Microsoft plans in coming weeks to roll out a new set of corporate finance planning tools with artificial intelligence capabilities, the software giant said Wednesday.
The package, dubbed Dynamics 365 Finance Premium, will enable CFOs and their teams to build advanced financial plans and insights, all while leveraging familiar software products like Microsoft Excel, according to a blog post penned by Georg Glantschnig, Microsoft vice president of Dynamics 365 ERP Applications.
“In the face of modern economic challenges, more advanced corporate performance management becomes essential for financial leaders,” Glantschnig said.
The announcement marks the latest effort by Microsoft to stake out a dominant position in the rapidly evolving AI-enabled business applications market. Software vendors big and small are racing to capitalize on the popularity of ChatGPT, a generative AI tool created by Microsoft-backed Open AI.
“We are rapidly infusing AI across every layer of the tech stack and for every role of business process to drive productivity gains for our customers,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said during an October earnings call.
This year, Microsoft has unveiled a flurry of AI initiatives impacting a variety of its products and services, including its Bing search engine; its suite of office software products like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook; and its Azure cloud computing platform.
The Redmond, Washington-based company has also begun to incorporate AI features into Dynamics 365, an enterprise resource planning platform designed to automate a range of business functions including finance, sales and human resources.
Besides Microsoft, other major players in the ERP market include SAP, Oracle, IBM, and Workday.
Wednesday’s announcement builds on Microsoft’s introduction of a new AI-powered version of Dynamics 365 in March. The new model “brings the power of next-generation AI capabilities and natural language processing to Dynamics 365,” Emily He, corporate vice president of business applications marketing at Microsoft, said in a blog post at the time.
As part of this effort, Microsoft is focused on equipping Dynamics 365 Finance with new AI-enabled financial planning and analysis features. In a May blog post, Glantschnig said traditional FP&A tools tend to suffer from “integration complexities” and restricted data sets, among other challenges. The software giant envisions an “extended planning and analytics,” or xP&A, solution that will “go beyond traditional finance processes by extending the scope of data to encompass cross-domain datasets, including supply chain, human resources, sales, and more,” he said.
In July, Glantschnig told CFO Dive that such a tool was being tested with selected clients in a “private preview” phase.
In his latest blog post, he said Microsoft is looking to include “planning, analytics, and insights as capabilities within Dynamics 365 Finance, while providing interoperability with familiar tools like Excel and Microsoft Power BI.” That strategy will allow customers to “minimize the high costs associated with many FP&A and xP&A solutions,” he added.
The new capabilities will be “generally available” in Dynamics 365 Finance by Dec. 31, according to Glantschnig. However, Premium won’t be available for purchase on Microsoft’s website until Jan. 2, a company spokesperson told CFO Dive. Pricing details will be published on the company’s website once the product is live, the spokesperson said.
A Gartner survey unveiled last month shows that CFO sentiment towards AI in general is largely positive, with 85% of respondents expressing optimism about using it within the finance function. Yet, when it comes to adoption, most finance departments are taking their time compared with other teams in the organization, like human resources, legal, and information technology, the study found.
However, this is expected to change in coming years as the AI market continues to mature at a rapid pace. Four out of five finance leaders responding to the Gartner poll said they expected to devote more money and effort into deploying AI over the next two years.
By 2026, 80% of large enterprise finance teams will rely on internally managed and owned generative AI platforms trained with proprietary business data, according to separate research from Gartner.
McKinsey recently made a similar prediction, concluding that “most, if not all, finance functions in large enterprises will likely be using gen AI in significant ways within the next three to five years.”
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include additional details about Microsoft’s anticipated product launch, including comments from a company spokesperson regarding the precise timing.