March 3, 2023

The role that RPA and AI can play in the finance function

Interview with Michael McRoberts and George Skillin, Co-Founding Directors of Chartertech Pty Ltd

CFOs are struggling to find skilled finance professionals while dealing with challenges on the cost side and additional environmental, social and governance (ESG) reporting requirements, but Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) can improve many finance processes and challenges, according to Michael McRoberts and George Skillin, Co-Founding Directors at Chartertech Pty Ltd.

Chartertech Pty Ltd is a sponsor company at the marcus evans CFO Summit 2023.

What is challenging CFOs in Australia today? How could RPA and AI be part of the solution?

Skillin: It is getting more and more difficult for CFOs to find skilled finance professionals. It is a very competitive market, and they are struggling to attract and retain good accountants, systems professionals and operations professionals. Automating repeatable transactions that don’t need to be processed by people anymore, would lower overheads in a time of high inflation. Businesses are also challenged with aligning cost structures to revenue and desired profitability. Extended planning and analysis (xP&A) is the future approach to address antiquated planning and analytics. CFOs can make use of AI tools to make better informed financial and business decisions. Thirdly, CFOs are now expected to take a lead with ESG reporting requirements for external and internal stakeholders, and compliance requirements imposed by accounting bodies and government for environmental reporting.

McRoberts: RPA enables organisations and CFOs to augment their skill sets with digital workers who can do the work more efficiently. Removing high value add tasks traditionally undertaken by paid employees, and having them done by a robotic worker does not devalue the work humans can do. It enables people to do higher-value add work, by removing routine tasks from their workload. It means qualified accountants and finance professionals can focus their time on what can add strategic value to their function, instead of wasting their time on mundane tasks. With labour costs going up, this must become a priority.

What are the gaps in the finance function?

McRoberts: The biggest area of focus is business-focused analytics, the ability to leverage data sets in enterprise resource planning (ERP) and corporate platforms, and to continuously convert that to more strategic and financial information. That is an ongoing journey for CFOs.

We position ourselves as a chartered accounting firm that does technology. We take that finance skillset and overlay operations and technologies to drive better management and operational information. CFOs are always trying to do that to the best of their ability.

How do your solutions stand out from others?

Skillin: We are not just an RPA service provider. We have a CFO advisory practice that includes people at very senior levels who understand finance and governance. We have systems integration teams who deal specifically with ERP platforms that CFOs use. And automation professionals who can focus on an end-to-end outcome rather than just a specific technology aligned with our service offering.

What risks and opportunities should CFOs prepare their organisations for?

McRoberts: Retention of talent is going to be key for CFOs. In terms of technology advancements, we are seeing application risks to security environments that continue to change over time, making them difficult to deal with from a threat perspective. From a governance perspective, we are seeing increased calls for more corporate accountability. A lot of that can have valuable input from the CFO function.

In terms of opportunities, the better use of technology can create excitement in finance professionals and the desire to expand their existing financial skill sets into other areas. Many people enjoy building processes that can improve their personal and organisational performance.

We are starting to see more use of large-scale data science platforms with machine learning and AI-infused technologies, which can crunch larger amounts of data and draw more powerful information. The tools we have as accountants are becoming more powerful. So we have started seeing many opportunities with these technologies.

Any final words of advice?

McRoberts: It is important to play and experiment with new and emerging technologies. They do not have to be large-scale experiments. Work with a data science professional to develop a better pattern of analysing information with more advanced platforms and statistical techniques. CFOs have the ability to shape organisations and if they choose to engage with technology even in a small way, the finance team can use those experiences to better the profession.

About the CFO Summit 2023

The CFO Summit is an invitation-only, premium forum bringing together leading finance executives and innovative solution providers. The summit’s content is aligned with key CFO challenges and interests, relevant market developments, and practical and progressive ideas and strategies adopted by successful pioneers: