Corporates may be aware that greater disruption from innovative technologies is coming, but that doesn’t mean they’re necessarily ready for it.
A new report from the Association for Financial Professionals (AFP) found that only about a tenth of surveyed corporate treasurers are prepared for emerging technologies like blockchain and machine learning to disrupt the enterprise. More than a third admitted their firms were “minimally prepared” or totally unprepared.
The data released in the AFP MindShift survey, published this week, highlights a significant gap in corporate tech adoption: While professionals know disruption is coming and while they acknowledge much of it can be beneficial to their operations, the vast majority of businesses remain unable to fully embrace this evolution.
In its report, the AFP examined corporate adoption of robotic process automation (RPA), artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain technology. Treasurers told researchers they know change is coming: Half acknowledged that blockchain and the Internet of Things will have at least a moderate impact on their industry, for instance.
But each of these categories of technology has pretty dismal adoption track records.
Robotic Process Automation
Considered a step above standard automation, robotic process automation has the ability to automate business processes without the need for human intervention to initiate or manage that capability. That means RPA can handle simple, repetitive tasks as well as more complex tasks, the AFP explained.
Yet only 6 percent of corporate treasurers surveyed said they have implemented RPA into their systems in some way. Further, most (55 percent) said they don’t plan to do so.
Similar to RPA, artificial intelligence enables organizations to reduce manual intervention of various processes like data analysis. AI has the ability to analyze information even if data sets are incomplete or imperfect and leads to deeper capabilities, like deep learning, the AFP noted.
But worse than RPA, only 2 percent of businesses surveyed have implemented AI in some way, and 54 percent don’t have plans for future implementation.
Talk of blockchain’s potential to disrupt the enterprise is expansive. From supply chain management to fraud mitigation, the use cases experts have proposed for blockchain are vast, with proponents of the technology touting its secure, decentralized nature to transmit information and money across parties.
Blockchain was last in adoption rates in the AFP’s survey, however: Despite all the hype, only 1 percent of businesses surveyed said they have implemented some kind of blockchain tool, and 51 percent said they don’t have plans to adopt the technology in the future.
What’s Holding Treasurers Back?
According to the AFP’s research, corporate treasurers have a slew of hurdles to overcome if they’re ever going to implement these tools.
The survey found that basic awareness of these innovations is the top barrier, with 58 percent citing this challenge as the largest that is holding back treasury and finance departments from implementing RPA, AI or blockchain.
Most (51 percent) also cited the costs associated with implementing these tools. Still, a significant challenge is buy-in from senior-level management, as well as the challenge of integrating these solutions to cooperate with existing systems and technologies in the enterprise, the AFP found.
According to Jim Kaitz, president and CEO of the AFP, action must be taken to overcome these hurdles and to increase adoption rates. It’s just not exactly clear what action must be taken.
“The benefits of new technology for finance and treasury are clear: increased productivity, reduced costs and better decision-making,” Kaitz said in a statement announcing the research. “However, the challenges are just as clear: lack of control over technology, cybersecurity, company-wide consistency, maintaining employee skills and the potential loss of jobs. Treasury and finance need to get their heads out of the sand and begin to grapple with these challenges.”