Written by Christopher Argent, Founder, Generation CFO
Generation CFO will be celebrating it’s 10th birthday this year, but what else will 2019 bring? We run our advanced analytics (aka our very human brains) over some of the trends.
The following observations are based on multiple industry conversations, a few flashes of new year’s inspiration and a sugar rush following a pile of leftover mince pies.
1. RPA gets a reality check
This year, we will rename RPA (robotic process automation) to a more finance-friendly name of “the macro Macro“, to reflect the cross-application Excel style Macro automation RPA is. Consequently, we will realise RPA is not about robots, nor rocket science and much less sexy than first thought, and just another bit of tech that is dependant on so many other factors to work effectively.
And this year, the rise of the RPA industry will get a reality check, as big consultancies start to fail companies by overpromising and underdelivering on their “robot armies” and companies start to realise that RPA is not going to replace anyone without a concerted effort to fix, improve and standardise processes…
But hang on, haven’t the same big consultancies been fixing our broken processes for years? Hmm… I could go on…
2. People make a party, at last!
This year we will see a move towards people-oriented projects, customer-centric needs, collaborative innovation and a focus on business outcomes when running data projects.
This will fly in the face of IT-led projects, dull discussions about tools and technology, and bring people closer together to identify, design and solve business performance, reporting and planning challenges.
3. Advanced analytics goes rogue
Incidentally, I can’t write the word “rogue” nowadays without humming the Star Wars theme tune… damn you, Disney!
This year, finance people start to understand the power of business data, and more significantly, what their competitors are doing in the advanced analytics space which will lead to a “do or die” decision on their data project and digital culture.
Most teams will start some form of advanced analytics project, and the urgency and momentum will put analytics teams under huge pressure to deliver insightful predictions and visualisations that the business can act on.
This pressure will lead to an “any means necessary” approach. There will be no time to wait for process improvement projects, a neat “macro Macro” army, even an inspired data quality team with the latest tools, as the business will need results and fast.
Consequently, your advanced analytics team will go rogue, extracting data as is, managing data quality offline, tweaking algorithms to deal with data sample issues to ensure they can deliver quality advanced analytics outcomes at speed.
4. Finance steps into the data champion role
Until now, no one has wanted “data”. It’s a four letter word, right? It’s not very business focused and it’s a bit dull… but this year, data gets sexy! Data gets interesting and data gets a business champion.
This year, finance people realise they have the most to gain from championing data, they accept the brave new world, stop arguing about who owns data and commit to exploiting it.
They do this as they realise successful business partnering needs an enabled data set, so they start to fill the data culture void by leading finance data projects that will enable better access to data, better visualisations to share with the business, and better forecasting using advanced data analytics to manage performance and growth… and with regular accurate targeted forecasting, the CFO finally drops the budget and the business goes wild!
…maybe not, but look out 2020!
5. Revenue planning gets a boost
As the dust settles on Brexit (we can only hope), our VUCA world starts to conform to some business fundamentals… ie: customers buy our products and services because they want them and we are good at providing them …with not a politician in sight!
Consequently, business people start to make sense of their pipeline, revenue and align operations and capital accordingly… and relax…
And this year, finance has a trick up its sleeve to help the business not just relax but go on holiday, as it starts to embed revenue forecasting and budgeting into its advanced analytics output (using AI aka machine learning) which over the year becomes trusted and used by the business to operate, giving hours of time back to the business to do what they do best!
Full disclosure, some of the above were on my 2018 list…
That said, the needle is definitely ticking up and many finance professionals are starting to see their place at the data/digital table. Many are owning and leading breakthrough data projects, and realising this capability is for finance to own if it is ever going to benefit the business.