Leveraging data, automation and AI for efficiency in business

July 11, 2023

Leveraging data, automation and AI has emerged as a transformative tool that can provide a competitive edge. A self-described land of opportunity, the US often tops the lists as the most attractive country to invest in. As the largest economy in the world, over 25% larger than China, the US is home to 33 million businesses, with an attrition rate of one business in every five failing in the first year. In such a bustling market, a clear competitive edge is crucial.

Leveraging data, automation and AI to develop accounting services

Kreston Global’s firm in the US, CBIZ MHM, ranked the 10th largest firm in the US by International Accounting Bulletin, is rising to the challenges of economic uncertainty, supply chain issues, and rapid technological advancements. They are at the front of the pack in the race to develop AI and data-driven client services.

We wanted to find out more and spoke to CBIZ’s Chief Innovation Officer, Rob McGillen, and National Leader of Advisory Practice, Thomas Bonney, CPA, about this exciting development. Technology’s importance will accelerate. The future of business within the US is undeniably tied to data gathering and digital transformation and as the use cases and applications increase in complexity, the implementation track is increasing in simplicity and is more available to the middle market than it has ever been.

Just as you’ve heard and probably experienced, American small businesses have weathered “cascading economic storms over the past five years,” to quote the US Chamber of Commerce. These storms have included supply chain disruptions, staffing shortages, inflation, and of course, Covid-19.

Nevertheless, amidst these challenges, businesses have used technology to improve efficiency, reach customers, and gain deep and comprehensive insights from a wealth of data. To compete, and indeed to survive, companies of all sizes need to accelerate their adoption of technology and integrate the technology into all business processes, particularly in the US

Leading the pack on data, automation, and AI services

Thomas Bonney, National Advisory Lead at CBIZ MHM, regularly shares his 30 years of experience in strategy, business transformation, and investment with the broader business community, predicting future trends and advising clients on where to focus efforts. Tom gave us his view,

“CBIZ is at the forefront of innovation, particularly at the intersection of data, automation, and AI. Rob McGillen’s focus on establishing a centre of excellence for digital data services as an advisory practice aligns closely with our vision. We are actively collaborating to develop client-centred solutions and use cases that leverage these advancements.”

Rob McGillen, Chief Innovation Officer at CBIZ, emphasises how businesses can use artificial intelligence (AI) to improve their operations, likening it to a “lightning bolt”.

“As part of our digital transformation strategy, we have successfully upskilled 200 data specialists in the past year. The investment in upskilling and data analytics tools has yielded significant returns, with a return on investment of 10x to 15x per person. The math is simple, and the value proposition is clear, not only to CBIZ as a service provider, but also to our clients as we share this knowledge to improve their business processes.”

Harnessing efficiencies

In the coming decades, organisations that effectively combine data and AI to transform customer and employee experiences will not only survive but thrive. The future success of businesses hinges on their ability to gather insights from data with tools, including AI technologies.

Rob describes a recent instance when his team used AI to complete a financial analysis of a client that would have taken “three people three weeks to do”. The result? An analysis “equal to or better than” the work of a “20-year veteran” in just a minute and a half. This compresses weeks’ worth of work into just a few minutes, showcasing the power of automation and AI.

“However, for firms still reliant on traditional billing models based on hourly rates, this rapid transformation presents an existential crisis. As the effort required to deliver services diminishes from hours to seconds, new economic models and billing strategies must be adopted for continued viability.”

Adapting to change

Adaptation and evolution are essential for long-term success in the changing landscape of business. AI can do a lot for businesses, from automating certain financial tasks and analysing data for trends to handling customer inquiries and creating forecasts. These are things that humans can do, but the beauty of AI lies in how quickly it can process data, allowing you to focus on your core business.

But you can also use AI to simplify aspects of business you may never have considered before, such as recruitment. Rob shared an experiment he did, where he used ChatGPT to create a job description and some auto-generated CVs.

He then asked the generative AI to evaluate the candidates and create five topics that should be on an interviewer’s list of key things to discuss. “It was spot on. It was like ‘the candidate demonstrates the following characteristics that align well”. So, think outside the box to see where AI and technology more generally can help you streamline your processes.

Human advice remains integral to success

While AI can offer valuable insights and streamline processes, it should not entirely replace human financial advisers. After all, business finance involves complex emotions, nuanced decision-making, and unique circumstances that require human empathy and understanding — all of which are needed during the tough times of 2023 and beyond.

Tom Bonney has an urgent plea for clients, “In the next 24 months, it will be crucial for companies to have advisors and access to information that can assist them in making optimal decisions despite imperfect and ever-evolving circumstances; the AI driven answers are only as valuable as the quality of the source data and the context into which the data is used to drive change.

He sees a future where data, AI and a collection of professional advisors will provide the optimal odds that business executives get the big decisions right, over time.

“There are nuances to doing business in the US and your advisors, understanding the corporate goals and working with the clients and their data can get to an optimal solution.”
“By making informed choices, businesses will gain institutional confidence and a clear direction for investment in the period spanning from 2025 to 2030.”

Shaking up data processes with AI

Starting a business in the US is an exciting idea, but one packed with challenges. However, the future of doing business in the US looks bright, with the use of technology ramping up and the regulatory environment remaining stable.

Artificial Intelligence, a lightning bolt in this digital age, continues to redefine traditional processes, offering unprecedented opportunities for efficiency, insight, and transformation.

While Tom, Rob and the teams they are setting up at CBIZ across the country remain excited at the potential of the support they can give clients navigating this ever-evolving landscape, there is still room left for good instinct, great advice and solid planning, Rob explains,

“Our technology focus at CBIZ Financial Services is shifting quickly from ‘same’ to ‘transform’ as our clients are facing economic headwinds and seeking efficiencies in their own business. Technology is the wheel on which business turns, accelerating every season, and our clients are themselves continuously considering new ways to find value with tech-enabled solutions

We have set corporate policies now to manage the risks and missteps and learning each week new ways to leverage. What will be fascinating over the next 12 months will be the adoption rate and embrace of Generative A.I. in commercial products we all leverage (including Microsoft and other tax and audit solutions).

My best advice to those entering the market is to consider how you want to navigate the shifting US economic conditions and seek a combined view from experts. There is never a perfect time to expand, and approaching the opportunity with a partner which offers innovative ways of serving a multi-national client is a great step forward!”

If you would like to learn more about using data, AI and automation to give your business competitive edge, get in touch.