Leading With the Problem Triggers Best AI Investment Outcomes

Don’t overthink artificial intelligence strategies, corporate finance experts say.

Corporate finance decision-makers largely believe that artificial intelligence is a big deal.

In a recent survey by talent search firm Paro, 83% of finance executives say AI is “crucial to the future of finance, ” though 43% say they’ve yet to deploy AI, mostly due to concerns over costs, compliance issues, and lack of AI engineers.

“Everybody agrees that this is the future, but there are quite a few concerns about how to implement and govern it,” noted Paro CEO Anita Samojednik in comments to CFO Dive.

While chief financial officers see burgeoning value in artificial intelligence, that value only appears when CFOs make the best problem-solving decisions first.

“Value doesn’t create itself,” McKinsey stated in a recent white paper titled “Gen AI: A Guide for CFOs”. “Instead, it’s the CFO’s role to allocate resources at the enterprise level—rapidly, boldly, and disproportionately—to the projects that create the most value, regardless of whether they are driven by gen AI.”

McKinsey notes that CFOs can’t implement generative AI for everyone, everywhere, all at once, despite rising demand for the technology inside companies.

“CFOs should select a very small number of use cases that could have the most meaningful impact for the function,” The paper stated. “The most important action that CFOs should take is to identify the largest opportunities for value creation—and then make sure that they receive the money and other resources that they need.”

Avoid “Backward” Thinking

Glenn Hopper, CFO and director at Eventus Advisory Group and author of Deep Finance: Corporate Finance in the Information Age, takes that “problem-solving” mantra a big step further in an interview with CFO Brew this week.

“Finance leaders are hearing from their boards, from the CEOs, from investors. We’ve got to get on this AI train,” Hopper said.

The primary issue with the “AI will solve all your problems” mentality is that it’s fundamentally backward, Hopper noted. Many finance leaders “have this vision, and they just throw AI at it as if it’s going to fix everything,” he said. “If you don’t need AI, don’t overcomplicate it. Just use a system that solves the problem.”

What is the key to getting the best results from a company AI investment from the CFO’s point of view? Identify the problem first.

“If I were buying a piece of software, do I care if it’s built in Python or C+ or Java?” he told CFO Brew. “No, I just care that it fixes my problem and does what it’s supposed to. Don’t lead with the technology.”

“Lead with the problem and find the best solution out there.”

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