CFOs: Prepare To Become Your Company’s Data Czar This Year

In mid-2018, Tom Bogan was the leader of business planning software company Adaptive Insights as it planned its own next steps. The Palo Alto, CA-based company was on the point of raising about $115 million in a June IPO that would have set its market value at around $705 million, according to PitchBook.

But like Dustin Hoffman in “The Graduate,” the big enterprise software company Workday lured Adaptive Insights away from the IPO altar with a more attractive deal—a $1.55 billion acquisition offer. Pleasanton, CA-based Workday (NASDAQ: WDAY) wanted to marry Adaptive’s financial decision-making applications with its own suite of Web-based enterprise planning tools.

Workday kept Bogan on as CEO of Adaptive as it joined with Workday to compete for business clients who are trying to foresee challenges and adapt to changes. Bogan, a former partner at Greylock Partners who has served on the boards of several enterprise software companies, keeps his eye on technology trends that could hinder or help chief financial officers as they aim to devise holistic strategies that work for a company’s employees and customers as well as its leaders.

As he looks forward to 2019, Bogan predicts that advancing technology will soon redefine the mission of CFOs. In an e-mail to Xconomy, Bogan identified six topics to address. Here are his comments:

1. Data Gets a New Owner

Today’s CFOs are now responsible for data from across the organization. With predictive analytics and A.I. on the horizon, CFOs will assume ownership of data as they prepare to leverage these new technologies. CFOs will own the data, and the tools and platforms as well, getting ready for machine learning and beyond in 2019.

2. Data Science Meets Finance

As finance roles change with the explosion of data, (the) business and finance education curriculum will change to include data science training. We will see more people with data science backgrounds working with and on finance teams, as they will need to understand what data is most relevant and how best to apply it.

3. CFOs Will Dip their Toe in Predictive Analytics Waters

Machine learning strategies will become increasingly important for CFOs, putting the onus on software vendors supporting the office of the CFO. The first area will be anomaly detection, getting CFOs comfortable with trusting machines to identify data anomalies, paving the way for CFOs to trust technology for more advanced analysis and a role in business strategy.

4. Planning Becomes a Team Sport

Planning is no longer just finance’s job because at the end of the day, everybody plans. To enable better collaboration on planning, organizations will start to look for new ways—including technology and processes—that will enable key stakeholders across HR, finance, sales, and leadership to partner on planning for their organization’s future. According (to) Workday’s Global Finance Leader study, only about one-third of finance leaders feel they enjoy a seamless collaboration with key C-suite peers today. This is changing as CFOs and their finance teams recognize the need to reach across the organization for comprehensive planning.

5. The Blockchain Hype Bubble Pop

While blockchain will improve the processes of transaction, the hype surrounding the technology will begin to die down as its limitations are better understood in the finance world. Instead, CFOs will turn (their) attention to predictive analytics strategies.

6. A Future Without Excel

Automation of functions and activities that were done manually in Excel are now applied in the cloud. There is a shift as businesses realize the benefits of working with purpose-built solutions that are based in the cloud, allowing collaboration and version control.  Excel replacements, such as those from BlackLine, Coupa, Smartsheet, Zuora, Adaptive Insights, and more, will continue to gain traction, leaving Excel as a tool from the past.

[Editor’s note: This is part of a series of posts sharing thoughts from industry and technology leaders about 2018 trends, and forecasts for 2019.]

[Photo of Tom Bogan by Nancy Rothstein, provided by Adaptive Insights.]

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