If 2016 has taught us anything, it’s that making predictions, regardless of how informed or educated they are, remain our best guesses. While finance teams should be wary of predicting what next year has in store, there are certainly things we can learn from this past year that can factor into planning for 2017.
Change is the only constant
We can be sure, for example, that digital transformation will continue to change the face of entire industries, and that geo-political events like the inauguration of the new US President, further clarity on the UK’s Brexit plans and elections across the Eurozone will continue to impact confidence and growth strategies.
It’s therefore wise for businesses to plan flexibly to accommodate all manner of potential scenarios in 2017, including extreme currency fluctuations, rising and falling commodity prices and repercussions of any variations within their supply chain.
Admitting we don’t always 100% know what we are planning for should not be seen as a failure. It is essential to understand many factors are beyond our control and that planning to make the best of any situation makes good business sense.
Another unknown quantity is the extent to which technology will shape businesses in 2017. Technologies with the potential to be highly disruptive, such as artificial intelligence and robotics, will become increasingly widespread, and will find applications in surprising places within the enterprise. Accepting the need to modernise will be essential for many businesses in 2017.
You can always bank on regulation
Some things will be predictable in 2017, though. Larger businesses will need to continue their preparations for regulations like IFRS 15 (for 2018), and expect greater scrutiny on multinational companies’ tax arrangements, accounting and transparency.
While regulatory compliance will require distinct focus next year (as every year), finance teams should also be mindful of their responsibility to support organisational growth and ensure business models can move with the times. In a time when risk and reward can be separated by the narrowest margins, growth plans need to be built adaptable and flexible.
The CFO’s influence grows and grows
2016 saw CFOs take a more active role in helping organisations navigate choppy waters, and according to our own research, many saw their roles become more focused on forward planning, risk management and informing investment decisions. We can expect this trend to become more pronounced in 2017, making it a year in which CFOs truly find themselves at the centre of business decision-making.
In order to fulfil these growing responsibilities, CFOs will need an even clearer view of what’s going on in their business at any given time. In 2017, data silos and organisational fiefdoms will increasingly become the enemies of accurate and successful decision making.
One thing is for sure in 2017 - finance teams will be busy.