Will CFOs prove their mettle in 2019?
I’ve made a number of predictions about finance and technology in 2019 and, less than a month into the year, some of them have already begun to materialize, while clear indicators have emerged for others. From overarching uncertainty to the evolution of B2B software design, consider these an updated set of predictions for the 11 months ahead, with the wisdom of January under our belts.
A year of uncertainty for CFOs
After a decade-long bull run on Wall Street and a similar period of virtually free debt, 2019 has already been a wakeup call for CFOs and corporate finance teams, and nowhere more so than in America. Less than a month into the year and finance executives are already facing rising interest rates, market corrections, and the shadow of ongoing trade wars and prolonged government shutdowns under an unpredictable Trump administration.
Combined, these factors spell the one thing universally hated by investors and corporate finance teams that rely on them: uncertainty. Whether for growth capital or operating cash flow, CFOs at companies of all sizes will need to figure out how to deal with this uncertainty throughout the year ahead. At a strategic level, this means constantly revisiting their operating, financing and investment plans. Tactically, it will require running countless what-if analyses to be prepared for almost any scenario affecting their cash flow, liquidity or ability to raise capital.
Ultimately, 2019 will be the year both traditional and modern CFOs will need to prove themselves as effective corporate risk managers.
Office 365 and the consumerization of enterprise software
Fueled by user demand and technology development, 2019 will see the user experience of enterprise software become more intuitive, self-serve and easy to personalize — in short, more consumerized than traditional B2B software. The best example of this trend is Microsoft Office 365 and, to a growing extent in large organizations, Google Suite.
Office 365 is helping drive the consumerization of business software as the world’s most popular productivity software, and by offering powerful business software and add-on modules as easy-to-use apps through its Office Store. Just like the App Store or Google Play on their smartphones, business users can pick and choose from a growing selection of business apps to meet their precise needs, from budgeting to business intelligence.
I believe 2019 will see Microsoft and Google continue to set the bar for a “business-user first” approach as they introduce more sophisticated but user-friendly enterprise apps to their marketplaces for financial modeling, data analytics, and more. Expect more B2B vendors to follow suit as business end-users come to expect the same user-friendly UX from their business software as they do from their personal apps.
Platforms and the promise of integrated business planning
Companies continue to struggle to tie plans from sales, marketing, operations and other departments into a single, strategic and data-driven plan for the entire business. In 2019, we will continue see businesses shift away from point solutions for budgeting and consolidation (in finance, for example), towards unified platforms that deliver on the promise of integrated business planning.
Unified planning platforms provide “greater than the sum of their parts” value in tying together disparate planning processes — and their respective technologies and data — in a single solution. They’re not the be-all-end-all for every business process, but they are ideally suited for business planning. Previously a utopia for CEOs and CFOs, platform software offerings will help make integrated planning a first-time reality for many businesses in 2019.