#010: Industry 4.0, Cognitive Computing And What It All Means For Accounting & Finance

with Peter Chisambara

Our Guest Mentor:

Peter Chisambara is the founder of ERPM Insights a management consultancy and training firm based out of Johannesburg, South Africa that is focussed on delivering enterprise performance improvement solutions.

Peter was also nominated recently on not one but two separate lists of top finance leaders to follow in 2018 and has written some thought provoking and original articles on the potential of cognitive computing to help provide real time insights. You can find Peter’s presence on LinkedIn as he regularly engages with other finance and accounting professionals increasing the value that we’re all able to deliver and contribute to our organisations.

Key Quotes From the Episode:

“ I was always told that accounting was the language of the business” [02:30]

“The focus was about making sure the numbers were correct but was never really responsible for driving the performance of the business, but when I went into industry you are now working on interpreting the meaning of those numbers, instead of just reporting profitability you now start asking questions as to what are the drivers behind that profitability, what are the drivers behind our revenues, where are we going, where can we improve? I was also introduced to the concept of budgeting, forecasting and instead of having a fixed mindset saying we are only looking at the next twelve months you start thinking beyond 12 months.” [04:02]

“Finance has changed from the time when I started my career to today it’s exciting that new things that are happening in finance that you are now involved in the business this was never the case when we started first we were always regarded as the boring number crunchers in the back office that’s not we are playing the front role, we are the front players, we’re making sure our business partners have got accurate, timely and reliable real time information that they can use to make real strategic decisions.” [05:52]

“if I’m going to develop my communication skills I can’t be sitting behind my desk I’m going to have to go and speak to the different business partners engage with them ask them what are their troubles and what do they expect from finance.” [07:50]

“It’s important to know what you want to expect from that social media platform, are you there to engage with people or are you there to spread noise or just listen to the noise? And once there always look for people whom you share an interest with at the start, I’m an accounting & finance professional so I want to connect more with people who are in accounting & finance so that I can get to learn for them.” [10:30]

“To overcome this [the challenge posed by cognitive computing] finance cannot look at this from a finance perspective only but from an outcome perspective this is no longer only for finance but it is for the greater cause of the organisation and this is where finance has to learn together with the IT people. They have to partner with IT because the two speak different languages but finance can speak to IT in the language of business in terms of we want 123 and IT can say can we achieve this or can’t we achieve this.” [20:51]

“Never to be afraid of failure and never to be afraid to grab an opportunity when it presents itself.” [23:54]

“So if you’re going to be afraid you’re never going to be able to grab any opportunity, if the opportunity presents to you to go and get experience in another line of business be it marketing, be it sales, I would say grab that opportunity with both hands, unfortunately for me I never got that opportunity to work in another function. I’ve always worked in finance but I believe if I worked in another function, be it sales, marketing, business development or operations I would be a better finance professional than I am today.” [24:30]

“I believe the more you embrace yourself or engage yourself in these other opportunities you’re going to learn at some stage what is it that I love to do, what is it that I’m skilled to do. And once you know that area, that is you love to do, you are going to grab it, develop in it, you’re going to work on it and you’re going to become an expert in that area. So rotation is key.” [25:22]

“I think in this world we’re living of big data and digital transformation the best finance and accounting professionals and the best organisations are not going to be the ones who have all the answers but are going to be the ones who have an inquisitive mind, are curious about the future, who are always going to be asking questions, what can we do to improve? Where are we going? What are the emerging trends? What are the emerging risks? How best can we be prepared? What are the new technologies? What does the future for finance look like so asking all those questions will allow us to move from good to great.” [27:38]

“Not sure if there’s scaremongering out there where technology is going to slash out all humans in all white collar jobs. And you might perceive that fear and you might start asking yourself am I going to be relevant. What am I going to do? But one of the things I like about these technologies is that they can augment the humans, so it’s for the humans and the smart machine working together.” [29:03]

“We still need that creative thinking, we’re not at the stage where these machines can recreate than human intelligence that emotional intelligence, empathy, that is provided by the human, so accounting & finance professionals should embrace the change in all its forms, do not be afraid, I know change is very difficult, but also focus on professional development.” [29:41]

“Accumulate knowledge in different pieces, apply knowledge in different pieces, and once you apply that knowledge that’s the way you can add value.” [31:20]

“We have to develop a commercial awareness, if I was regarded as a historical looking person in twelve months time how would I change my mindset, how would I change my perspective, instead of only looking at what is happening inside the business let me develop an outer mindset, let me be interested in the economy, economic policies, the economy f the world, how’s this going to affect my journey, how’s this going to affect the professional accountant or finance professional.” [31:32]

“I don’t believe the practices that got us to where we are today will be the same ones that get us into the future if we want to be regarded as strategic business partners, as value added, we want to be invited to sit on the chair and provide strategic advice so we have to embrace change as it comes.” [33:00]

(Other resources and how to connect with Peter below).

Get Show Notes and Links in your Inbox!



Key Points From the Episode:

  • Discussion on the digital age and the fourth industrial revolution and what it means for accounting & finance.
  • Defining what cognitive computing is and how finance & accounting can benefit.
  • Review of the 5 challenges cognitive computing pose for accounting & finance and actionable ways we can overcome them.
  • Some practical tips to develop a meaningful presence on LinkedIn.


Time Stamped Show Notes:

[01:29] – How Peter fell into accounting by default & how it’s in his blood.

[04:04] – Peter explains the main differences he experienced between practice and industry.

[05:05] – What’s exciting him most about his current role.

[05:41] – One experience you learn in one industry you can always take it to another client.

[07:02] – How having a mentor helped him develop the learning habit he needed.

[07:40] – How he managed & thought about the transition from audit practice to industry.

[08:13] – How not knowing where next month’s paycheck comes from hones your business skills.

[08:52] – Why LinkedIn is a great place to build relationships.

[10:05] – Good first steps to take in contributing thoughts, comments or articles on platforms like LinkedIn.

[10:23] – Why quality of connections matters more than the volume of them.

[11:37] – How to filter out the noise on social media platforms to accelerate your development.

[13:31] – The best way to no longer be seen as number crunchers and instead be seen as driving the business.

[13:37] – Discusses the digital age and the fourth industrial revolution we’re in and how cognitive computing makes our jobs easier.

[14:21] – Defines what cognitive computing is.

[15:41] – Shares an example of artificial intelligence writing financial analysis reports.

[16:02] – Discusses Impact of automation freeing up more time for us to add value.

[14:35] – Highlights Impact of robotics to mean no more late month end hours.

[17:37] – Summarises Impact of blockchain.

[18:20] – Leveraging cloud computing to spend more time on value-add activities.

[20:21] – The 5 challenges cognitive computing pose for accounting & finance.

[23:54] – The advice he’d give to his younger self.

[24:09] – Why the finance career journey is non-linear.

[24:29] – Why accountants will need to borrow from other fields to remain relevant.

[25:22] – Why rotation of experiences is key to developing.

[26:26] – What Two Good to Great principles are directly applicable to being better finance professionals.

[27:38] – Explains why accounting & finance don’t need all the answers to be successful.

[29:03] – Where the future lies for technology and finance.

[29:41] – Why it’s important that accounting & finance embrace the changes.

[30:13] – Peter shares the multiple ways he stays relevant.

[31:17] – The difference between accumulating knowledge and applying it.

[31:12] – Shares a practice to develop commercial awareness.


Resources Mentioned:

  • Blackline: The Unified Cloud for Accounting and Finance (website)
  • Good To Great (2001), by Jim Collins
  • What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful (2012), by Marshall Goldsmith


Connect with today’s guest:

Get Show Notes and Links in your Inbox!