Mr. Nordsieck, where has the digitalization of controlling come to a halt?

If you are asking about digitisation: it has already been implemented across the board in controlling. However, digital Excel folders are actually "EDP on foot".

EDV by foot means in this context?

The Excel spreadsheet is today what pencil and paper were ten or twenty years ago: No longer up to date. Business Intelligence is no longer new and allows a company to be managed on a more reliable data basis. The new technologies, for example, from artificial intelligence, significantly increase the potential here once again.

What are the advantages of using AI in controlling?

Let me illustrate this with an example: We have a large customer in the construction industry who serves several hundred construction sites simultaneously. There is a person responsible for each of these construction sites, but he would not immediately admit if something did not go according to plan, but first tried to save the situation himself. On the basis of AI, such delays or deviations from the plan could be detected at an early stage before they became obvious.

But AI solutions are only as good as the data they are fed with.

You're absolutely right. In addition, every company is individual and has special requirements in controlling. Therefore, communication between Controlling with its special needs and the AI developers is not always easy. This is exactly where we see one of our core competencies. CoPlanner has its origin in controlling. We come from planning and have more than 30 years of experience in this field. At the same time, we understand the algorithms and data requirements that underlie AI and can exchange ideas with the developers. So we build bridges between both worlds.

What does bridge building look like?

Another example: if a company has tens of thousands of customers and just as many products, it becomes difficult for the AI to process the raw data. Then it is necessary to group the data points into groups and make them available to the AI "bite-sized", and to prepare the results for controlling in such a way that recommendations for action can be derived. To do this, you need to know what can be summarized - classic controlling know-how - and how the data points must be defined - AI know-how. We can do both.

Is the AI really better than humans?

No, I am convinced that the human spirit is still superior. Our world is becoming increasingly complex and we need to understand and evaluate more information with fewer people. This literally screams for systemic automation. The Corona crisis just shows it: too rigid automation, even with AI, cannot respond. Then the department itself must be able to adapt its system to take the new situation into account, otherwise Excel will be used again - much more complex, error-prone and not integrated. Because what you build today can be outdated in two to four months. That's why adaptable systems are the be-all and end-all, which do not get lost in technology but provide controlling with a flexible tool.

The interview was first published on 9.7.2020 in the print and online edition of the Handelsblatt.

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