CFOs Move to Decision-Making Phase With AI

Here’s the CFO realm, where the modern CFO shifts from documentation to decision master with artificial intelligence.

Chief financial officers have long shed their reputation as leaders of the back office as technology transformation has pushed CFOs to the forefront of budget and spending guidance and risk assessments.

AI has turbo-charged the acceleration of C-suite roles. In mid-2024, CFOs are emerging as modern corporate architects who play a huge role in how organizations use artificial intelligence.

That’s the takeaway from a new “Day in the Life of a CFO” PYMNTS interview with Brian Unruh, CFO at AI services company ABBYY.

In it, Unruh noted the CFO role in the AI age translates into a single source of company-wide truth amid the unpredictable realities of today’s dynamic and unrelenting macro environment.

“The CFO role has evolved from being a historian, looking at and delivering dated reports, to becoming a strategic partner in decision-making and not just documenting that decision-making,” Unruh said. “This evolution has been driven by technological advancements, changing market dynamics, and an increasing need for sustainable growth.

“The finance department exists to fuel decision frameworks,” added Unruh. He told PYMNTS that “timely, accurate, and multidimensional data” finance teams would be needed to provide daily information to the rest of the business. “That’s what ultimately helps define and accelerate internal growth drivers” inside the company, he noted.

Big On Decision-Making

Unruh also believes the CFO will “drive growth” inside their companies as AI progresses, especially when leveraging Gen AI tools and data analytics. PYMNTS reported that these tools enable CFOs to gain real-time insights into various aspects of the business, from customer health to operational efficiencies.

“Technology, especially AI, has accelerated the success of finance teams by providing real-time access to data and insights,” Unruh noted. “This allows us to proactively address issues before they become significant problems, rather than just reporting on them after the fact.”

For example, Unruh points to artificial intelligence, which “can analyze customer behavior to predict potential churn, allowing the finance team to take preemptive measures.” Meanwhile, AI-driven analytics can “identify bottlenecks in processes like sales enablement and cash collection, helping to streamline operations and improve cash flow.”

Equally notable is how far the “new” CFO’s influence will spread.

“In the past, decision-making was very siloed, with different departments focusing on their specific metrics,” said Unruh. “Now, we use a more holistic approach, looking at the entire value chain to understand how different areas impact each other … Having a unified data structure ensures that everyone is speaking the same language and making decisions based on the same information.”

As CFOs establish a firm grasp on AI-powered data integration and quick-hitting insights, the C-suite will share in that information-generating experience, which should lead to more robust executive decision-making.

“With modern solutions providing increased visibility, it’s easier for different departments to align on financial performance and strategy,” Unruh said.

Unruh emphasized the importance of nurturing talent that excels in identification, innovation, and implementation., which also helps speed up operational decision-making. “Everyone is good at one of these, some are good at two, and a few excel at all three,” he said. “These are the people you need to nurture within your organization,” he said.”

CFOs will be expected to take a big step forward as AI expands inside companies.

“The totality of accounting and finance is becoming more integrated into the company’s strategic vision,” Unruh said. “The finance team is now expected to provide insights that not only reflect where we’ve been but also predict where we’re going.”

“Understanding the frontline challenges and staying abreast of external trends are critical,” he added.

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