Like the moment you got your first iPhone, when a company introduces an emerging technology to their finance department, everyone is so excited and focused on the beneficial possibilities. They think about how technology, like Artificial Intelligence and Robotics Process Automation, can make work easier and reduce repetitive manual processes. However, “the challenges [of adopting emerging technology] are probably the things that we talk about the least,” PwC’s assurance innovation leader, Michael Baccala, told Bloomberg Tax. The challenges are the things “that ultimately organizations should be thinking about,” Baccala said.
PwC recently hosted a webcast where Harry Bains, NBCUniversal Global finance innovation leader, and Robert Giglietti, General Electric’s operational controller, shared their experiences and lessons learned while adopting emerging technologies into their finance functions.
One of the challenges that the speakers discussed was getting employees to buy into a company’s technological vision. Because, according the speakers, adopting a new technology can lead to a cultural change within a company, but as we all know, people are often resistant to change.
According to Bains, it is hard to get people to move away from something they are used to using, such as excel, and move to other data acquisition and processing tools that may be better designed for their job. “Excel is addictive. It is the new ‘opioid crisis’,” Bains said.
“You have to push people not to stick with what they have,” Giglietti said. He went on to say that the mentality shift—from a focus on patching and repairing what you already have to eliminating and replacing it--is really challenging when you are trying to make a major transformation.
To make the transition smoother, “you have to get the message out to the employees,” Bains said. NBC communicates to their employees about the ways technology initiatives can make their lives easier. Giglietti agreed with Bains that it is important to communicate to employees that with the use of new technology, their jobs will be transformed from making manual journal entries every day to engaging in the high level analyses of complex issues.
Different Takes on ROI
NBC and GE have different takes on how they evaluate their return on investment when it comes to technology. According to Bains, NBC does not set cost targets. Instead, they look at how technology can add value to their employees and their finance function. “We look at how technologies can elevate the role of finance,” Bains said.
On the other hand, Giglietti said that GE sets specific cost targets when introducing technology. He said that it is easier to evaluate the return “when you have a scale.”
One size doesn’t fit all, Baccala told Bloomberg Tax. In his opinion, companies should find the balance point based on their own situation.
Baccala told Bloomberg Tax that each company has their own journey when adopting emerging technologies, it is important that they keep the challenges in mind at an early stage.
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