Technology

Finance 2025: The Future We See


by Jonathan Englert, Anton Sher and Steven Ehrenhalt

The rise of self-service, agile ERP, doubling down on data, and other predictions for Finance 2025.

┬ęshutter_m/ISTOCK/THINKSTOCK

When thinking about how finance might evolve over the next several years, it can get tricky. As the saying goes, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” 

But by starting with a disciplined look at what’s already happening in leading finance organizations, you get a view of some obvious trends. Then, by layering in an examination of digital technologies and how they’re being used in other areas of business – and in our personal lives – that helps you see opportunities for the future of the finance function. 

Today, technologies like automation, blockchain, and artificial intelligence are already working their way into finance, upending how work gets done and who’s doing it.   

With that short preamble, here are eight predictions for Finance 2025.

  1. People and machines working together in new ways. A shift to touchless transactions will transform operations as technologies like blockchain and AI reach deeper into finance. Human workers will be unleashed to support business decision-making.
  2. Finance becomes Insights Central. Finance will be asked to deliver more of what the business really needs, becoming a reliable source of analysis and insights.
  3. The shift to real-time.  Periodic reporting will all but disappear when real-time finance takes hold. Forecasting once a month or once a quarter will become a thing of the past. The availability of on-demand reports and forecasts will fundamentally change the relationship between finance and the business.
  4. The rise of self-service.  Business people won’t need hand-holding when smart agents and chatbots are on the job. These intuitive technologies let users of finance solve problems on their own – with an improved customer experience.
  5. Upended operating models. New service-delivery models are already emerging as robots and algorithms enable the finance workforce to do more work, faster, and better. Cross-functional teams will drive the need for collaboration and agility. 
  6. Agile ERP. Cognitive and automation technologies are being incorporated into ERP systems, extending their reach and their value. CFOs can choose the solutions they need with fewer barriers and with less risk.    
  7. Doubling down on data. Companies will need methods for continuous data improvement to make the most of AI and other tools. Clean, high-quality data will become even more indispensable than it is today.
  8. Transforming talent.  Finance talent models are evolving rapidly. Data scientists, business analysts and communicators will be top priorities. As employees work alongside digital assistants and AI, they will need to adapt and collaborate to thrive. 

Behind these eight predictions are hundreds of implementation choices that could be coming up fast. Some will be relatively easy to make, especially when pilot projects can be used to prove the value of new approaches. Other choices have longer lead times and broader consequences. CFOs who want to restructure their talent models, for example, may need several years to work through that transformation. 

Whatever future you’re planning for, know that the journey could feel like a roller coaster. In some cases, peers may be reluctant to get on board. They may feel like things aren’t broken, so why go through the pain of disruptive change?   

Other challenges will arise, too. Finance isn’t often known for its dynamic, fail-fast culture, so CFOs need to reset expectations. They need to ensure their teams are comfortable working in new roles, sometimes alongside robot co-workers. They also need to get comfortable with the idea of leading people with skill sets they may not understand. 

In short, it’s up to CFOs to help their organizations see the possibilities. Deeper insights. Faster, better decisions. More agility and collaboration. Added value at every turn. That’s the future of finance.

 

Jonathan Englert is Senior Manager, Finance Strategy & Transformation, Deloitte Consulting LLP. Anton Sher, Principal is Finance Strategy & Transformation Leader, Deloitte Consulting LLP. Steven Ehrenhalt is Principal, US and Global Finance Transformation leader, Deloitte Consulting LLP.