I often tell a lot of my clients that we need to move away from just ‘doing data’ and move towards insights. It’s hard for a lot of people to do this, as by the time we get all our data in the right place and explain it, we don’t have the time to reflect on the insights we’ve gained.
In finance (and in general) insight matters because it enables business change. It allows us to understand how to make a positive impact. It’s where the best jobs are… and to be blunt, where you can really earn your money right now. The biggest challenge for finance used to be having the time to gather and share insight in meaningful ways, but that’s all about to change.
I’ve been talking a lot about ChatGPT lately, and for those that don’t know, ChatGPT is an AI language model developed by OpenAI that can generate human-like responses to a wide range of questions and prompts. It can be used to analyse numbers, but you should be very careful about the data you put in!
Why? I hear you ask. Well, recently someone at Samsung put sensitive data into ChatGPT, and it turns out anyone can retrieve it using the right prompts. So be cautious. If you put your company’s data into ChatGPT, it can be used by other people.
If we can’t put the data into ChatGPT, how is it going to help us in finance?
Well, Microsoft announced a new product, Copilot, that integrates ChatGPT into Excel.
How can finance teams use Copilot?
Microsoft is promising it will be able to do a lot of your finance job for you. For example, imagine you a have massive data dump in Excel, 1,000s of rows of data with multiple columns. You can ask Copilot to analyse it and in seconds it will tell you trends and key findings. You can drill into the key findings, depending on what you’re looking for within your data.
You can then follow and ask it to chart the data, and then analyse it further. Ask it to make predictions and trend out what happens next and add in scenarios. Impressive! The other great thing it can do for you is to make a nice summary to send to business partners. And for the more mundane jobs, it appears to have the functionality to write a lot of month-end commentary for you too.
What does this mean for finance?
If it works, and that’s a big if right now, Copilot will be able to do a lot of your job for you. Such as:
Month End Processes
Copilot will enable you to understand all the variances in your data and talk what’s going on with the data at a surface level. I expect that Copilot will eventually be able to write your Month End commentary for you and summarise the most important points – saving countless hours every month. This will give us finance professionals more time to really understand the commercial drivers behind our numbers and work with business partners to add value.
Copilot will help you to look at historic numbers and forecast what they’re likely to be in the future. It may or may not be able to also integrate some level of machine learning into that without you needing to know too much. I expect this feature will be launched over time and as a paid-for extra.
I expect Copilot to help with budgeting, maybe even coming up with a bottom-up budget to help you do that process much quicker each year. I think we can all agree, we spend way too much time on it and hopefully Copilot will help us with that!
Business cases and analysis
It will take a lot of data and do some deep analysis on it to help produce business cases. It will give you scenarios to help you identify different possible outcomes so you can plan for them. This will mean we can very quickly analyse the results and move on to offering up proper insights from the data.
How can I keep up to date with Copilot news?
You can find out when Copilot launches by signing up for my monthly newsletter. Secondly, as soon as it launches, you should start to play around with it to see how it can help you. When doing this, you want to make a note of the work you do that’s cyclical and annoying and think about how you can use to make life easier for you.
A tip for finance leaders: if you’re a finance leader in your business and your job doesn’t need you to use things like Copilot personally, you might be wondering how you are going to get your team excited and engaged with it. First, start a group discussion about how everyone can use it. Then think about finding a Copilot champion – choose someone who wants to volunteer (not voluntold) to be an early adopter and train the team on how to use it.
I’ll be keeping an eye on any advancements that I think will be particularly helpful for finance. But if you would like to talk about it more, get in touch with me and I’d be more than happy to talk things through.