Advice and Information for Finance Professionals

The Future of Best Practices: Less Work, More Automation, Better Outcomes

Steve Cox

If you’re like me, you’re old enough to remember the days before the internet was ubiquitous. Used mostly by academics, researchers and the military, the development of the World Wide Web in 1991 introduced the internet to the public at large. Suddenly, everyone with a computer and a modem could open a web browser and surf to any site they could find. This advancement changed the world in ways most of us never imagined, giving rise to social media sites, reams and reams of what we now call “big data,” analytics to help us understand that data, cloud computing, and eventually the mobile devices and apps we rely on every day.

A similar shift is nearly upon us. At Oracle OpenWorld 2018, Oracle founder and chief technology officer Larry Ellison declared that a new technology—machine learning—is the most important technology since the internet. I predict that it will have a similar level of economic, technological and sociological impact.

In 2014 we produced the guide Modern Best Practice—Explained because I had an epiphany. I realized that the business processes in almost every organization needed to change. What used to be “best practices” were suddenly out of date in a rapidly changing business climate being disrupted by advanced technologies. 

Six technologies in particular were reshaping how work was being done, as well as the expected outcomes from that work. Everything started moving much faster as cloud, mobile, analytics, social, the Internet of Things, and big data spawned new definitions of value and new models for businesses and business systems. We produced Modern Best Practice—Explained to help our customers realign internally so they could best navigate this new terrain. 

Today, technology is changing faster than ever. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), blockchain, and augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) have added elements like “automation everywhere” to best practices. Along with the original six drivers, these newer technologies have further accelerated business change and are presenting even bigger opportunities for transformation and reinvention. 

It’s time to look toward the future with the release of Modern Best Practice—Predicted.

In my new book, I explain Oracle’s future vision of eight processes used in finance, supply chain, human resources, and customer experience as they evolve hand-in-hand with advanced technologies. The good news is that best practices are about to get significantly better. Work will be a more human place, with an emphasis on people using insight and experience to plan and make decisions rather than perform the same tasks over and over.

For finance teams, processes will be simplified drastically due to software automation. For example, we predict that 70 to 90 percent of account reconciliations/transaction matching will be automated, allowing accounting staff to focus on more complex cases. In fact, automation will completely change some basic concepts in finance, such as “the close.”

Autonomous processing will transform finance

We predict the frenzy around period close could become obsolete as AI/ML capabilities expand and the process becomes autonomous; that is, the process is “always closing” without human involvement. The new process could look like this (compared with today’s transaction-focused process):

Another process that will compress is Report to Forecast. AI/ML will streamline data analysis and detect variances from forecast. The “people” part of the process will be to strategically respond to this information. In this case, too, the best practice shifts from report creation to insight discovery.

Procurement will also completely change. AI/ML will enable procurement professionals to do things like dynamically negotiate the most beneficial terms on outstanding payables based on in-the-moment analysis of treasury position. They’ll also be able to maintain optimized supplier portfolios with intelligent, multifactor merging of ERP data with other trusted business data.

Start moving toward tomorrow’s best practices

The changes in Modern Best Practice go beyond finance, of course, into every line of business. 

The original six disruptive technologies have become mainstream, and indications are this cycle will repeat with AI/ML, blockchain, and AR/VR. In fact, this cyclical disruption is the new normal, and best practices enterprise-wide will continue to evolve and change.

Modern Best Practice—Predicted can help you prepare for change more easily by serving as a blueprint to stay aligned to internal and external shifts.

Learn how the future of work is poised to evolve. Read Modern Best Practice—Predicted.

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