Anand Desai is vice president of finance at New York-based Vic.ai, provider of an autonomous finance platform for accounts payable teams. Views are the author’s own.
Over the past two years, the economics in every industry have grown more challenging. Rising interest rates mean capital is more expensive. Shrinking budgets mean there are smaller wallets in which to gain share. The bar for high performance and desirable returns has risen.
For the survival of their businesses, finance leaders have had to step up their game and must continue to adapt — in 2024 and beyond.
A New Level of Strategy
Today’s CFO must be more strategic and forward-thinking than ever before — becoming something of a Chief Future Officer, if you will.
Finance leaders need a deep understanding of the economics of their business far beyond just how the company is performing. They must understand how customers engage with their product, what competition looks like, and what levers drive efficient performance. No one else has better visibility than the CFO into the factors of an organization that can build value.
And more than ever, artificial intelligence is helping CFOs develop those strategic insights. AI has accelerated how quickly finance leaders can incorporate new information on business performance, generating richer and more insightful business outlooks. AI also presents finance leaders with tools to better understand and preempt risks, preserving optionality in the way they allocate capital and stay ahead of difficult decisions waiting around the corner.
Constructing the Pyramid
But how can CFOs start engaging AI? It helps to picture all the tasks and processes of an organization in the shape of a pyramid.
In identifying where to implement AI, CFOs should start at the bottom of the pyramid. While the world has been dreaming of all the problems advanced AI might someday solve, today’s best AI solutions are trained to solve very specific pain points, and business leaders should stitch those tools together into a bespoke solution for their company and industry.
The low-hanging fruit is repeated tasks: if CFOs can automate and offload data entry-type tasks to an AI copilot, they can refocus resources toward the next level of value for the organization.
From there, CFOs can continue moving up the pyramid — from operational tasks to more strategic tasks over time. AI is already helping finance leaders understand where they are in the overall lifespan of large investments and projects. Depending on the company’s level of maturity, AI can help CFOs enhance fraud protection, optimize investments, reduce the risk of costly compliance violations, strengthen customer service, perform risk assessments, and improve forecasting.
Added together, AI can help CFOs shed light on the trajectory of their entire business, allowing them to address risks before they occur and pre-allocate resources for maximum performance and profits.
Reaching the Capstone with AI
As we adjust back to a world where capital isn’t free, finance leaders are having to return to the fundamentals. But AI is here to help. In fact, it’s becoming table stakes for efficient and effective business performance.
The more CFOs can lean on technology to quickly and autonomously handle baseline operations, the more their organizations will have freedom and intelligence to focus on innovation and competition.