Gartner surveyed 400 senior business leaders about the challenges faced and their priorities for 2022-23. We analysed the results

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Priorities change in a business; they evolve all the time to match the societal landscape around them. Following a major worldwide disruption like the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s no surprise that the focus for CEOs has shifted to match the way our outlooks and challenges have changed.

Gartner surveyed 400 senior business leaders about their 2022-23 priorities and found that – for the first time – environmental sustainability has made its way into the top 10. Additionally, workforce issues are a bigger priority than ever before.

Mark Raskino, VP Analyst at Gartner, said of the results: “In 2022, the Gartner CEO and Senior Business Executive Survey showed that, catalysed by multiple macro trends and economic factors, business leaders are reprioritizing some key areas of enterprise purpose and management focus.”

The last time there was such a dramatic change in the priorities of CEOs was in 2009-10, during the recovery from the last major recession. Here, we’ll dig into the key challenges for CEOs in 2023…

Growth

While growth remains the primary challenge, with 51% of respondents stating that it’s in their top three priorities, it’s actually down 8% from 2021-22. Gartner has surmised that the reason for this is that, due to ongoing supply chain disruptions, business leaders are less focused on driving up demand if they don’t necessarily know whether they can supply. Many organisations are working hard to revamp and improve their supply chains, but uncertainty remains and nobody wants to make promises that they can’t keep.

Technology

Technology has also dropped slightly as a top three priority, though it remains the second biggest focus at 34%. While the survey respondents are 5% less concerned about tech-related issues than in 2021-22, it’s still hugely important – especially as the world recovers from the pandemic.

Many businesses have taken the pandemic as a sign that they need better digitalisation, as a lack of that made the transition to home working difficult for some. Additionally, cybercrime is a major concern, especially when ensuring employees have the hardware and software they need to work safely from multiple locations.

Workforce

A focus on the workforce is up 32% from 2021-22, putting it at 31% in third place. This is the second consecutive year that workforce has become more of a priority, and there are multiple reasons for this.

Attracting and retaining employees is a challenge because older generations are retiring and there aren’t always enough replacements for specific roles. Plus, the younger generations joining the workforce are more likely to align themselves with businesses they truly believe in, meaning they are more picky, so organisations have to be the best they can and transparent with it.

Additionally, diversity, equality, and inclusion are bigger focuses than ever, and these have been boosted by the spotlight being shone on such topics during the pandemic. All in all, almost half (49%) of CEOs agreed with the statement that ‘it is very difficult for us to find and hire the kind of people we need in our business’.

Corporate

At 29%, corporate has dipped only a little since 2021-22 – just 5% – and remains a top priority. Corporate includes company structure and culture changes, and this is a focus right now due to the challenges of employee retention, as well as the drive towards digitalisation. Corporate change is required to improve business efficiency and performance, hence its position on this list.

Financial

The financial side of business has decreased in importance to CEOs for 2022-2023, dropping by 27% since 2021-22. However, it’s still in the top three for 20% of respondents. CFOs are making a major push towards finance transformation through technology to boost efficiency in their departments. Despite the ongoing challenge of building digital competencies in finance, 82% of CFOs have reported that their investments in digital are accelerating and exceeding investments in many other areas.

Products & Services

Products and services remain in the top three spot for 15% of respondents, up 43% from 2021. As the world recovers from the pandemic, the products and services a business produces are in the limelight. Competition is more fierce than it’s ever been, so innovation is key to remain in the best position.

Customer

The customer as a priority is up 26% from 2021-22, at 15% – and it’s no surprise. Linking into products and services, and the challenge of hiring the latest generation of workers, costumers have very high standards and hard work is required to impress them and retain loyalty.

In a Gartner survey about customer service trends, 74% of respondents stated that improving operational excellence to create a seamless customer journey is either ‘important’ or ‘very important’, and the survey found that business growth is best achieved through positive customer experience outcomes.

Environmental sustainability

Nine per cent of respondents to the Gartner survey stated that environmental sustainability is a top three priority – up a huge 292% from 2021-22. This is the first time it’s broken into the top 10, which is telling. Businesses are increasingly under pressure to do more when it comes to their own environmental impact. Many leading nations are aiming to be carbon neutral within the next few decades and being more sustainable undeniably leads to growth.

Cost

Also at 9% is cost, which is actually down 24%. Despite it being less of a concern than in 2021-22, cost remains a major focus. Supply chain shortages and the government support offered to help people through lockdowns have driven inflation, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has made that worse. As a result, we’re seeing the prices of products from the region shoot up, and those cost increases inevitably become the problem of business leaders.

Sales

While it’s number 10 (6%) on Gartner’s list of priority areas, sales is a 77% bigger priority in 2022-2023 than it was in 2021-22. Sales falls into a similar category to cost; with rising inflation comes an inability for customers to spend as freely as they once may have, making the landscape more competitive. Having said that, as we touched on with growth, sales aren’t necessarily being driven to the same degree due to supply chain disruptions.

The ‘Financial Sector, Threat Landscape 2020’ report revealed five top security challenges that the financial sector are currently facing, the risks of future threats, and how to spot these risks before it is too late. Here, CPOstrategy takes a closer look…

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We are no stranger to the notion of cyber security, but one industry that suffers the most from cyber security threats is the financial secretary. Key security measures within the sector have evolved dramatically with the likes of key codes, two factor authentication, voice ID, behavioural analysis, one-time passcodes, protective messaging and digital fingerprinting. 

1. Ransomware

Amazingly, the term “ransomware” was only added to the dictionary three years ago. In that time however, ransomware has increased dramatically in terms of the frequency of incidents and the range of methods used to conduct them. Let it be known that the attackers are extremely sophisticated. Once they have your data, who’s to say that your data will be given back or decrypted even if you pay up. Worse still what’s stopping them coming back to attack you again?  The report found that once an attack is made, the bad actor will sell the details on to their associates to go after the victim again after deployment, because the payload can still be there, activated and deactivated.

2. Internal Threats

The report takes a look at the Verizon, 2020 Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR) where it shows that ‘employees’ mistakes account for roughly the same number of breaches as external parties who are actively attacking’ the organisation. Now isn’t that terrifying? Misdelivery within the company, by which information has inadvertently been sent to the wrong person, stands tall as one of the most common issues when it comes to the notion of insider threats. Next time you forward an email or send one to the wrong person/recipient, click on the wrong mailing list, that’s a misdelivery. In the interests of fairness, misdelivery is almost always accidental and non-malicious, but the effects can be devastating. Especially if sensitive data is inadvertently shared to the wrong recipient.

3) App Developments

There’s an app for that. There really is. Apps in the investment and finance space have grown substantially in 2020 which is of course a good thing, as the ability to invest online is quick and easy, and accessible to all. But, with demand comes rushed development. Many of these apps were developed quickly and quite frankly are not ready for cyber-attacks. So that means no two-factor authentication, no protection from appropriate regulations, are not patched or maintained properly, and do not have contingency plans in place to mitigate the effects of a cyber-attack. What that means then is personal information of app users is relatively easy to steal and sell. This can be done by creating duplicate fraudulent apps to trick the user. On these duplicate apps, the imagery and language of the genuine app is mirrored. Once the personal information is supplied, all the money involved  (real and virtual) is up for grabs. And so begins the circle of ransomware life.  

4) Third-Party Risks

Few organisations work on their own. Quite rightly too. Think about third parties that they use. Vendors, partners, email providers, service providers, web hosting companies, law firms, data management companies, subcontractors. The list goes on. They are all essential to business operations and a lot of these third parties share IT systems and even sensitive information through legal teams so it goes without saying that third parties may very well be an open backdoor into your financial systems for attackers to infiltrate.

5) COVID-19

Yep, even cyber crime has been affected by COVID. It is that unavoidable. Cyber criminals are continuing to target the financial sector even during the pandemic. There has been quite the spike in cyber attacks on banks, financial organisations and the third parties connected to them. Going back to simpler times before COVID-19, if an attacker wanted to sabotage a company or steal data, they would target the business itself. They’d aim their sights at the website, the social accounts, the logins and all their vulnerabilities. In response, organisations had counter measures in place. But now, you just need to target a single remote worker and the house of cards comes tumbling down.

Spike in investments in medical testing, healthcare and children’s entertainment and education businesses in last three months

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Tech-led businesses, whose models have been further validated by the Covid-19 crisis, have seen unprecedented demand from investors in the last three months, according to tax-efficient platform Wealth Club. Companies which have enjoyed particularly strong demand range from those involved in medical testing and healthcare, to those focused on education and entertainment for children.

Between 6th April and the end of June, £10.8 million was invested into young innovative, EIS qualifying businesses, through Wealth Club’s platform, compared with £4.9 million in the same period last year, an increase of 110%.

EIS deals which have seen strong demand since April through Wealth Club include:

  • Bond Healthcare – a digital platform for the medical testing industry. A £400,000 EIS fundraising round sold out in less than a minute after going live
  • Acamar – the production company behind the children’s series, Bing, successful both in the UK and abroad. As well as  being a global TV success, broadcast in over 120 territories, Bing is also an online phenomenon with 2.2 billion YouTube views and during lockdown were adding around 40 million a week. Acamar has raised £9.4 million through the Wealth Club platform. £1.8 million of this has been raised during the Covid crisis.
  • Azoomee – a global media company focusing on kids educational content that has 60 million users worldwide saw its subscriber numbers rise by 40% in March.
  • Gobsmack – a company delivering digital wallet technology to allow its blue-chip clients to engage and reward their customers. 
  • Visionable – a video collaboration platform for healthcare teams, billed as the ‘Zoom for medics’, now reportedly mulling a £100 million raise to help support growth in the UK and overseas.
  • Sofant – Edinburgh university spinout Sofant Technologies Limited is at an advanced stage of development of a patented 5G-ready smart antenna.

Alex Davies, CEO at Wealth Club, comments: “Covid has turned even the staunchest technology luddites into online shoppers, viewers and users, meaning demand for innovative businesses, where technology is at the heart of what they do, has rocketed.

“Current demand is largely for technology-led companies whose business models have been further validated by the crisis – such as those in healthcare, online education and entertainment, and e-commerce.

“Many of these businesses were growing rapidly before the crisis. The impact of the pandemic has simply turbocharged their business models. People are being forced to learn online, have meetings online, treat patients virtually and so on. The partial adopters and the uninitiated suddenly see this as a good experience, perhaps even better than face to face. As a result, investment opportunities in businesses that facilitate these things are much sought-after.

“Unlike in the US, where there are numerous listed technology businesses for investors to get their hands on, the UK indices are very under-exposed. The FTSE 100 for instance has just 0.26% exposure to the technology sector.

“However, for experienced investors who are prepared to take more risk and invest in earlier stage unquoted businesses, there are a plethora of fantastic opportunities and the chance to potentially find the next big thing.

“The good news is that many of these opportunities qualify for EIS relief. This magnifies returns when things go well and reduces the downside when they don’t. It also keeps any gains you make out of the taxman’s hands. And with taxes likely to increase, this will be a very important consideration for many.”

Wazoku is preparing for future growth through an additional injection of £1.25M, on top of its latest acquisition.

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Wazoku has announced a new funding round of £1.25M, led by Calculus Capital, supported by other shareholders and members of the Wazoku management team.

Wazoku is also continuing its expansion with the acquisition of US open innovation firm, InnoCentive’s, assets, creating the world’s most comprehensive and powerful innovation platform and community. Following a partnership earlier in 2020, it quickly became clear that the combination of platform and network had huge value to innovation-focused businesses and was a unique proposition in the market.

“Adding such a remarkable and proven external crowd to our existing platform means that no other organisation in the world has our reach and experience when it comes to open innovation, crowdsourcing and idea management,” said Simon Hill, CEO, Wazoku.

“This is a significant step for Wazoku – further funding and a strategic acquisition mean we are better positioned than ever and have a strong and established US presence. Workplaces are becoming inherently open and collaborative and we can offer the tools, services and collective expertise to help global businesses of all sizes solve problems and create opportunities.”

InnoCentive has grown a global network of almost 500,000 expert problem-solvers, comprising CEOs, PhD students, engineers, scientists, entrepreneurs, retired technologists and business leaders. This combined brainpower has helped address thousands of the world’s most complex innovation and bid data challenges, for organisations such as AstraZeneca, NASA and Enel. InnoCentive has a 75% success rate in solving challenges and Wazoku customers – which include John Lewis & Partners, Barclays and the Ministry of Defence – now have full access to this service.

Wazoku now provides the world’s biggest innovation community and broadest innovation offering. It allows the crowdsourcing of solutions to any pressing business challenge, all supported by the features and functionality already found in the Wazoku platform, Idea Spotlight.

“Our customers have long demanded a platform that integrates internal idea management with external crowdsourcing,” said Alpheus Bingham, CEO and co-founder of InnoCentive. “This enables multiple modes of innovation within the same workflow and on the same digital backbone and the combination of Wazoku and InnoCentive capability offers precisely that. No other firm has the experience and capability of crowdsourcing, idea management and open innovation that this combined proposition brings. The possibilities and potential are hugely exciting.”

Wazoku’s latest investment round brings the total amount raised to £7.35M and recognises the increasing demand for innovation in business. COVID-19 saw both an increase in business and a change in the way in which organisations were using Wazoku, with the quarter during lockdown (April-Jun 2020) Wazoku’s best ever from a new business perspective and overall platform activity level.

“The rapid shift to remote working and the need for engaging dispersed networks as well as the on-going need to innovate and solve problems, has seen a significant increase in demand for both our idea management and open innovation services,” said Simon Hill, CEO, Wazoku.

“We will continue to invest in new talent in both Europe and the US, and in product development, but our main focus is on continuing to build awareness of the power of open business models for driving cost-effective and highly impactful business change.”

Jim Marous, internationally recognised financial industry strategist, and the publisher of the Digital Banking Report and Sonia Wedrychowicz, an experienced…

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Jim Marous, internationally recognised financial industry strategist, and the publisher of the Digital Banking Report and Sonia Wedrychowicz, an experienced technology transformation professional of over 25 years discuss how digital transformation is more than merely technology while exploring the leadership and cultural issues surrounding digital transformation in banking.

How do you feel the conversation around technology has changed? Are businesses now driven more by technology and IT than ever before?

Sonia:

First, we need to understand that, in the last couple of years, the way people consume, communicate and commute has changed dramatically, and is increasingly being delivered using digital channels. In today’s world, the vast majority of our daily lives are supported by technology. So, by definition, all companies, including banking, are becoming technology companies. That realisation, however, is not universal yet, and in many organisations, I can still see the business and technology running separately. The transformation efforts focus on modernisation of the platforms on the technology side, and the digitisation of the customer experience on the business side, while the two functions, in my opinion, should work as one team with the common goal, driven by customer obsession.

Jim:

Financial organisations do know what they need to do. They do understand the technologies that have to be embraced, but the challenge is they’re not very far down the digital transformation process. This is a concern, given that the industry is moving so fast in the digital space. A lot of organisations have seen digital transformation as the purchase of technology and the implementation across different initiatives. This is opposed to an overarching perspective of digital transformation that really starts from the inside out, and looks at processes and programs, culture and leadership and then builds technology against that. We’re seeing a big challenge with regards to leadership and culture, and without that, the implementation of technology will probably never see its full optimal implementation.

How common is it that across different businesses in different industries, in different capacities, digital transformation means something different to each and every person and organisation? And how do you go about unifying it in a way that makes sense to everyone?

Jim:

When you’re talking about digital transformation, and you’re combining that with the financial services industry, it’s more difficult. You look at organisations that are going to need to embrace change, take modified risks, and actually disrupt themselves, and that’s not in the comfort zone of financial institutions. It’s the opposite of the legacy culture that’s been in play before.

Sonia:

There is a lot of misunderstanding regarding the difference between digitisation, digitalisation and transformation, and it comes to the old rule that people have the tendency to always see these things as the same, although they are actually different. There is a very common misconception of digital transformation, which is disruptive, and challenging the status quo, with change management, or restructuring, which is basically more of the same, but more lean and efficient.

A good example of this is centres around the difference between the process of digitisation versus digitalisation itself. Digitisation is all about making the current process, or product, digital without truly reimagining it. The same process can, however, be digitalised, rather than digitised. The digital transformation is being trivialised by being understood as bringing new technologies into place without truly reimagining the customer journeys, the customer experience, and actually making it much simpler and more transparent for the customers.

What are some of the biggest challenges and barriers to embracing digital transformation and embracing these new technologies?

Sonia:

The emergence of efficient fintech companies offering different banking services, not only cheaper, but mostly through an amazing, simple and friendly customer experience. The existence of banks is under a serious threat. Interestingly enough, the threat level varies in different parts of the world and so banks need to accelerate on the path of reimagining themselves, in order to keep pace with the emerging competitors who are, these days, coming from industries that were never associated with banking before.

Jim:

I think the biggest challenge we’re going to see, and the reason why banks right now are starting to rethink their complacency, is not because of the revenue, but because of the threat, while we’ve been thinking about what’s going to happen in the future, and what’s going to happen in the fintech banks and the challenger banks. To the large tech companies that is the biggest challenge.

The threat is real. The consumer’s going to start demanding more and more of their financial institutions. A consumer can now change a financial provider, invisibly. They don’t have to come into the branch anymore. They can do it with a click of a button on a phone and they can change their financial relationship. What we have to do is realise that there’s a major threat out there to financial institutions that sit back and hope that it’s going to be business as usual.

How important is it, during a transformation and during change, that you are keeping the customer at the very heart of everything you do?

Sonia:

Never focus on your competition. Always focus on your customer. For years we’ve been completely ignoring the customers and looking at what the competition was doing in order to keep pace. By focusing on your competition, you’re always going to be one step behind them. Technology-enabled tools are allowing us to be much closer with the customers without seeing them and even talking to them, but just focusing on how they behave, what they do, how they react to the different propositions we are giving to them, and whether it results in increased business generation.

Jim:

I think part of the difficulty with transformation is transparency. We get updates on our mobile apps from many organisations, updating you that changes are being made. It doesn’t happen that frequently in the financial services space because the communication isn’t there. There are a lot of organisations that believe: if you build it, they will come. The reality is, that’s not the case. We need to provide more information upfront and do a lot more research to find out what the consumer wants. What they’re looking for is simplicity and a lack of friction, and really what they’re hoping for is that the financial institution is going to know them, look out for them, and reward them.

Jim, you mention that non-financial institutions are now dominating the payment space, how is that impacting the decision-making and the approach to technology?

Jim:

Financial institutions are looking at the fintech companies because those companies looked at the digital companies and asked, “How can we take customer insight, AI, and digital technologies to make better experiences?” In every case twe’ve seen, what the competitors and non-traditional competitors have done is built solutions. They take data, insight, and technology to provide a seamless experience built on a digital platform, and that’s a very important component, because being built on a digital platform means that they’re not building on legacy infrastructure. The tech companies have streamlined the application process for loans or for a credit card because it builds on a tech platform.

 The case studies that we see going forward are coming from the fintechs, and I think traditional financial institutions are going to build more and more partnerships, because bankers can’t get out of their own way, and they really can’t build something that they’ve never done before.

Sonia:

When I look at the big fintech companies and companies like Amazon, I think they’re being watched closely by the banks for their customer obsession, delivered by technology. When it comes to small fintech companies; it’s very interesting. They are providing solutions on untested but interesting technologies like blockchain or AI. Once those technologies became more established, expertise will rise. So, they are not using the fintech start-up companies to integrate those solutions any more, but they want to have this expertise in-house.

Talk to me about the importance of bringing people along on these journeys, and in these transformations, and not necessarily equipping, re-equipping them with these new skills and new capabilities in order to drive the business forward.

Jim:

This is probably the biggest challenge that the banking industry is going to face. We do not have a large knowledge space of digital mind-sets in the marketplace and that includes everything from digital applications of AI, to just how the technology and coding works. There’s a major weakness. But just as big is how do we reach for the people internally, because when you talk about automation, robotics and AI, there’s going to be, if not an elimination of jobs, a transformation of jobs into new sets. So, we’re going to have to take it upon ourselves as an industry to retrain people across the organisation, so they’re prepared for the future. The challenge is, not many organisations right now are doing it.

Sonia:

I also think that a big challenge of the traditional organisations today is to attract young people. The attraction of the old conservative companies is fading away in favour of the Apples and Googles of this world. People are joining the new technology companies not for free food and gym on the premises, but for the ability to constantly learn new things. The financial institutions need to develop the leaders of the future. They need to reimagine, not only their equipment policies, but more importantly, change their hierarchical structures within the organisation to ones that are powered by people who are more willing to listen, with employee empowerment that is bringing the customer experiences of change much closer to where the customers are.

If you could give one piece of advice on how to be successful in these disruptive times as a professional in the financial space what would it be?

Sonia:

Keep reinventing yourself and have the courage to unlearn what you learnt in the past. Constantly learn new things. Brains change, so surround yourself with young people, as they will become your bridge between the past and the future.

Jim:

We have an industry filled with legacy bankers that have been in this industry for a very long time and have done very well in most cases. What we need to do is to look and say, “How can we, as people in organisations, build a culture that will make it so that organisations can truly be part of the future?” The future will happen very quickly, as will the impact of not making changes. We have to do better.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) announced on Monday that it has set up a US$2 billion green investments programme…

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The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) announced on Monday that it has set up a US$2 billion green investments programme (GIP) to invest in public market investment strategies that have a strong green focus.

This will help to support the Singapore financial centre in promoting environmentally sustainable projects and mitigating climate change risks in Singapore and the region.

The GIP is a major prong of the green finance action plan announced by Mr Ong Ye Kung, Minister of Education, and Board Member, MAS at the 2019 Singapore FinTech Festival (SFF) x Singapore Week of Innovation and TeCHnology (SWITCH). The GIP aims to foster the growth of a strong and diverse ecosystem of green financing capabilities in Singapore.

MAS will place funds with asset managers who are committed to drive regional green efforts out of Singapore and contribute to MAS’ other green finance initiatives including developing green markets and managing environmental risks.

Selected managers will be those who have demonstrated a firm commitment to deepening their green investment capabilities across functions such as research, stewardship, policy and portfolio management, accelerate local capability transfers, and increase the management of green-focused funds in Singapore.

The green capabilities and experience of the team managing the strategies will be a key part of the evaluation. The deep engagement with these asset managers will help to further the development of Singapore’s green financing ecosystem, as well as strengthen MAS’ understanding of climate change risks and to better position MAS’ own investment portfolio for long-term sustainable returns.

MAS’ first investment under the GIP will be a US$100m placement in the Bank for International Settlements (BIS)’ Green Bond Investment Pool (GBIP). Together with other participating central banks, MAS hopes that this initiative will help catalyse further deepening of the green bond market.

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By Robert Douglas, Europe Planning Director at Adaptive Insights, a Workday company Now, more than ever, agility is the currency…

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By Robert Douglas, Europe Planning Director at Adaptive Insights, a Workday company

Now, more than ever, agility is the currency of success. And while agility may be about responding intelligently to the changing nature of the marketplace, those responses must be rooted in a plan. Today, many organizations leverage newer technologies in the cloud for planning, having moved away from manual spreadsheets. And while the cloud offers greater collaboration and the ability to easily combine both historical and real-time data, it’s just the beginning. Digital transformation is changing and will continue to change the definition of best practice planning in organisations. As such, the next step for business planning revolves around two key areas—advancements in AI and machine learning, and increased automation.

The power of ‘what if’

What-if scenarios are already incredibly powerful for strategic decision-makers. Organisations can model different versions of the future based on historical information and predictive analytics before choosing the best path forward. Consolidating executional data within organisations is the first step in capitalising on future AI opportunities. However, there is a lot more to come. In fact, compared with what AI is going to make possible, scenario planning is still in its infancy.

Today’s scenario planning is a good proof of concept, but as long as humans are driving the creative process—it relies on people to ask the right questions of the right data—what-if planning is going to be constrained by available resources. The most advanced decision-making today is typically supported by a few best-estimate scenarios—maybe four or five at most. However, in truth, there are many more possible futures to potentially prepare for, and what looks like best practice now is going to seem vastly limited in scope before too long.

As the volume and variety of available data grows, and access to that data gets easier, AI and machine learning algorithms will make it possible to drill down, consolidate, and leverage incredibly granular information at the highest levels.

AI and machine learning use cases

To consider how these AI and machine learning algorithms will work, let’s look at a use case of a CEO aiming to achieve a 40 percent growth target over a two-year period and wants to model what that looks like to present at the annual executive offsite. AI and machine learning-enabled planning could help to quickly and automatically find the optimal growth path, while accommodating any conditions and assumptions on the fly.

Essentially, the planning system could measure historical performance and recommend a market segment mix strategy, along with the associated budget increases in the specific marketing and sales activities needed to support it. If they then decide they need to cap growth in sales to smaller businesses in order to also expand into enterprises and international markets—while also maintaining expenses at a certain increase—an alternative, optimised model could be quickly created without any manual lifting.

A future with machine learning

The future of business planning is not just about thinking bigger—it is about making better decisions and operationalising them faster. That’s where machine learning comes in. Increased automation, driven by algorithms, is going to blur the boundaries between planning, execution, and analysis until planning cycle times have all but evaporated.

Planners will be able to ask deep, complex strategy questions and see the results modelled in real time. As the data becomes more trusted, they will be able to make significant, informed, “just-in-time” decisions, confident in the patterns surfaced in the data. And as the line between planning and transactions systems begins to blur and disappear, plans will automatically cascade down to operational departments—even down to individual workflows—in real time.

‘Strategy’ will become the province of human-driven innovation while planning becomes an organic, ongoing exercise of continuous improvement inextricably linked to the transactional systems that execute plans.

Leading the change

Today finance acts as the central junction within business planning and is, therefore, a natural steward for change, helping normalise new habits and behaviours for the rest of the organisation. As such, there is a strong case to be made for finance teams to double down on their new position as stewards of change by acting as transformation leaders—both for existing processes, and for future, unknown developments.

Finance’s role will change significantly in order to leverage technology developments in the data-driven, AI future. Driving collaboration with business partners, breaking down data silos, and embracing new technologies and processes to keep pace with today’s rapidly changing business environment will be key. The result will be an augmented, intelligent planning process that delivers true business agility.