Despite the undercurrent of fear about the impact of automation on jobs, a new study of 160 Australian CFOs suggests that more finance jobs will be created than replaced by automation.
The study, sponsored by recruiter Robert Half, has found that 46 percent of Australian CFOs are planning to expand their permanent staff headcount to help implement their company's automation efforts over the coming 12 months, while 36 percent plan to increase temporary or contract staff.
The vast majority of the CFOs surveyed, 86 percent, agree that workplace automation will cause a shift in required skillsets, rather than eliminate jobs altogether.
"Increased automation within Australian workplaces is not about destroying jobs, but rather, adapting to change -- which in turn leads to new opportunities," David Jones, senior managing director at Robert Half Asia Pacific, said in a statement.
"While automation may diminish some routine manual roles, it will lead to faster decision-making, reduce the risk of errors, and eliminate stresses associated with laborious task-management responsibilities. These benefits are available to those companies who embrace workplace automation rather than resist it."
According to the study, the top skill finance professionals need to focus on are problem-solving, followed by strategic vision, commercial acumen, and communication.
Data collection was identified by 88 percent of respondents as one of the finance functions that are either already automated or likely to be automated within three years, followed by invoicing at 85 percent, financial report generation at 84 percent, data entry at 77 percent, and credit management at 77 percent.
"Finance professionals will need to develop skills that complement and leverage the capabilities of automation -- rather than simply hand over control. More advanced technology requires additional, well-developed skills, such as advanced data analysis, interpretation skills, and decision-making skills," Jones said.
Another recent IDC study sponsored by Salesforce showed that AI-driven automation will have a positive impact on productivity, revenues, and job creation.
From 2017 to 2021, the study predicts that AI-powered CRM will create more than 16,000 new direct jobs and AU$19 billion in increased revenue in Australia over the next five years. Improved productivity in Australia will account for AU$4 billion of the revenue boost.
Enterprise investment in robotic process automation (RPA) is set to soar in Australia and New Zealand, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 45 percent from AU$216 million in 2016 to AU$870 million in 2020, according to a recent study by Telsyte.
The analyst firm said RPA -- which enables software robots to replicate the actions of human workers for routine tasks -- is now being used or investigated by six out of 10 ANZ organisations with more than 20 employees.
Additionally, 38 percent of organisations with more than 500 employees have active RPA programs in place.
The finance and insurance industries are expected to be the fastest adopters of RPA in the short term, according to Telsyte, although RPA can also be applied to industries with large customer support and request processing requirements, such as telecommunications and government.