Deloitte CFO Survey: Finance and Artificial Intelligence Make a Great Combination

Deloitte CFO Survey: Finance and Artificial Intelligence Make a Great Combination
CFOs are enthusiastic about the opportunities that artificial intelligence (AI) offers. They are, however, often still searching for practical applications. These applications do exist. For instance, according to findings from the latest semiannual Deloitte CFO Survey, AI can already be used to meet all the reporting obligations outlined in the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD).

AI has moved beyond the hype. The frenzied excitement surrounding artificial intelligence following the introduction of ChatGPT by OpenAI at the end of 2022 has eased off. While enthusiasm certainly has not faded, the approach is now characterized primarily by realism. This certainly applies to the CFOs who participated in the latest Deloitte CFO Survey. CFOs are convinced AI can make a valuable contribution to strengthening the finance function. In this regard, we are still in a phase where AI means different things to different people.

Numerous areas of application
The applications of AI in finance are vast and varied. AI can be useful wherever large volumes of data are used. As companies increasingly migrate their ERP systems to the cloud, the range of application areas grows. Whether with gathering, cleaning, processing, or interpreting data, generating reports, or making predictions: finance can use AI to execute these processes faster and more effectively. Various administrative tasks undoubtedly form domains where AI can add enormous value. Producing monthly, quarterly and other reports can also benefit from AI. For CFOs, the success of AI begins with defining a so-called use case: what is the problem we want to solve?

AI can also be valuable when it comes to collecting and enriching data in the field of sustainability. Especially now, as the deadline for organizations to comply with all reporting requirements of the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) approaches, AI and CSRD can form a great partnership. The CFO is the one with the best overview of the financial activities within the company and therefore the one who can best draft use cases on how AI can contribute to CSRD reporting.

Remaining critical of AI
The CFO aiming to incorporate AI in the financial operations, must step outside his or her comfort zone. AI applications are not plug and play, they must be tailored to each company's specific characteristics. This requires leadership, time, and patience from the CFO. It also means involving data scientists and other non-finance professionals in the development of these AI applications, while remaining involved him- or herself. Ultimately, the CFO remains accountable. Regardless of the circumstances, dependable information remains the CFO's Achilles' heel. Therefore, trust is good, but control remains better.

This article was published in Management Scope 05 2024.