Who Says Finance Can’t Have Cool Tech?
4 Ways We’re Incorporating Cutting-Edge Technology Into FP&A.
Digital transformation has caused a monumental shift in many areas of business. Sales, marketing and operations always seem to be touting the latest sexy technology – whether it’s AI, IoT or 5G, they always seem to get it first. Finance, or at least the market for finance department tech, has been slower to evolve.
However, the last couple of years have seen a sharper rise in departmental tech for finance. According to Ernst & Young’s 2019 DNA of a CFO study, 58% of respondents said combining state-of-the-art technology with process improvement will be a major focus for the future of the finance function. Furthermore 65% felt that automating processes will be a significant priority for tomorrow’s finance function.
At EBM Software, our team has been heavily vested in continuing to evolve our FP&A software to stay ahead of the curve. In 2020, Chief Systems Architect Mike Lietzau shifted the primary focus of his role to advancing and onboarding the next generation of EBM Software technology advancements.
With a laundry list of new technology well on its way, we want to share a few exciting developments with you today that we feel will be instrumental going forward. Who says finance doesn’t get any of the cool stuff? Here are 4 ways we’re incorporating cutting-edge technology into FP&A.
Machine Learning is primarily used to identify attributes and patterns in massive swaths of data. You see it every time Netflix or YouTube recommends a new video for you. You see it when Spotify or Apple Music recommends a new album based on your tastes.
One way we’re using this technology is to improve and simplify the delicate process of hierarchy management. “We’re using machine learning to train our hierarchy management system to automatically categorize new items and new customers in your existing hierarchies, and to categorize new financial accounts in your GL account hierarchy,” says EBM Software Chief Systems Architect Mike Lietzau.
“We’ve trained this algorithm so, for example, new customers can get a machine learning-powered look at their financial account hierarchy and, based on the proprietary information that we have, it will actually recommend a general hierarchy for you.” This can provide clients with a strong starting point that will help them get up and running faster and avoid potentially costly errors, particularly clients that have multiple disparate systems due to M&A.
We’re also looking at how large data sets can improve the budgeting and sales forecasting processes by incorporating predictive AI algorithms. Companies have more data available at their fingertips today than at any other point in human history, but as we often say, few have the tools to fully utilize it. In this case, AI may help them realize much more of its potential.
“In the near future, we’ll be able to incorporate factors like history and a wide variety of variables (like weather, syndicated data, etc.) and filter them through an AI algorithm to help you more accurately forecast sales by store and by item going forward. This will allow companies to forecast at a much greater level of detail than they can today, much faster than they ever thought possible,” says Lietzau.
This is a very exciting new piece of technology, and we believe it will greatly enable many midmarket companies to make a quantum leap in their forecasting and budgeting capabilities going forward.
Mobile technology has fundamentally forced an evolution in the way we work. We expect to have knowledge readily available at our fingertips. Finance has been slower to move away from the desk, but we see a future where that doesn’t have to be the case.
We’re approaching mobile technology from multiple fronts. On one front, we’re working on apps that will allow you to quickly access a number of reporting, forecasting and analysis tools from anywhere you want, any time you need. If someone asks you a question in a meeting, you can instantly get the answers you need and keep moving on to the next thing.
To help you further tell the story, we’ve also forged a long-term partnership with Microsoft to enhance EBM Dashboards and Visualizations with Microsoft Power BI™, the industry’s most flexible data visualization platform. Through Power BI™ and Catalyst, you’ll have access to mobile-optimized dashboards that give you a snapshot of critical KPIs from anywhere, and in any situation where the need might arise.
Natural Language Processing
We’re taking mobile convenience even further by incorporating a Personal Assistant feature into our Catalyst software via Natural Language Processing. How does it work? Pretty simple. Need to know your top 10 SKUs? Just ask, “What are my top 10 SKUs?” and Catalyst’s Personal Assistant will pull them up for you.
Technology like this will be a critical step in bridging the data accessibility gap – it can empower people in the organization that don’t live in Excel to make more data-driven decisions, by making analytics easy to access and translate into usable insights.
This empowers people at all levels of the organization to make better decisions, and increases the bandwidth of those who would traditionally assist in gathering the data and filtering it into an understandable format. In a single instance, it may save a few minutes, or in some cases an hour. But it’s a snowball effect. In the context of some organizations, you may be reclaiming weeks or even months out of the year by giving your people better data accessibility.
All of these tools have one thing in common, they are designed to make your work faster and more efficient. By reclaiming time from low value tasks like gathering data, you can get more time for high value work like analyzing the data and driving change within your organization.
Want to learn more? Want to get an up-close look at our FP&A toolkit? We would love to hear from you.