As a provider of back-office financial technology, it's vital to speak with chief finance officer (CFO) and finance executive end-users about what they need and which friction points are giving them the most pain.
"No. 1, they want to accelerate the transformation of how work gets done," Gupta told PYMNTS in an interview. "Technology as an enabler is one part, but it's not the only part. CFOs want to figure out how they can recover hundreds, even thousands of hours from the back office, which is really about redefining how work gets done."
Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and automation technology has introduced a whole host of ways to help corporate finance teams from accounts payable (AP) to accounts receivable (AR) recover hours lost to what has traditionally been manual tasks. According to Gupta, it's a major step forward in addressing back-office pain points — but it's far from the end of the transformation journey.
Manual Pain Points
Finance teams have mountains of manual tasks to complete every day. From AP teams managing vendors and chasing payment approvals, to AR professionals tracking down customers that haven't yet paid their invoices, professionals are using valuable time on non-strategic initiatives.
Come audit time, the manual workload can grow even larger with teams scrambling to get the data and compile the reports they need for internal and external auditors.
"It puts a tremendous amount of strain in the back office on practitioners," said Gupta.
Gradually, sophistication in AI technology has presented the opportunity to automate many of these tasks and help teams achieve what Gupta described as a "zero touch" environment. The technology is what's behind Auditoria.AI's latest rollout of intelligent automation capabilities, announced earlier this month. The solution wields AI to lift the burden of manual tasks, including collection, supplier management, cash flow forecasting and financial planning.
"Whilst we may never get to 100 percent zero touch, the expectation is that technology can move the needle significantly," Gupta noted.
AI Steps in to Help
Examining the AR department as one example, Gupta highlighted three areas in which intelligent automation can help CFOs transform how work gets done.
The first is before an invoice actually moves into the collection phase, with analytics able to identify which payers and invoices may be most likely to be paid late.
The second involves the actual collection process, including intelligently prioritizing which invoices should be chased down first, how the collection process should be approached, and even various signals like the industry in which a customer operates. A business in the struggling travel and hospitality arena, for instance, will require a different collection approach to a business in a more resilient sector.
Third, AI today has the capability of not only providing AR professionals with these insights, but actually automatically sending messages to customers with the correct phrasing and tone based on which customer is paying late.
They're relatively sophisticated goals for any CFO, but ones that aren't out of reach, particularly as the enterprise accelerates its digital transformation. Yet while the technology is there to achieve these capabilities, Gupta emphasized that it's not the only way to help CFOs transform the back office.
In addition to evolving the way work gets done, today's CFO wants easier access to actionable insights, as well as a strategy to optimize their team. The opportunity for AI to automate tasks is valuable, but it is not about replacing humans; rather, it's about providing human professionals with time to work on more strategic initiatives.
It's also about placing the back office on a path of continual transformation because while these AI-powered achievements in automation are impressive, they're only the first step to a long evolution of optimizing financial functions.
"In today's COVID environment, this is that much more critical," said Gupta. "This is the first time that many finance teams are doing their quarterly close while being fully remote. There are so many lessons to be learned as part of that process."