According to a recent MIT Sloan Management Review article, there is one role in the C-Suite that may be best suited to make sound decisions and investments in the area of artificial intelligence (AI)—and the answer may surprise you. It’s the Chief Financial Officer (CFO).

That’s right! Today’s CFOs are getting more engaged in the implementation of AI at their companies. And while they may not be technology experts, according to the MIT SMR article, “They can make a bigger leadership impact when it comes to AI strategy and adoption.” Below we take a look at the reasons why and offer up some strategic tips on how AI can “re-shape” not just the Finance department but organizations across the company.

First off, CFOs are in charge of the Finance function at their company, where many tasks and processes can be performed by AI. CFOs can get a firsthand look at how the technology works, and more strategically, how it can transform the way the company operates (more on that later).

Second, CFOs are the key drivers of “value for money” initiatives at their companies, according to the article. As a result, they should provide oversight on AI investments and work side-by-side with CIOs when the company implements AI initiatives.

Furthermore, from a functional perspective the Finance department is ripe for AI innovation. According to the article, this can include helping with the company’s financial period close with AI and automation supporting data extraction, consolidation, and reconciliation across the company. Other areas of the Finance function that can benefit from AI include tax, audit and compliance functions, and even checking employee expense reports against company policies.

Finally, the MIT SMR article outlines some key tactics that CFOs can use to advance AI at their companies, including:

  • Set personal examples for other senior executives. By exploring and implementing AI use cases, CFOs can bring direct knowledge of the benefits of AI into the C-Suite, influencing strategic decisions and even motivating other leaders to adopt AI.
  • Meet with AI companies. CFOs can benefit from engaging with AI technology companies, especially those developing applications for the Finance department. This expands knowledge and “will help prioritize which companies to work with,” according to the article. 
  • Select AI projects to advocate for as executive sponsor. CFOs can proactively get engaged in AI projects and initiatives by overseeing projects that are finance-oriented or related to the Finance function. Other AI projects suited for the CFO are those where return on investment (ROI) is a key objective.
  • Create specific roles to advance AI in the function. CFOs are encouraged to hire people with both AI and Finance skills to help drive adoption. Companies can also set up AI centers of excellence and include these newly created hybrid roles.
  • Establish an educational initiative for team members to learn more about AI. According to the article, CFOs should help all Finance employees understand how AI can add value to their jobs and the overall function.

If you’d like to learn more, including tips on AI investment oversight, read the complete MIT SMR article here.

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