Microsoft’s Launches Copilot AI Tool For Corporate Finance

The finance suite gets a new AI assistant.

Artificial intelligence is a big “get” in the company finance realm, with 51% of CFOs and controllers saying they’re using AI in some capacity in 2024, according to a recent Controllers Council study.

That use capacity should grow after yesterday’s announcement from Microsoft that it’s introducing a corporate finance model for its Copilot AI assistant. The AI tool is now available for public preview with a broader rollout, including pricing, scheduled for later in 2024.

Microsoft says a corporate finance version of Copilot AI is an idea whose time has come.

“The finance department is the heart of the organization, juggling a myriad of critical, yet complex tasks—from quote-to-cash processes like credit and collections to risk management and compliance,” Microsoft vice president of business applications Emily He said in a February 29 blog post. “Financial teams are not only responsible for these mandatory, labor-intensive operations but are increasingly tasked with real-time insights into business performance and recommendations for future growth initiatives.”

“In fact, 80% of finance teams face challenges to take on more strategic work beyond the operational portions of their roles,” He noted.

Microsoft’s Copilot for Finance AI tool aims to solve those problems by directly connecting to company financial systems. Microsoft says that means merging with Dynamics 365 and SAP to “provide role-specific workflow automation, guided actions, and recommendations in Microsoft Outlook, Excel, Microsoft Teams and other Microsoft 365 applications, helping to save time and focus on what truly matters: navigating the company to success,” He notes.

Easing the “Flow of Work”

The AI software suite should help company finance departments with historically laborious and time-intensive tasks, such as streamlining audits by pulling and reconciling data with an easy prompt or making collections more efficient by automating communication and payment plans.

End-user interaction with the AI software is easy, too, Microsoft says.

“(The software) suggests actions in the flow of work and enables users to ask questions by typing a prompt in natural language,” He explains. “For example, a user can prompt Copilot to “help me understand forecast to actuals variance data.” In moments, Copilot for Finance will generate insights and pull data directly from across the ERP and financial systems, suggesting actions to take and providing a head start by generating contextualized text and attaching relevant files.”

Microsoft calls the time and savings costs tied to Copilot for Finance “substantial,” as company software engineers have been rigorously running Copilot for Finance applications before its public release.

“We’ve been testing it ourselves as customer zero, you could say, for several weeks now,” Cory Hrncirik, modern finance lead at Microsoft, told CFO Dive.

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