Artificial intelligence using machine learning has passed through the bright, shiny object stage and software vendors are well into the process of making the concept a reality in their offerings. Ventana Research defines AI as the use of technology to process information in much the way humans do, including improving accuracy in recommendations, actions and conclusions as more data is received. I like the alternative term “augmented intelligence” because it emphasizes that these systems enhance – rather than replace – the capabilities of the humans employing them, especially through improved decision-making and eliminating the need to perform repetitive work.
Organizations need to use external data in planning and budgeting, both data and third-party forecasts. This need also extends to external data in training artificial intelligence systems to assist in planning and for predictive analytics. Companies do not live in a vacuum and things occurring outside physical facilities have a direct impact on how an organization performs. Incorporating external data and third-party forecasts in any systemic fashion is really only practical if you’re using dedicated planning and budgeting software. And increasingly, planning and budgeting software will be incorporating AI capabilities. Watch this brief video presentation by Ventana Research SVP and Research Director Robert Kugel to uncover the benefits of organizations using external data.
Sage recently announced that it is expanding its Sage Intacct software offering to support discrete manufacturing, with its initial foray into this competitive market centered in France. The move supports the company’s strategy of building out the scope of industries served by its cloud applications to include product-oriented business models and expanding Sage Intacct’s geographic footprint. The company has been extending the functionality it offers customers with human capital management as well as budgeting and planning and extending beyond its sole focus on service organizations to be able to support product-focused businesses. These include wholesale distribution, construction, retail (with the recently completed Bright Pearl acquisition) and now discrete manufacturing, specifically industrial machinery and supplies, electrical equipment and electronic parts.
The term "corporate spend" usually refers to the incidental but still significant outlays organizations make to support operations. Especially in nonmanufacturing industries, purchases of indirect goods and business services – such as computers, office supplies, furniture and services – as well as travel and entertainment can represent a significant percentage of total costs. Technology has evolved to the point where executives – especially the chief financial officer – need to take an overarching approach to corporate spend that utilizes technology to tighten controls, deepen visibility into expenditures, increase productivity and reduce process frictions. Spend management software and corporate spend cards – either physical or virtual – offer a means of achieving spend management objectives. This is part of a broader trend to digitizing outlays: I assert that by 2025, more than two-thirds of organizations will be using spend management software and corporate cards to achieve greater control and increased efficiency.
Ventana Research recently published the results of our Business Planning Value Index Research and I commented on its connection to our emphasis on using software to unify planning processes across an enterprise to improve performance. Since 2007, we have advocated what we call Integrated Business Planning (IBP): a high-participation, collaborative, action-oriented approach to planning and budgeting built on frequent, short planning sprints. Short planning cycles enable companies to achieve greater agility in responding to market or competitive changes.
I recently attended an analyst conference held by Unit4, an enterprise resource planning vendor focused on midsize organizations in people-centric industries. The conference was intended to communicate the company’s strategy, product updates and roadmap. The meeting took place shortly after announcement of the availability of Unit4 Industry Mesh and the acquisition of Compright, which does compensation planning as well as in the context of the broad technology shifts affecting ERP applications.
Topics: Human Capital Management, Office of Finance, Business Planning, Financial Performance Management, Talent Managment, ERP and Continuous Accounting, Total Compensation Management, digital finance
Software that automates the full scope of the accounting close, including reconciliations, consolidation and reporting, has grown more capable and affordable over the past five years. By enabling consistent process management that captures best practices, and by automating rote, repetitive activities to boost staff productivity, these applications enable organizations to shorten the close, make the process more efficient and reduce the risk of material errors by strengthening accounting controls. As accounting departments have learned over the past two years, close automation software helps ensure business continuity under any circumstance, especially as remote workforces that are able to perform the close virtually become more commonplace.
The use of artificial intelligence (AI) using machine learning (ML) will be the single most important trend in business software this decade because it can multiply the investment value of such applications and provide vendors an important source of differentiation to achieve a competitive advantage in what are today very mature software categories. I assert that by 2025, almost all Office of Finance software vendors will have incorporated some AI capabilities to reduce workloads and improve performance. However, software vendors will be challenged to apply innovations in this area quickly while ensuring that the AI capabilities function well enough in the real world to foster rapid adoption while avoiding user frustration. The failures of the Apple Newton and Microsoft’s Clippy office assistant stand out as examples of too-ambitious-too-soon attempts at infusing intelligent automation.
Over the past decade, how organizations manage processes and record data related to transactional events captured by an enterprise resource planning system has undergone a significant evolution. Some of the more recent changes have been the result of a steady migration to the cloud, since these systems are typically updated frequently, require less maintenance, have better performance and are more readily available than those operating on-premises.
Digital transformation of the Office of Finance has been a recurring theme for several years, but adoption accelerated when offices were locked down and organizations had to collaborate remotely. It involves shifting manual work, often completed via spreadsheets circulating in emails, to software and systems for improved performance.