FINANCE TEAMS are spending more time on analysis and less time on data gathering amid greater automation of traditional book-keeping activities, research by accountants PwC has found.
PwC’s annual finance function benchmark report found that the best performing finance functions cost 40% less than their peers and have ditched the traditional focus on book-keeping and information gathering in favour of greater automation, shared services and more efficient use of capacity.
Finance professionals now spend half their time on analysis versus data gathering, up from 36% three years ago, with a greater emphasis on real-time analytics and management information used by other parts of the business,
“Accountants have long been at the top of lists of professions most likely to be replaced by robots, but what’s happening instead is that the human role is changing quite radically as automated processes are being carried out by artificial intelligence (AI),” said Brian Furness, PwC finance partner.
“The best finance professionals today are producing actionable information, not circulating numbers that are likely to be out of date as soon as they’re released. In business today, internal data is being spliced with data scraped from the internet or pulled from specialised external sources, and not always by the finance department.”
The changes mean that fewer people are needed to run finance, with the cost of the average finance function as a percentage of revenue fallen more than 10% since 2011/12. Economies of scale mean the cost of finance as a percentage of revenue in companies with revenues over $10bn is less than half that of companies under $1bn.
At the same time, there is a demand for accountants to hold soft skills with some 44% of respondents citing collaboration as a priority, while 53% said improvements in communication processes are most important.
“This democratisation of data has been a wake-up call for the finance discipline. It has also led to a demand for strategic thinking and leadership skills not traditionally associated with finance professionals,” said Furness.
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