What Are the FP&A Tools of the Future?

In this Q&A, Centage Corporation CEO John Murdock explains how today’s business leaders are leveraging new technologies to manage risk for their companies.

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Not only is the finance function being disrupted, the tools that finance leaders have at their disposal are experiencing an unprecedented amount of disruption as well. FEI Daily spoke with Centage Corporation CEO’s John Murdock about the challenges facing today’s finance teams and how technologies like AI can improve FP&A.

FEI Daily: What are some of the reasons that finance teams are struggling to manage risk today?

John Murdock: Risk is trying to look into the future and avoid obstacles, minimize risk for the business, and take advantage of opportunities. To look into the future, you need better data, you need better information that helps you gain some insight into the business. The challenge for the customers we serve is there is a lot of information available. There's an inordinate amount of data and reports that you can pull. It's actually become easier than ever to get data. But to make sense of that data, to understand that data, to translate that into a meaningful decision that you can make as an organization, that can be daunting depending on your organization, how you operate, and how you look at your business, and the types of people and tools that you have.

FEI Daily: A recent Gartner Survey shows that 27 percent of finance departments expect to deploy artificial intelligence by 2020. How do you think AI could improve FP&A?

Murdock: AI is really a set of technologies, right? How you use that to support your business is probably the more important conversation. But what it can help you do is automate some time-consuming manual processes that can be automated and can really take the mundane or difficult tasks off the plates of your teams.

Machine learning, artificial intelligence, and automation really help enable customers to take what used to take a lot of time and really shrink that down. For finance executives thinking about FP&A, there's a lot of tasks that require heavy lifting: pulling information together, normalizing data, comparing that against expectations. Flagging any standard deviations, and then alerting the business so that they can make a decision. A lot of that had to be done manually by people and manual processes in the past, and you can automate a lot of that today.

FEI Daily: What are the FP&A tools of the future? What will they enable finance leaders to do? 

Murdock: Our view is that finance is going to become a more and more, in FP&A in particular, of a strategic part of the organization. Not that they haven't been, but they're really going to move from producing reports and dashboards to helping enable executives to make real-time decisions to avoid the risks, to look into the future. We see FP&A in particular becoming a really a strategic weapon of the CFO.