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Written by Christopher Argent, Founder, Generation CFO 

Making predictions in this crazy world is hard, really hard, especially in the world of Digital Finance where peoples attitudes are changing all the time and new use cases, capabilities and vendors are appearing every week.

But last year we made 5 big trend predictions, here is how we got on.

Go easy!

1. RPA gets a reality check

2019 Prediction

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; 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…

2020 Comment

I was pleased to see a number of analysts calling RPA “macro Macros” as we realise that building off what we know e.g. Excel, is a great way to start our learning and change journey.

We also saw a RPA leader crash and burn, after too much cash burn! UiPath overhyped the opportunity to epic proportions and over 50% redundancy in October 2019, post a rather expensive Las Vegas jolly was the result.

2019 Prediction Accuracy

We are very happy with this one. RPA and Intelligent Automation is here to stay, but how we grow the market and how we engage with the capability is shifting… for the better! Let’s focus on reality, not the Las Vegas casino!

Score 4/5

2. People make a party, at last!

2019 Prediction

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.

2020 Comment

Still a long way to go here, but the market move against UiPath, seen in prediction 1, does suggest people are starting to “get digital” and focus on outcomes, rather than hype.

We see business leaders starting to educate themselves more, starting with problems rather than tools, and no longer the domain of IT alone.

2019 Predication Accuracy

We say “The Role Revolution Will Not Be Televised” and it is difficult to assess industry wide behavioural change, but we do see a shift at our meet ups.

Conversations are richer and more informed, leaders are recognising, new talent, skills and methods are the solution to digital projects, not the tech itself.

Score 2/5

3. Advanced analytics goes rogue

2019 Prediction

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.

2020 Comment

Oh Lordie! Not a great amount of movement here, but I blame the Finance Business Partnering revolution… 🙂

FBP is the “Yin” to the Analytics “Yang” and both need to be developing for a real shift in our capability. If we don’t know what the business needs, we can’t use data to understand or fix those needs, and it doesn’t work the other way around. Data scientist can only get so far without business expertise on their projects.

2019 Prediction Accuracy

Whilst we can point to improvement in tools, and BI and FP&A implementations, these are limp efforts with marginal productivity gains, the big move will only come with people change and business alignment.

Score 1/5

4. Finance steps into the data champion role

2019 Prediction

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!

2020 Comment

<Sob>

See 3. above, come on FBP!

2019 Prediction Accuracy

<Sob sob>

See 3. above

Score 0/5

5. Revenue planning gets a boost

2019 Prediction

As the dust settles on Brexit (we can only hope), our VUCA world starts to conform to some business fundamentals… i.e. 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!

2020 Comment

Politics aside, the markets (and CFOs) love stability… less risk is good for us all.

With the FSTE 250 climbing post UK General election, the easing of contingencies and budgets may just lead to business revenues.

2019 Prediction Accuracy

The delay in “Brexit” from March 2019 to January 2020 has scuppered this one. We are still hopeful of pipeline recovery, and the economic indicators do suggest closure to chapter 1, 2, 3, xxx of the Brexit Saga, but only time will tell.

Score 2/5

Conclusion

It’s hard to predict the future, and our scores were pretty bad this year, but as with any forecast, it is a guide to learn and act on, not a target per say.

Here to a great 2020!

And see you at one of our meet up very soon!