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Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning: Start Thinking About the Future Now

Jun. 22 2018 by Alessio Lolli, Vice President and General Manager - CCH Tagetik North America

Performance Management Business Intelligence & Analytics

Artificial intelligence, a broad and general term that refers to replicating human-like cognitive abilities in a machine, is already permeating our lives. Think about the watching recommendations you get on Netflix. Or the notification you get when your credit card is used in a city which you don’t typically visit. And then there are the computer-generated voices you hear when trying to navigate through a customer service issue.

These are all examples of machine learning, a subset of AI, in which a computer “learns” actions based on “teaching sets” of data. For instance, the more films you watch on Netflix, the better the recommendation algorithm is able to pinpoint your preferences. Or, because you typically use a particular credit card for travel, hotel, and restaurant purchases, you may get a fraud alert when you rack up a huge purchase at a sporting goods store because the purchase deviates from “normal” charges.

AI and machine learning are now starting to make inroads into corporate world. According to the recent CFO article “Mind Games,” more than 1,000 startups with products purported to incorporate AI and machine learning have been launched in the last two or so years. A 2017 survey by Boston Consulting Group and MIT Sloan Management Review showed that almost 75% of technology, media, and telecommunications companies expect to have an AI-based product in the next five years.

However, that same survey showed that actual use of AI in some form is still in very early stages, with only one in five companies employing any form of AI for any business process.

AI and Machine Learning

Interestingly, finance is one area of business that can likely benefit soonest from AIprevalently in the form of machine learning. The Financial Director article “Do CFOs Have What It Takes to Be AI Educators?” points out three areas in which AI will probably have earliest impact on finance in the future:

  • Digital assistants. Using Siri-like assistants, executives will be able to speak directly with finance systems to get the latest financial results or pinpoint the areas that fell short of the latest forecast.
  • Automated forecasts. Based on the outcome you want to predict, the system will automatically choose the most appropriate model and generate an up-to-the-minute forecast. 
  • Automated analytics. Functionality will catch deviations as they occur and then drill down to find the cause.

We at CCH Tagetik are already thinking ahead toward this future. Our recently introduced Finance Transformation Platform paves the way for the collection and crunching of the large volumes of data required for advanced and predictive analytics. Additionally, our relationship with SAP, which is manifested by CCH Tagetik’s native integration with SAP HANA, brings powerful processing power for near real-time results. We view these and other solution advancements as intermediary steps toward the future which can bring customer big benefits today – even without AI. Our customers spend less time consolidating spreadsheets and more time cultivating insights, anticipating problems, and making course corrections.

But what can you do to start preparing now for AI and machine learning advancements that will definitely be coming your way in the not-so-distant future? Following are some of our recommendations:

  • Evaluate the skills of your team members. Finance teams of the future will need people who are strategic thinkers with cross-functional knowledge. Analytical thinking will be more important than mathematical mastery. You can start now to develop these skills in current employees and begin to change your hiring profile.
  • Think about data! The modern CFO will have more in common with a data scientist than an accountant. Educate yourself about the data sources within your company’s technology ecosystem. Consider what data from these sources could be valuable to your work – now and in the near future. Start thinking about how you could actually put such data to use. 
  • Learn about algorithmic design and application. While no solution provider in its right mind would require CFOs to write code, having an understanding of how algorithms work will definitely be useful since humans are the teachers of AI-based applications.

We firmly believe that AI will make the future of finance even brighter. As your technology partner, you can count on us to be at the forefront of making AI a practical reality. And we’ll be with you at every step on this transformation journey!

AI and Machine Learning

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