Generation CFO, a website for financial professionals and executives, published its list of top 5 tech trends for 2019 all the way back in January. As we approach the year’s halfway point, do these predictions hold water? Let’s discuss the details.
1. The “RPA reality check”
Generation CFO’s article proposes that robotic process automation (RPA) should be renamed to something more befitting its limited role in digital transformation. Instead of the shiny, sexy future that RPA once promised, companies will realize that RPA is “just another bit of tech that is dependent on so many other factors to work effectively.”
While the jury’s still out on the renaming, RPA has been underwhelming for many organizations, as the consulting firm McKinsey & Company describes in its article “Burned by the bots.” According to an Ernst & Young survey, 30 to 50 percent of initial RPA projects are failures. While it appears Generation CFO may be right on this point, I’m willing to give it the test of time.
2. People over IT
The next prediction is that 2019 will be a year of “people-oriented projects, customer-centric needs, and collaborative innovation,” rather than “IT-led projects and dull discussions about tools and technology.”
Here, the words of Generation CFO echo what other leaders have been saying about the importance of an organization’s human assets rather than its technological ones. Employees are the key to changing your business from the ground up. For example, 70 percent of digital transformation projects fail due to a lack of user adoption.
This forecast also calls to mind the agile methodology for software development, which has been growing in popularity in recent years and is now used by two-thirds of developers. I think this trend is a pretty safe bet – investing in people first makes good sense.
3. Advanced analytics gone rogue
In 2019, Generation CFO predicts that finance teams will launch advanced analytics projects, as more of them realize the tremendous utility of enterprise data. As a result, “the urgency and momentum will put analytics teams under huge pressure to deliver insightful predictions and visualizations.”
As for this third guess, it seems to be right on the money. IT research and advisory firm Gartner found that half of finance departments expect to be using predictive analytics by 2020.
4. Finance as data champions
Generation CFO writes that “this year, data gets sexy” as finance teams “stop arguing about who owns data and commit to exploiting it.”
To me, this prediction also seems spot-on. Finance departments have a great deal of information to process and sift through: market data, macroeconomic data, operational data, marketing data, social media data, risk and compliance data, and more. Learning how to harness all this information will be invaluable for organizations who want to beat their competitors and become leaders in their space.
5. Better revenue planning
Last but not least, Generation CFO predicts that the finance team will start to “embed revenue forecasting and budgeting into its advanced analytics output” via artificial intelligence and machine learning.
According to the Gartner survey, a sizable minority of finance teams (29 percent) plan on using AI and machine learning by 2020. We expect this figure to increase significantly in the coming years as more mature AI-enabled solutions for revenue planning emerge. With only 40 percent of B2B firms saying that their sales forecasts are effective, this is a prime sector for technological disruption. The statistics may not have caught up yet, but I agree with Generation CFO on this one.
Some of Generation CFO’s predictions are clearly multi-year trends rather than specific to 2019. However, I think they’re overall a solid set of guesses about where the finance department is headed in terms of digital transformation.
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