When it comes to access and responsibility for data that feeds company insights and informs key performance objectives, CFOs and their staff take center stage. All too often, the biggest challenges CFOs face is access to data that is timely, accurate and relevant as leading indicators of performance. Even in an ideal world, where that data is at their fingertips, the question of how to interpret and act upon that data remains a challenge.
The promise of business intelligence and magical dashboards that track the pulse of company activities was supposed to be fulfilled by all sorts of systems — enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, enhanced or augmented by enterprise content management systems (ECMs) and business intelligence platforms were supposed to translate business data into business insights, leading companies to make better decisions, faster.
Those were the best laid plans of data and technology visionaries for decades. But as heavyweight boxing champ Mike Tyson famously said, everyone has a plan, until they’re punched in the face.
One of the biggest punches to the face or any plan for real time data and business insights is access to unstructured data, in a form that can be interpreted, analyzed and communicated in a timely fashion.
What do we mean by unstructured data? In today’s world, it comprises the bulk of our communications and transactions on a daily basis, fueling a massive explosion in the data in the world today. Emails, photos, videos and documents of every kind contain massive amounts of data — some of which is valuable, much of which is ephemeral.
How to separate the wheat from the chaff? Up until very recently, the solution remained manual data entry, for everything from invoices to customer orders to medical claims and every document related to purchasing, selling and settling claims.
As a result, even the best systems for storing structured data couldn’t solve for the exceptions to their structure. The mouse and keyboard persisted as a bottleneck that prevented CFOs and their peers from having a true grasp of the day to day, week to week and month to month health of their organizations.
Fortunately, there IS a solution — one designed for the less glamorous world of back office operations, built to automatically and intelligently extract data from unstructured documents, along with semi-structured data sources.
Today, tools that were once narrowly focused on intelligent data capture, to overcome mouse-and-keyboard bottlenecks, have evolved and become more flexible and adaptable. Beyond tackling common manual process pain points and bottlenecks, they now hold the keys to the kingdom when it comes to timely, accurate data to fuel common business processes.
When it comes to the finance function, timely, accurate data has the potential to transform even tactical roles within finance into strategic functions — accounts payable being a perfect example.
Historically, because of technical limitations 50 to 90 percent of corporate data was trapped within unstructured data sources, rendering it irrelevant from the standpoint of corporate intel. According to survey data from Accenture, 76 percent of CFOs say that their organizations struggle to meet its objectives as a result of this data blindness.
Intelligent process automation, which combines simple, low-code process automation techniques, with machine learning technology that allows systems to adapt their algorithms to address exceptions on the fly, make the process of extracting, compiling and interpreting data in near real time, feasible in a way that is reliable, predictable, easy-to-implement and cost effective.
By implementing intelligent solutions for finance automation (including vendor invoice automation, and customer sales order automation) , CFOs can help deliver more accurate forecasts, minimize the planning and budgeting cycle, and execute strategic plans with greater confidence. That’s all achievable in part because of faster access to accurate data. The OTHER reason is that staff members who used to be slaves to their keyboards can now focus THEIR efforts on analysis, planning and budgeting.
Imagine: all THAT can be achieved from accounts payable and sales operations, two departments usually perceived as costs centers.