Look out world, it seems like OpenAI’s ChatGPT is here to stay!
Within just five days of ChatGPT’s launch, over a million people had already signed up to start using the technology. And every day, users around the world and across every industry imaginable are finding new uses for ChatGPT’s conversational abilities.
From having the chatbot invent movie storylines, to using the system to brainstorm side hustles, there are few limits (or regulations) on what ChatGPT can be trained to do. It may come as no surprise that some CFOs and financial teams are even testing ways to use ChatGPT as a financial planning and analysis (FP&A) tool capable of turning raw data into actionable reports.
And one of those CFOs is Glenn Hopper, the director and CFO of Eventus Advisory Group, and the brains behind ChatGPT’s latest application in FP&A.
What makes ChatGPT a potentially useful FP&A tool? Its ability to leverage the power of natural language.
FP&A professionals often have a basic understanding of how to make structured query language (SQL) queries. But they don’t have a deep knowledge of coding and development.
That makes it difficult for FP&A professionals who need better forecasting tools to create the systems they really need, or know how to get the most out of the systems that are available to them. But ChatGPT’s natural language responses make it simple for FP&A professionals to input the raw data they have, write the code they need, then turn those codes into useful reports — with no development expertise needed.
ChatGPT, and other natural language tools, expand your ability to think ahead instead of looking backwards.
Natural language and machine learning tools aren’t exactly new, but their use (and usefulness!) is rapidly growing. While typical FP&A has often included reviewing pages upon pages of historical reports to compare results, then looking for opportunities in those comparisons, AI-based tools use those same reports to look ahead in a way humans can’t.
ChatGPT allows decision-makers to access even more advanced analytics capabilities that exponentially increase your ability to do more than offer reports on last quarter’s results. Now, CFOs can access greater insights and business opportunities built on models that learn, grow and evolve with the market.
Another significant benefit of FP&A capabilities backed by a natural language tool like ChatGPT is that any company leader or stakeholder can have access to (and understand) the advanced insights the tool offers.
Typically, FP&A reports are full of complex predictions, comparisons and projections. They’re static, meaning they don’t auto-update in real time, and only the key decision-makers involved in financial planning have access to the document.
But with ChatGPT, and the tools built with it, any authorized stakeholder can pull real-time reports backed by company-specific data, delivered in plain language. That’s how ChatGPT breaks down data silos in a way no current FP&A tools can.
While ChatGPT can’t analyze FP&A data itself, it can help you build your own chatbot.
Hopper quickly realized ChatGPT itself couldn’t accept the volume of raw data he needed to analyze — which was three years of fictional company data, created for testing purposes. So he asked ChatGPT to create a code that would allow him to automatically import those statements into database tables.
Next, he had ChatGPT write code to create a custom chatbot capable of referencing the data tables and responding to natural language queries about the metrics. Instead of digging through reports to look for patterns and answers, his ChatGPT-powered chatbot could offer instantaneous answers to plain-language questions like, “What were our expenses in December?”
Hopper’s goal in creating the chatbot was twofold: To prove the usefulness of AI in FP&A processes, and to show FP&A professionals that they can access advanced reporting and metrics without having to know SQL or code.
ChatGPT’s FP&A abilities aren’t limited to coding. They can be leveraged to build a full suite of custom FP&A tools.
For small and midsize enterprises, hiring a full-time, in-house FP&A professional to support your executive team can be cost prohibitive. But chances are, your CFO doesn’t have the bandwidth to continually perform the deep data analyses, reporting, forecasting and comparisons needed to maximize every opportunity.
Natural language and machine learning tools like ChatGPT can be a cost-effective way to help fill that gap — whether you perform these FP&A analyses in-house or outsource the service. These tools help reduce the amount of manual work it takes to produce and review reports, track data and compile forecasts. Especially if this data is spread out across different types of financial statements.
For small businesses that don’t have access to the level of data and resources that enterprises do, it’s even more important to leverage every tool you have.
Bigger companies can recognize trends and demand shifts more quickly because their data reflects more nuanced market changes. But for small businesses with a limited team, AI-based tools can be the difference between preparing for a trend and responding to one.
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