Financial Planning and Analysis has come a long way. The earliest finance professionals spent their days toiling away with a pencil and paper, painstakingly recounting every single debit and credit by hand. A single recording mistake could mean days of backtracking.
Everything changed in the early eighties, when digital spreadsheets revolutionized the way financial departments operated. In particular, Microsoft Excel gave FP&A professionals the ability to create truly dynamic models, providing an incalculable improvement to their analysis.
Now, as we witness the emergence of AI, FP&A is facing a revolution on par with the move from pencil and paper to Excel. In the words of one finance leader and influencer, Nicolas Boucher: “AI is here to stay and ignoring it would be like ignoring Excel when it was released 38 years ago.”
AI FP&A tools have limitless potential to transform the way finance departments analyze their data:
- Enhanced forecasting accuracy – By identifying patterns, trends, and correlations, these tools can generate more reliable and precise forecasts, enabling companies to make better-informed decisions.
- Real-time insights and decision-making – AI-Powered tools can automatically update the data in their reports, allowing businesses to monitor their performance and market trends instantly. This empowers workers to make agile decisions and react faster than competitors.
- Efficiency – Automated data-processing frees up finance professionals to spend less time on manual, repetitive tasks and focus more on strategic analysis and value-adding work.
Top 4 AI FP&A tools for 2023
Datarails FP&A Genius
Signature Feature: Chat GPT-style chatbot
Since 2015, Datarails software has allowed FP&A departments to keep using the Excel spreadsheets they’ve been working on for years, empowering them with all the features modern financial professionals need, from automation to dynamic dashboards. In March 2023, Datarails announced their breakthrough into the world of AI with FP&A Genius.
Just like Chat GPT, this new tool will be able to respond directly to text inputs, returning accurate and trustworthy answers supported by custom-made graphs from the data.
Benefits of FP&A Genius:
- Conversational interface – FP&A Genius’s ability to directly interpret questions means the CFO can get answers faster than ever before – no manual manipulation required.
- Security – Data used by FP&A Genius is always secure and external data is pulled strictly from trusted sources.
- Custom Visuals – In addition to a text-based answer, FP&A Genius has the ability to create its own dashboards and graphs using the relevant data.
Check out the demo for FP&A Genius:
Signature Feature: Error detection
Planful is a cloud-based FP&A platform designed to help organizations streamline their financial processes and drive better decision-making. In 2021, they announced the first tool in their Predict suite of AI programs: Predict: Signals. Last year, they augmented their AI offerings with the introduction of Predict: Projections.
- Predict: Signals – Planful’s first AI program is intended to spot mistakes in data, formulas, and financial predictions. It flags these errors for FP&A team members to check and fix, helping to eliminate the possibility of human error in projections and reports.
- Predict: Projections – Announced in May 2022, Projections is the next step in Planful’s adoption of AI. It takes Predict’s functionality a step further by creating forecasts informed by historical data. This allows the projections to be unbiased and informed solely by the data and the AI’s understanding of the variables affecting a firm.
Workday Adaptive Planning
Signature Feature: AI is embedded into the core of the platform
Founded in 2005, Workday has been serving the business world for close to two decades. The business and technology landscape today is almost unrecognizable compared to what it was in 2005, so it’s no surprise that Workday prioritizes adaptation. In their effort to evolve alongside the market, Workday emerged as an early adopter of AI functionality, and given the space’s current popularity, they only plan to grow their offerings.
In addition to the standard modeling and error detection, Workday’s AI and machine learning offers some unique benefits to its users.
Features of Workday’s AI Program:
- Anonymous Neural Network Analysis – Workday offers an opt-in program that analyzes users’ actions. Millions of users have signed on, which means Workday AI gets to train and grow using lots of real-world data points.
- Built-In Machine Learning – Most other companies keep their data storage and machine learning models separate, requiring an occasionally lengthy data transfer. Workday, however, embeds machine learning into the data store itself, providing for faster and more adaptive modeling.
Signature feature: Forecasting
Anaplan is an enterprise data platform that specializes in business planning. Their recent venture into AI comes in the form of their PlanIQ, which is a paid add-on to the basic Anaplan software. As is their expertise, PlanIQ is designed to help alleviate some of the pain points that come with traditional forecasting, like difficulties in adapting to rapidly changing market data.
Abilities of PlanIQ:
- Data flexibility: PlanIQ is able to analyze up to three types of data at once, which improves its forecasts’ accuracy and relevance.
- Amazon Integration: PlanIQ uses Amazon’s intelligent forecasting engine which is backed by their vast machine learning capabilities.
- Adjusting forecasts: The intelligent engine continuously updates users’ forecasts, helping them keep up with market trends without a long re-forecasting process.
As AI becomes more ubiquitous in the business world, it’s shaping up to be the most exciting time to work in FP&A since the advent of spreadsheet software. The four programs listed here represent the best of this new movement, and can help FP&A departments of any size or industry work smarter and more efficiently.