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Five Trends that Will Affect Financial Teams in 2019

By John Murdock, CEO, Centage Corporation

As 2018 comes to a close, many of us take stock of the year that just was and consider what’s in store for the year ahead. As we look to the future, it can be described as one word: change. To be fair, this past decade has seen tremendous change for financial teams. Recently, that change has accelerated, thanks to new advances in the technology used by financial teams, as well as the arrival of a new generation of workers who are quick to adopt — and quick to adapt — to rapid innovation.

Looking ahead to 2019, we will continue to see these two forces change the way financial teams operate, as well as the overall role financial teams will play in the enterprise. Here are five trends I see emerging in 2019.

#1. Transformation of Budgeting Planning into Year-Round Planning

John Murdock
John Murdock

Budgeting solutions will continue their transformation into business-planning platforms that are used by a greater number of stakeholders in the organization, and not just by the financial team for creating a budget. After all, budgets aren’t just numbers in a spreadsheet, they’re the goals and aspirations an organization hopes to achieve. Today’s visionary leaders understand that success requires breaking down internal silos so that companies can act as cohesive units working towards shared goals and plans. “Budgets” are the domain of finance teams and viewed only by a handful of people, whereas “plans” ensure everyone in the corporation is on the same page.

#2. AI is the Next Frontier for Business-Planning Platforms

No doubt there is a lot of talk surrounding AI these days, but when it comes to corporate planning, it will have a definitive and urgently needed role. Corporate management teams need to take into account an exponentially greater number of internal and external factors, including political, economic, weather, and natural disasters. Just consider how the tragic wildfires in California upended lives and business plans across the country. AI, particularly unsupervised machine learning, can be deployed to spot critical trends, and alert the management team if a pivot is needed.

#3. Stress Testing Budgets Will Be Commonplace

Few management teams implemented a stress testing process to business plans before, but with the volatility of the marketplace, this will become more commonplace. Stress testing allows management teams to test the assumptions they’ve made when creating plans, and predict how changes in internal or external factors impact financial statements so they can adapt quickly. Luckily, the increased availability of data-driven tools will largely drive this trend, which is perfect timing for business managers.

#4. Forget the Super Star, All Eyes Will be on the Super Team

The era of the CEO Super Star will fall by the wayside, maybe not completely in 2019, but within the coming years. The celebrated business leaders will be the ones who find ways to get every employee collaborating equally. I believe this is inevitable for a few reasons. First, both market and technology force us to breakdown departmental silos (e.g. product development, marketing, sales and customer care operating on a continuum). But just as important, millennials bring a whole new attitude to the corporate world. They’ve been raised to see themselves as equals in the greater whole, and there are too many of them not to change what the business world values in leadership.

#5. Corporate Culture is on the Verge of a Radical Transformation

The rising ranks of employees are millennials, followed closely by generation Z. These generations are digital natives, egalitarian in outlook, and believe that passion is the driving purpose for everything they do, including how they conduct themselves in the workplace. Companies that embrace these values — and actively support them in the corporate culture — will thrive. Those that insist on rigid rules, and set unbreakable chains of command, will suffer in two key ways. First, they won’t be able to attract the talent they need to innovate as millennials and generation Z will have little interest in stifling environments. Second, such companies will grow increasingly out of touch with what their customers want and value.

An astute reader will detect distinct optimism in these five predictions, and indeed, I am bullish on the upcoming year. I realize that we face a fair amount of economic challenges, as well as an abundance of uncertainty, but these are debilitating problems only when we don’t have the insight or tools we need to adapt quickly. Right now, I’m looking at a wealth of technology that helps business managers make better decisions by using data in really smart and proactive ways, along with a rising workforce that is inherently nimble and game for any challenge.

John Murdock serves as CEO for Centage. Centage’s Maestro Suite enables faster, more accurate budgeting, forecasting, analytics and reporting for small to mid-market organizations. With over 20 years of experience in the high tech industry, John is the driving force behind the company’s growth and transformation to a leading cloud-based solution provider. Follow on Twitter @centage.