Ask the expert: Technology

Aaron Harris, CTO, Sage

Artificial intelligence and the future of finance

Q  What do you think is important to today’s innovation and finance leaders?

A  I think today’s finance leaders want to focus on empowering their teams with tools to allow them to be the strategic leaders. I call this active insights, and it really reflects this idea that you shouldn’t have to go looking for answers to questions that are well defined. The finance system should not only push information to you and empower you to find insights, but also, using modern technologies, we can constantly be looking at what’s going on in the business and actively identify opportunities, risks, or events that may be coming around the corner, where the CFO can become that strategic leader.

Q  What are some future trends that you see developing in the finance world?

A  I think we’ll see some provocative statements on how innovation can transform the accounting industry that will get CFOs and finance leaders and their teams out of these periodic, redundant processes and focused on the future. I envision a world where the books are always ready for reporting; where you always have real-time information about the performance of your business, and confidence that anomalies have been identified, exceptions have been reviewed, and that there’s technology that’s assuring the accuracy of the data you’re reporting. Getting to this future requires the power of multi-tenant cloud computing and harnessing that power to develop new capabilities that are designed on the basis of AI and machine learning.

Q  What are some use cases for how AI and machine learning can help the industry in practical ways?

A  I think there are six use cases: conversational AI and bots to provide new ways of interacting with business systems; continuous analytics and performance monitoring; anomaly detection; continuous security monitoring; recommender systems; and process automation.

Q  What can we do with all the data that AI provides?

A  You can develop powerful collective intelligence capabilities. Most people understand that collective intelligence means that if you’re part of a peer group, there’s a couple hundred other companies that look just like you. We can do benchmarking and help you understand where you are performing versus your peers for the KPIs that matter to you. For example, we can give you recommendations and say, “Customers that have greater value renewals tend to have shorter cash collection cycles. If you want to drive high-value renewals, then you need to focus on your cash collections because that’s what we can see in the performance across your peer group and where you can improve your overall performance.”

Aaron Harris has more than 25 years of high-tech engineering experience in business applications and software development strategies. From Sage Intacct’s earliest days, he has led the company’s product vision and technology direction. As Sage’s Global CTO, he is responsible for Sage’s technology and product vision.

Sage Intacct

Sage is the global market leader for technology that helps businesses of all sizes manage everything from money to people. Our mission is to free business builders from the burden of admin, so they can spend more time doing what they love — and we do that every day for 3 million customers across 23 countries, through our 13,000 colleagues and a network of accountants and partners. Find out more at

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