By David Furth
It’s no secret that small and mid-sized business leaders are demanding more data, analysis and strategic insight from their financial teams than ever before. As we head into the new year, CEOs and other business leaders will ask less about what has happened and more about where the business is headed and, and more importantly, what’s needed to help it reach its goals. This will put CFOs and accounting professionals in the hot seat. With most SMBs operating with the slimmest of margins of financial error and needing to do more with less, technology solutions take on even greater importance. I anticipate that the following technology trends will help drive the growth of small businesses in 2017 and beyond.
Analytics will feed the need for knowledge
Multiple business stakeholders will continue their drive for greater access to key financial and operational insights so they can identify issues, uncover opportunities and make better decisions. This demand, along with the focus on big data, will push more accounting and finance executives to ensure that they have the right systems and processes in place to extract intelligence from key data. We expect to see them, for example, leverage the analytics capabilities of cloud-based ERP systems to access critical information in these systems, and distribute tailored reports to stakeholders based on their specific needs.
The popularity of cloud apps will drive greater integration
While small and medium-sized businesses have been enjoying the benefits of best-in-class cloud software to handle all aspects of their business, the number of standalone apps is becoming unwieldy in many organizations. To address this issue, next year many companies will move away from a legacy-style, pre-integrated suite from a single vendor and instead integrate applications of their choice in their own best-in-class suites. This approach will not only streamline processes across functions and consolidate data for better reporting and analysis, but it will also allow every business area to use any solution that best meets its needs.
Artificial Intelligence will enable accounting execs to focus on more strategic activities
Artificial intelligence will continue to become more prevalent due to decreasing costs and greater availability through software-as-a-service (SaaS) platforms. Next year, expect organizations to increasingly rely on AI-infused apps to perform manual finance tasks — such as ensuring compliance to policies —freeing up time for accounting professionals to focus on more strategic, value-added roles.
The regulatory environment will continue to drive change
All organizations, large or small, private or public, must deal with the pressures of compliance. As deadlines loom for new accounting and regulatory mandates, such as ASC 606, small and mid-sized businesses will put more emphasis on ensuring that they have the right finance, risk and regulatory reporting structures and systems in place to meet the challenges ahead.
These technology trends are good news for the industry, empowering accounting and finance executives to deliver key information to help drive business growth throughout the organization. They also open up greater opportunities for financial leaders to assume business advisory roles as companies try to successfully navigate their way in today’s competitive marketplace. All in all, 2017 could shape up to be a very good year.
David Furth is President of Leap the Pond, a leading provider of Intacct-based accounting solutions for growing organizations.