(ENG story) Digital revolution in Africa, upskilling for the digital age

(13 September 2019 – Financial Management Magazine, US) – The digital revolution in Africa is changing the way companies run and affecting the roles of auditors, accountants, and other financial professionals and how they are fulfilling their roles, according to Lauren Berrington, chief audit executive of South Africa-based The Bidvest Group. Berrington spoke Wednesday at the CGMA Africa Conference 2019: Finance Transformation in the Digital World in Cape Town.

One of the key benefits of deploying technology in the workspace, she said in a pre-conference interview, is its ability to take away mundane tasks from financial professionals, allowing them to focus on more important and value-added responsibilities. “On the audit side of finance, artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics are taking on the routine and repetitive tasks, allowing auditors to spend more time on areas of elevated risks,” she said.

This is where skills surrounding communication and problem-solving are becoming increasingly important. These skills include the ability to think critically about data produced by bots and to analyse, evaluate, and communicate this information clearly to management and others within the organisation. Other skills include being able to judge the data you have at your disposal and add a layer of interpretation and context — and then build this intelligence into your bot and train it accordingly.

Being creative, for instance when communicating this information to others to ensure the information is understood and sticks, is important, too. “This is where you as a financial professional can play a more exciting role. Those types of skills will become more important in the world of finance.”

A good example of the innovations brought by the digital revolution in Africa is ALICE. This audit robot, developed by Berrington and her team, conducts audits through cognitive automation, machine learning, robotics, and AI across the company’s many IT environments.

“We decided to digitalise and automate our internal auditing service by taking the human element out of the auditing processes,” said Berrington, whose presentation largely revolved around the idea behind ALICE as well as its conceptualisation, development, and rollout. This wasn’t an easy task, seeing that Bidvest Group is a company with 130,000 employees and many legal and operating entities, each with separate IT environments.

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