Sage's Gerhard Hartman predicts what the finance function will look like in 2025.
By Gerhard Hartman, Vice President: Medium Business, Sage Africa & Middle East
The digital transformation of the finance function has continued relentlessly throughout 2020. We’re already starting to see the paybacks from making small, incremental changes to financial workflows by adopting emerging technologies. The pandemic is accelerating the speed of change and catalysing more investment in end-to-end automation and remote working.
So, where will this trend take us in four years’ time? Here are four predictions about what the finance function will resemble in 2025:
1. Many of today’s technologies will still be in play
Not all our challenges from 2020 are likely to disappear by 2025. As tech continues to evolve, so too will legislation and regulations. Requirements change all the time, especially as businesses begin to use bigger datasets. This is where artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning have truly come into their own, with businesses automating the security and compliance function as much as possible.
Finding the right talent to support the business strategy will remain challenging. Many businesses will shift to a more project-based, cross-functional workforce that allows them to dip in and out of the talent pool as needed. For permanent employees, recruitment packages will be tailored to the person’s career goals, values, and personal circumstances.
Furthermore, the big three – data security, governance, and compliance – will still be major concerns. Cybercriminals will use increasingly sophisticated tooling and methods to target businesses, and automate much of their work.
2. Emerging technologies supercharge automation and data-driven decision making
By 2025, today’s emerging technologies will be deeply embedded in the business, replacing legacy, siloed business software with sophisticated and collaborative solutions. These technologies will make up an immense ecosystem of devices, tools, networks, robotic process automation (RPA), intelligent business management software, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning.
They will all work together – with limited human intervention – to help businesses gain and guard the trust of their customers, and to deliver enhanced experiences and value. Businesses will be reliant on these technologies for making sense of the vast volumes of data they are likely to collect and analyse in real time. Hyper-automation will drive in-the-moment decision making and help CFOs prepare for what’s coming.
AI in 2025 is where cloud computing was in 2020. It will not be ubiquitous, but it’s sure to be widespread, with businesses getting more comfortable with it. Businesses will interact intuitively and confidently with technology through AI, which is set to make solutions and insights accessible to more people. Certainly, it will make the finance function more convenient. Through continuous, augmented insights, finance leaders can then make better decisions about where to allocate budgets and resources.
Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) will fuel the business ecosystems of 2025. They will give businesses instant access to third-party and highly valuable databases that can enrich their insights and, by extension, enhance their products and services. APIs bring incredible functionality to financial management platforms. By securely interfacing with external datasets, businesses will run simulations and predictive analysis models faster and cheaper than it was ever possible to do.
And then there’s blockchain, which will improve many financial and transaction processes through guaranteed data integrity. Trust is everything and, having an automated record-keeping and governance function that instantly validates transactions, will make the finance function simpler and more transparent.
3. The CFO’s roles and responsibilities will continue to expand
CFOs and other senior financial decision makers will spend more time on data analysis, prediction, and decision support by 2025. Their role will span the entire organisation, with visibility over everything from technology and human resources to business development and strategy. This will make the softer strategic skills – communication, problem solving, and creativity – more valuable than ever because they help CFOs see patterns across the business.
4. Trust will be key to winning in 2025
By 2025, we will have moved from the digital economy to the trust economy. Competitive advantage will come from putting the customer at the centre of everything a business does and every decision it makes. Businesses that act ethically and with integrity, openness, accountability, competence, and consistency will triumph.
Covid-19 will leave its mark
Covid-19 means 2025 is already likely to see our accelerated adoption of technology and new business models shape a landscape we may have otherwise anticipated only by 2030. This rapid scaling up of technology is happening today with cloud-based solutions that allow employees to work from anywhere.
One thing the pandemic has certainly taught us is the key differentiator agility brings to a business’s resiliency and continuity. We appreciate the value of modern technology more than ever, and perhaps most importantly, we understand just how quickly we can achieve major business transformations when the pressure is truly on.