Artificial Intelligence

What is Artificial Intelligence?

Understanding how Artificial Intelligence (AI) can have an impact on a finance team requires us first to all be on the same page regarding the definition. Basically, AI is technology that enables computers to perform decision-based tasks previously left to humans. It shows up in multiple forms, including machine-based technology that can progressively become better at analysis and decisions the more it processes, and speech-based technology that can understand different voices and languages. The way it is defined by Merriam-Webster: 1: a branch of computer science dealing with the simulation of intelligent behavior in computers. 2: the capability of a machine to imitate intelligent human behavior.

Let’s take a look at how learned behavior could impact the day to day operations of an accounting team. Sage Intacct previewed Pacioli, their new AI bot, and digital assistant. (Bot: a device or piece of software that can execute commands, reply to messages, or perform routine tasks, as online searches, either automatically or with minimal human intervention). First, you must love the name! In 1494, the first book on double-entry accounting was published by Luca Pacioli. Since Pacioli was a Franciscan friar, he might be referred to simply as Friar Luca. While Friar Luca is regarded as the “Father of Accounting,” he did not actually invent the system. Interested in learning more about Pacioli, here is a link you may find fun to read.

Back to Sage Intacct’s Pacioli. Aaron Harris, SVP and Head of Engineering for Technology at Sage Intacct has previewed Pacioli to rave reviews. According to an article in FEI Daily Harris feels that CFO’s are spending too much time on the operations side of the business. Is that true for you?

How will it impact your business?

When I speak to CFOs they are very versed in what has happened in their business but not as comfortable with forwarding projections and analytics. Most financial managers are very good at producing financial reports that look back at their business’ performance, looking forward can be a bit of a challenge. When I think of how AI might help finance managers, I see that improving on the day to day transactions of accounting is key. If a tool could be looking for the outliers in the day to day activities that would be huge. An acknowledgment when a certain transaction seems out of line compared to transactions in the past. For example, a significant payment to a particular vendor could be an alert of an out of synch transaction. Sometimes fraud is uncovered when a vendor is setup and payment made to that vendor without the appropriate approval process. An artificial intelligence tool takes out the human risk and emotion and just reports the facts. With these types of controls in place, it would provide the financial executive with more time to think strategically.

If Artificial Intelligence could help you be more prepared for strategic thinking, wouldn’t you invest?

Karen Riordan, Vice President