Business planning in most companies is a relic, a process hemmed in by obsolete conceptions of what it can be. “Business planning” encompasses all of the forward-looking activities in which companies routinely engage, including marketing, sales, customer, supply chain and workforce planning as well as budgeting. In our view companies today can fundamentally change how they plan thanks to the maturation of information technology. Current systems can support better business planning as well as traditional budgeting. Dedicated software can increase the business value of the time spent planning and budgeting by enabling all parts of the business to share their plans. It can substantially cut the time spent creating and updating plans. And it can allow senior executives to see a consolidated view of the plan and quickly explore alternatives and contingencies.
From my perspective there were two significant takeaways from this year’s SuiteWorld. The first is that, almost two years on from the announced acquisition of NetSuite by Oracle, the combination has achieved its immediate objectives in growing NetSuite’s business, especially in Europe and Asia, and accelerating product development efforts. The second takeaway is that, at least for now, the unit appears to continue to operate as if the combination were a private equity investment by a public company.
SAP recently held a teleconference to highlight its blockchain strategy. Lately, the major business software vendors have been calling attention to their blockchain initiatives. While the focus on this technology might seem premature to those who still equate it with cryptocurrencies, evidence is pointing to a future pace of adoption similar to the rapid take-up of the internet in the 1990s. That blockchain is useful for a wide range of business functions isn’t news – just google “blockchain use cases.” Payment, provenance, testament and efficiency are four main themes driving a multitude of applications of the technology. That said, blockchain isn’t technology in search of a mission but is something more like the internet, both in its broad utility and in value multiplication through network effects.
Robots of the physical sort are not about to take over finance and accounting but we have arrived at the age of “Robotic Finance”. I coined this term to focus on four key technologies with transformative capabilities: artificial intelligence and machine learning, robotic process automation, bots and natural language processing and blockchain distributed ledger technology. Embracing these technologies will enable any department to redefine itself as a forward-looking strategic partner to the rest of the company.