In episode two of our ‘forward-looking finance leader’ podcast series, we outline a practical, everyday vision for automation and examine how the finance function stands to benefit.
A machine did my expenses! That’s the rather provocative name of this podcast episode. After all, there’s something about automation that lends itself to tabloid flourishes. But the reality is something altogether quotidian and qualitative.
To tell us more, AccountingWEB welcomed a triumvirate of esteemed guests onto the pod:
Alastair Barlow is one of the founding partners of flinder, a firm which provides accounting services and rich management information for growing businesses.
Manu Dell’aquilla is the technology transformation manager at RED, a global SAP solutions provider. Dell’aquilla has a background in engineering and AI, and in his own words enjoys “geeking out” about the subject of automation and machine learning.
Rachel Van Der Merwe is SAP Concur’s head of product marketing for EMEA North.
In the pod, we wrestle with what automation is and isn’t -- and how its progress is usually iterative, rather than an overnight transformation.
“In practice, people think of AI going towards this magical black box scenario,” explained Dell’aquilla. “But sometimes it’ll just be a more efficient way of handling a spreadsheet.”
These baby steps add up, and eventually, the benefits of automation can be applied end-to-end, said SAP Concur’s Van Der Merwe. “For a business traveller, it’s easier to do their expenses, and from a finance perspective, it simplifies checks and processes.
“People do their expenses sooner, and on the finance side, you get that insight sooner.”
As Alastair Barlow puts it, automation isn’t just about efficiency, it’s about effectivity, too. “It’s about making the journey for finance and the user more seamless and less invasive,” he said. “A lot of the time we think other people in the business aren’t doing finance activities, but they absolutely are.”