We all know that 2020 was a challenging year for many businesses across the globe. The unpredictability of the COVID-19 pandemic threw organizations into the deep end, asking them to navigate a volatile period without little to no guidance, especially in decision-making. With the pandemic still very much in play and the outcome of COVID-19’s impact last year unclear, markets remain somewhat tumultuous.
Not only this but organizations are waking up to the evolution we have seen across business–centric departments and processes, including financing, planning, forecasting, and analysis. Businesses, to stay ahead of the curve in a market that is more competitive and difficult to predict than ever before, need robust decision-making solutions in place.
Never have we felt that having the right solutions and technologies in place is essential for organizations more than we do today. To highlight this point, we have identified five key trends that we believe will dominate 2021 and guide the adoption of game-changing business decision-making.
Continuing to gather pace, we fully expect to see even more automation across the business functions as a driver in time efficiency, staff management, and data analysis. For example, when looking at the Office of Finance, finance teams can automate planning and control, management reporting, financial closing, consolidation, and disclosure. This means more time is given to finance users to analyze and understand the data they are working with, rather than spending massive amounts of time collating it and organizing it for reports.
The same principles are seen in other departments and business areas: automate an abundance of processes, right down to basic tasks, to enable staff to focus elsewhere on more time-worthy and high-value activities. As this trend continues, we can expect to see more complex tasks being included under its umbrella – freeing up even more time for users.
Making the most of market-leading decision-making software available, businesses are increasingly shifting towards the notion of bringing planning and analytics together for complete visibility across their activities. Guiding this shift is Integrated Business Planning (IBP), an approach to planning that unifies financial and operational data from across the organization. In turn, this delivers one set of reliable data, a single version of the truth, which cannot be contradicted elsewhere – a process considered best practice in 2021.
We can see a notable void regarding holistic visibility over the organization for those not yet applying IBP to their data and processes. Businesses need to bring planning and analytics together by removing the different silos of data (instead, unifying them into one place) and creating a fully integrated approach to drive intelligent insight into each activity and measure planning across the organization.
Considering the last point, particularly around an all-in-one approach that connects siloed data from across the business, we see organizations who can take stock of their businesses concisely coming away with more significant insights and greater gains. Budgeting, planning, and forecasting, for example, all benefit when non-financial data is provided. The accuracy of planning processes increases with more detail; the more operational data that can feed in, the better planning will be.
Likewise, disparate data should be regarded as lost (unutilized) data, supplying less information to feed into the core business strategy. A platform that connects and integrates all data sources to one unified environment – providing that 360-degree view of the organization – mitigates issues around the reliability of data and how this data is stored, analyzed, and reported (e.g. Excel spreadsheets, which have inherent problems and should no longer be used as a primary data tool). This drives easier, more effective, and faster decision-making for the business.
As mentioned earlier, 2020 was unpredictable. The companies able to come through it in a strong position were those able to react faster in the first instance and remain flexible enough to adjust their plans as new developments and challenges came up. Of course, to do this effectively, there is a strong need for traditional methods to be changed, moving away from manual – arduous – planning processes to digital platforms that deliver digital transformation and build resiliency to disruption.
Businesses must use reliable information to make decisions in an agile manner. COVID-19 has shown just how fast things can change. Slow, reactive decision-making is not robust enough to stand against this; a speedier, proactive decision-making approach is essential to remain competitive in the current environment. Predictive modeling and What-If Scenario capabilities will help address this, providing insight into how different market changes and business strategies will impact the financial bottom-line. This data will also offer more for operational teams and clarify how the organization moves towards achieving its overarching strategic goals.
Finally, we have a trend that is prevalent in many discussions around the future of technology. Artificial Intelligence (AI) application today, as part of an all-in-one Decision-Making Platform, is to empower the data-driven outcomes, simulation, and predictive modeling capabilities explored in the previous trends above. This helps remove the dangers of “gut feeling“ intuition from decision-makers while drastically reducing the strain on the human workforce to deliver fast results.
AI is how organizations can automate many basic tasks and process incredible amounts of data in a much shorter timeframe than ever before – driving better, more accurate outcomes to inform decision-making. AI also makes complex data easier to understand and available in more ways, right down to the most granular level, offering new ways to explore data and gain insight.
Ultimately, the role of AI is to allow leaders to make better-informed decisions by relying on algorithmic recommendations based on billions of data points vs. gut feeling based on a limited amount of information. Top-level executives and organizational decision-makers base their decisions solely on fact and intelligent insight first and foremost.
While we see these trends impact across all key business areas, we have collected together our thoughts around the technological opportunities, such as the Board solution, that focus on the evolution of BP&F processes. Board is the #1 Decision-Making Platform, trusted by more than 3,000 organizations worldwide to drive such technological opportunities through digital transformation across key processes.
Expand on the views above by downloading our latest whitepaper: 10 Key Trends in Budgeting, Planning, and Forecasting.
Driving budgeting, planning, and forecasting through challenging times, like those we are experiencing, is made easier when organizations make the most of technological opportunities that evolve BP&F processes.