Looking ahead is a natural part of finance.
In fact, we spend a lot of time doing it. But we also look back, examining historical data to get insight into current trends—and use the past and present to try to predict what the future will bring.
The beginning of a new year, then, is a good time to consider the past, present and future. To look at the past year to see where it brought us—then examine what possibilities the year ahead might offer.
Unfortunately, for a lot of finance teams, 2022 was a bit of a roller coaster. It left us in a place of market uncertainty, with a need for agility and cautious optimism about the future. And in 2023, I expect the need for agility will continue to be a reality. But we’ll also be more ready for anything that may come.
So let’s look back a bit. Then look forward to some of the ongoing trends finance professionals should keep top of mind to navigate the year ahead.
- 2022 saw its fair share of uncertainties—starting with a war for talent and ending with an economic downturn. But those uncertainties have inspired finance teams to become more agile—making them more ready for anything ahead.
- There’s no reason to think there won’t be more uncertainty in 2023. But finance will continue to evolve to be an effective partner to the rest of the business. To do that, they’ll look for new skill sets and ways to work smarter, embracing new technologies that help.
- With the right people, processes and technology in place, finance teams can become more certain in the face of uncertainty, and can continue to help their companies stay on track.
A Look Back at 2022
If you’re in finance, you’re probably reflecting on 2022 and what it means for your business going forward. After a couple of tumultuous years before it, caused mostly by the pandemic and its repercussions, the year brought a whole slew of new uncertainties we all had to find our way through.
It started with a war for talent. Finance leaders began the year looking for the right skills to build out their teams, all in the wake of the Great Resignation, which saw some top talent walk away. But a shortage of talent—and the question of how to attract and retain the right employees—would only be the first challenge. Unstable supply chains, rising inflation, escalating interest rates and spiraling economic conditions became the new realities—putting us on track for a possible recession. So while the war over talent eased some, those new macroeconomic uncertainties put finance teams in a new line of fire.
Finance teams have had to pivot quickly, shifting priorities in the light of the new economic climate: optimizing costs as access to capital became more challenging and finding ways to balance the bottom line with the top line more rapidly. Growth goals are still top of mind, of course, but it’s become a balancing act. Today, most are focused on more measured, responsible growth.
And as we go into 2023, that’s what’s top of mind, with organizations looking for the technology, talent and processes that will help move them forward toward those goals. But none of us are forgetting the number of changes we’ve encountered over the last few years either. In these uncertain times, agility is still key—and it’s going to continue to be a priority for finance teams this year.
The good news is that agility is something we’re all getting used to at this point.
5 Predictions for 2023
So what can we expect for 2023? First of all, I don’t think we can expect the economy to suddenly bounce back. There’s probably more to come before we start to climb back from the current market shifts. And who knows what other surprises are in store for us along the way? But I do think finance teams are in a better place to handle those changes—and will continue to put the talent, tools and processes in place to excel in these uncertain times.
With that in mind, here are my predictions for 2023:
1. Finance Will Focus on Evolving New Skill Sets
The war on talent may have eased since the start of 2022—but that doesn’t mean it’s over. Finance today needs an evolving set of skills—and leaders will continue to look for and develop them in 2023.
After all, today’s finance teams need to be strategic partners to the rest of their business. They need to be leaders in their organizations. And they also need to be technology superusers, using tech to stay ready for anything. To be successful in those roles, they require skills that the finance function might not have sought out 10 years ago.
Those include technical skills to drive their technology investments, but also soft skills like communication, problem solving, influence, empathy and the ability to listen. These latter skills will help finance teams collaborate better with the rest of the organization, to understand the points of view of other departments and build a business that works together toward common goals.
2. Teams Will Look for Ways To Work Smarter
As they continue to develop their role as strategic business partners and build the skill sets they need to excel in that role, finance teams this year will also look for new ways to work smarter and get the most out of the resources they have. With that in mind, they’ll search out places to add efficiencies to the processes that drive them and find ways to optimize their costs and the team members they have.
Smart finance teams have already been doing exactly this, of course. But in times of uncertainty like those we’re seeing now, it’s more critical than ever. So don’t be surprised if you see more of this in 2023—with more scenario planning, for example, and more inputs to better determine the best course ahead.
But this is also where some soft skills—such as communication, empathy and listening—come in. Because only by collaborating and communicating with the entire organization can finance understand where those efficiencies and cost savings can be successfully added without affecting your organizational goals. Working closely with HR, for example, will be more critical than ever, in order to identify the best opportunities to improve productivity—whether that be through automation or process improvement, or by improving clarity on priorities, decision making or span of control.
3. They’ll Embrace New Technologies To Help Them
Whether you’re increasing your use of automation or finally embracing artificial intelligence (AI), the way to achieve many of those efficiencies and cost savings is through the use of technology. I don’t think that’s new, but in 2023, we expect to continue to see this grow, as finance teams build on their technology stacks to get more out of less.
AI, for example, has long been seen as “the next big thing,” but I think acceptance has been gradual—and that gradual acceptance will continue to build this year. All while more and more finance teams see the need to further automate manual, repetitive tasks.
But point solutions aren’t enough. Teams need integrated end-to-end solutions to build those efficiencies into your business. These end-to-end solutions can help you leverage an entire ecosystem of technology that works together seamlessly.
4. They’ll Become More Certain in the Face of Uncertainty
At this point, uncertainty has basically become the status quo. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve experienced one market challenge after another, forcing finance teams to pivot again and again. And 2022 has shown us that isn’t likely to change.
This year, though, I think organizations should be more ready for whatever comes next, just by virtue of what they’ve already gone through. With workforces more firmly enmeshed in remote and hybrid work, many finance teams already have the tools in place to facilitate collaboration across distributed teams and build connections across their organization. Many have identified the technology that will help them stay agile and have put in place the processes and people they need to respond to change. Those that haven’t yet recognize the need.
In 2023, then, I believe teams will be well-positioned to meet challenges head-on. With so much change behind them, they’ll reach a point where they have much of what they will need to help them navigate through it—including tools such as scenario planning and rolling forecasts that boost their agility and keep them looking forward.
5. They Won’t Lose Focus of Their Long-Term Goals
Uncertainty—and the need to be agile in the face of it—doesn’t mean letting go of long-term goals. Having more of a handle on those market changes now means that finance leaders can continue to focus on long-term planning in 2023. They can continue to lean into their business strategy and be an important voice in helping to shape that strategy and how it ties into long- and short-term plans.
That means connecting the dots from where you are now to where you hope to be in five or 10 years. Because while those dots might change formation as you pivot in the face of change, your long-term goals don’t need to change. It might just mean rethinking your plans and restructuring the steps to get you there. But I think finance leaders have realized that they can’t lose sight of their overall objectives in the meantime, or let that uncertainty pull them too far off track.
With this realization, they’ve opened up all sorts of opportunities for 2023.
A new year isn’t a completely fresh start. We’ll continue to see many of the same trends play out in 2023 that we’ve seen over the last couple of years. But that’s a good thing too—we’ve learned from everything the market has thrown at us so far. Hopefully, that means we’ll be ready to take on whatever it is that comes next too.
Here’s to all the possibilities that 2023 will bring.