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It’s a new era. We’re ten years removed from the peak of the financial crisis, a new generation has transformed the workplace, and every business is now a “technology” business. The rules of the game have changed. Organizations that fail to evolve join a graveyard of companies that were out-innovated by young, forward-thinking businesses. And now, the role of finance must evolve, too.

As we approach 2019, we’re looking ahead to the trends that will impact and define business decisions, as well as help empower clients to better evaluate and manage risk, build innovative corporate strategies, and grow their businesses. These trends are detailed in our newly-published 2019 Finance Trends Report—a deep dive into six macro-level trends supported by a breadth of data, analysis, and observations on each.

Trend 1. The role of finance grows

The role of finance will grow as finance leaders take on more responsibility.

Finance has moved from an accounting function to a strategy and operations function. As we approach the end of the decade, we believe that the role of finance will continue to evolve and take on new challenges and responsibilities. As technology plays an increasingly large role in business, impacting risk, costs, and revenue opportunities, finance teams will take on a greater role in IT and technology risk management, as well as step into the role of business transformation leader.

Trend 2. Changing customer demands disrupt industries

Technology-empowered customers and two new generations force companies to evolve.

Millennials are about to pass Boomers as the largest generation in the U.S., and by the end of next year, Gen Z will be the third largest generation in the U.S. In 2019, these young, tech-savvy, influential individuals will continue to disrupt industries. Globally-minded, well informed, and passionate, they will push businesses to operate with greater transparency and create more sustainable products. New customer demands will also push more businesses to re-evaluate their business models, as well as explore new ways to sell to customers, including voice-commerce, mobile payments, direct-to-consumer, and social media selling.

Trend 3. Technology makes finance smarter and faster

New technologies are revolutionizing finance, making it smarter, more efficient, and more secure.

In 2019, companies will establish a culture of data, where the use of data is no longer a talking point but a baseline assumption. And as companies become smarter about how they use data, the data itself is also becoming smarter, with AI and machine learning providing instant intelligence and enabling automated processes. Additionally, blockchain, which has become popularized due to its involvement with financial institutions, will find greater adoption in finance and beyond, making systems more stable and secure.

Trend 4. Living in the age of uncertainty

From foreign policy to data regulation, uncertainty puts a strain on businesses.

2018 was a year with great uncertainty, and trends suggest that 2019 will be no different. From financial regulations and trade policy to Brexit and data protection, finance leaders will once again be forced to navigate through great uncertainty in a turbulent, highly-politicized environment.

Trend 5. Businesses adapt to an evolving workforce

A new, diverse generation enters the workforce with new expectations and demands.

As Millennials are moving into management and as the oldest Gen Z-ers take their first steps into the professional world, they do so with an increased demand for flexibility and a greater emphasis on work-life balance. As businesses face an increasing skills gap in 2019, they must seek new ways to fill critical roles, including re-training older employees, seeking foreign labor, and tapping the emerging gig economy to meet temporary labor demands.

Trend 6. Companies face new risks and challenges

Business leaders navigate new challenges and re-align their businesses around new opportunities.

In 2019, businesses will become more familiar with the expectations surrounding GDPR, but questions about data protection laws in other countries will emerge. And the ongoing battle around data security will only continue as businesses collect and store more of it. Lastly, we expect to see growing levels of industry convergence in 2019 as more companies develop service-platforms that they can extend and leverage across different industries.

The world is changing and as a result, so is the role of finance. Finance teams play a critical role in the success of the modern business, and in 2019, we expect they will take on new responsibilities and challenges with great success.

Microsoft Dynamics 365 is enabling businesses to drive true digital transformation through a suite of holistic, connected applications. It gives businesses the tools to accelerate the speed of doing business by empowering people to make smarter decisions, transforming business processes faster, and driving rapid business growth.

Please read our report, the 2019 Finance Trends Report, to get much greater detail on the topics discussed above, and learn more about how Microsoft can help you transform your business to handle new challenges and maximize the opportunities ahead.

We're always looking for feedback and would like to hear from you. Please head to the Dynamics 365 Community to start a discussion, ask questions, and tell us what you think!

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