to research commissioned by digital finance transformation leader BlackLine, C-suite executives and finance and accounting professionals are positive about the emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) and other new technology. In particular, they recognise the value these tools can deliver in terms of enhancing audit capabilities, identifying compliance gaps, improving forecasting capabilities and automating repetitive tasks.

For Vijay Raghvani, vice president at BlackLine, this desire for change has been a long time coming.

“We’re certainly seeing an increase in discussions where businesses talk to us not just about ‘Why should we do this?’= but ‘How can we do this?’.”

Vijay Raghvani, BlackLinePictured: Vijay Raghvani, BlackLine

Building resilience

In addition to improving day-to-day operations, cloud computing and generative AI can place businesses in a strong position to respond to future instability. About half of the CFO respondents in the BlackLine survey agreed that the ability to access and analyse financial data in real time, and a greater focus on planning and analysis, were key steps to fortify their organisations. Yet almost 40% admitted they do not completely trust their own data.

This lack of confidence extends to organisations’ visibility over cash flow: a major cause for concern, given how critical real-time understanding of cash flow is when dealing with unpredictable markets. Although Raghvani believes crisis readiness is ultimately determined by people and how they respond to disruption, he says technology also has a crucial role to play, giving organisations greater visibility and control over their financial data. This is also hugely beneficial when positive changes occur in the market – empowering businesses to take advantage of new opportunities and innovate.

“What I would like to see is finance professionals, who are usually some of the smartest people in the organisation, use their knowledge to help the business move forward,” he says. “How can they do that? By leveraging technology to enable timely analysis and decision-making at the speed the business requires.”

Implementing new technology

Overhauling existing processes can seem overwhelming. Raghvani says a good place to start is by identifying which ones rely on manual labour. This typically persists in areas involving reconciliation.

“Pick a process where automation is going to have an impact on efficiency and bring time back into the business,” he suggests, adding that anything reliant on spreadsheets is an obvious contender for transformation.

“Pick a process where automation is going to have an impact on efficiency and bring time back into the business.”
Vijay Raghvani, BlackLine

Raghvani also recommends using a specialist, such as solutions integrators or providers, which exist solely to provide process efficiency to the office of finance.

While businesses may be hesitant to invest in new tech or implement change in the current economic climate, he says leaders must consider the impact of not “ripping off the Band-Aid” and moving to automated processes. He adds, “It’s critical that the broader business understands why this investment is needed in the finance team and how it helps the rest of the business.”

Want to learn more about business agility and resilience?

Read BlackLine’s whitepaper, Beyond the Unexpected: Mastering Business Resilience in an Era of Uncertainty.