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Digital transformation - A long and bumpy road

Making the most of new technologies is not always straightforward. Kirstin Gillon looks at how finance functions have got to grips with digital.

We have talked a lot over the past few years about automation, data analytics and the opportunities for accountants to spend more time providing insight to businesses. Automation means that computers take over more and more mundane tasks, and data analytics is the means whereby accountants can contribute this greater value.

So, when I was in New York for the annual American Accounting Association conference on big data, I took the opportunity to speak to some members working in businesses there to learn about their real experience around this shift in role and focus. There is certainly broad agreement on the desired destination. Whether organisations had formal ‘bot targets’ or were still working out their strategy on robotic process automation (RPA), there is a strong desire for computers to take over as many standard finance processes as possible. Equally, there was a lot of investment in data and related tools to enable accountants to support their businesses better.

However, all were struggling with two basic challenges – complex legacy environments, and the impact that has on data quality and standards, and building the right skills and thinking among staff.

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