PYMNTS MonitorEdge May 2024

Google’s Restructuring Shows AI’s Impact on Finance Function

Amid a changing business landscape, digital innovation is reshaping the growth calculus for organizations.

And with the news Wednesday (April 17) that Google CFO Ruth Porat is restructuring the tech giant’s finance team as the company looks to redistribute resources toward artificial intelligence (AI), the impact of embracing a more technology-driven approach is top of mind for the finance functions and chief financial officers of enterprises both large and small. 

That’s because today’s CFOs are increasingly finding themselves at the forefront of digital transformation, acting as key decision-makers in investing in technologies that add value to their business and its stakeholders.

After all, where a business spends its money tends to inform, if not represent, its go-forward strategy, and areas like liquidity management, working capital management, compliance, cybersecurity, and fraud prevention are more important than ever. Businesses working with legacy functions across these areas can find themselves bogged down in manual tasks and left vulnerable to nimbler and more agile competitors.

By harnessing innovative technologies like AI, CFOs can drive operational excellence, optimize resource allocation, and deliver unparalleled value to key stakeholders — particularly when digital investments are made against a backdrop of long-term enterprise growth objectives.

Read more2024’s Top Trends CFOs Need to Know

AI’s Transformative Impact on the Finance Function

“As a CFO, being on top of current technology is really important structurally for so many areas of the business,” Anna Brunelle, CFO at May Mobilitytold PYMNTS this past February. 

And as PYMNTS has long been covering, the emergence of sophisticated tools and digital technologies has revolutionized finance operations. Automation, data analytics, and AI are increasingly combining to enable modern CFOs to streamline existing processes, gain deeper insights from cross-departmental information centers, and make data-driven decisions in real time and with greater efficiency.

“Turning to automation transformed our finance department,” LiquidX CFO Abhishek Khandelwal told PYMNTS. “Things that used to take hours, for example analysts spending around 80% of their time pulling data and not analyzing it, are much more streamlined. It has totally transformed jobs, freeing up valuable time for more strategic exercises.”

Looking ahead, Khandelwal noted that considering advances in AI capabilities, “reporting through an Excel spreadsheet or a PDF document or even a dashboard is going to be outdated. People will have access to real-time data through a gen AI interface. They can type in any question that they want and get an answer right away… If you want to retain good talent in today’s environment, you cannot give them something to do that is, for lack of a better word, boring.”

While the traditional responsibilities of finance teams, including cash management, internal and external reporting, talent development, risks and controls, and scenario planning aren’t going away any time soon, implementing digital tools can provide a step function increase in workflow output.

“Technology-driven growth, especially artificial intelligence, especially automation, these are things that as a finance department that we can really leverage,” PayByPhone Chief Financial Officer Nick Hamill told PYMNTS.

Echoing that sentiment, Scott Casey, CFO at Robin AI, told PYMNTS that, “It’s a lot easier to get up and running quickly now with things that give you a much better view of your business … and those tools have enabled finance to even accelerate the value that they can bring to the whole company.”

See also: How a Six-Decade Old Management Framework Helps Today’s CFOs Thrive

The Role of CFOs in Digital Transformation

When it comes to leveraging innovation for enterprise growth, as Amy Wang, CFO at Procurify, told PYMNTS, “It’s still building out for scale, but instead of scaling with headcount, which we’ve traditionally been doing as a finance organization, it’s scaling with technology and leaning into automation.”

Still, it is important for finance leaders to remember that automated tools like AI are only as good as their implementation, and a poorly implemented solution can end up being worse than doing things the old-fashioned way. After all, automating an inefficient process only results in more inefficiencies, not the streamlining of them.

“The finance function has been dealing with AI for some time. I don’t want to say we’re the tip of the spear on this, but tools such as expense management tools in the accounting function [have long been built on AI],” Jim Sparks, CFO at Kalderos, told PYMNTS . “In a perfect world, I think artificial intelligence won’t replace humans, but it will make humans more effective by unlocking insights and making projections more accurate.”

At the end of the day, like all investments, the adoption of AI within the finance office needs to be measured and implemented as appropriate. It would be foolish of CFOs to simply chase after what’s new just because of the buzz surrounding it versus any defined business goal.