The Future (Of Finance) Is Already Here—It’s Just Not Evenly Distributed

Christian Horak

Part 1 of a 4-part series. Read Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

“The future is already here—it’s just not evenly distributed.” –The Economist, December 4, 2003

The headline of this article contains my favorite technology aphorism from William Gibson, a science-fiction author widely known for his speculative near-future stories focusing on the information age. I like this statement because I think it is a “timeless” observation.

The gradual rollout and growing impact of technology breakthroughs spreading out from centers of hyperactive innovation has been a truism throughout history. And all the industrial revolutions, however you wish to define them, have been driven by technology. Breakthrough innovations—from the Jacquard loom, to automated production lines, to the current emergence of the Internet of “thinking” things—have blended technology into every aspect of our daily lives, now even blurring the lines between natural and artificial intelligence.

We are in the midst of an all-encompassing sea change brought about by this industrial revolution (either the third one or the fourth, depending on how you look at it). However, no matter how you define it, the term industrial revolution is no longer limited to the world of industry and manufacturing. This time, the revolution is certainly also applicable for the world of finance. Tried-and-true ideas and concepts that have held up virtually unchanged since the dawn of financial accounting are being stretched to their breaking point by emerging concepts.

Reinventing the role of finance to keep pace with disruptive trends

The list of innovations causing technological and socio-economic disruptions is growing every day. In addition to these disruptions, the near-universal and almost instant access to information, insight, and foresight is enabling finance professionals to reinvent the entire financial value chain. While Gibson’s quote is probably correct that this “future is already here” for a large number of enterprises in innovation hot spots, the majority of enterprises still seem to be cautiously sitting on the sidelines to observe the impact of the disruption brought about by digitization. This might be a risky position to take as the wave of change and innovation continues to accelerate at an unprecedented rate.

Crowd-sourced financing, crypto-currencies, artificial intelligence

In this series of four blogs, we’ll examine three examples that showcase how the industrial revolution is impacting finance: crowd-sourced financing, cryptocurrencies, and artificial intelligence. I believe these examples of innovation “beacons” are representative of the tip of the “disruption iceberg” emerging from the present industrial revolution.

Finance leaders are beginning to take the lead in getting ahead of the innovation curve. In this series, we’ll explore how they are doing that by moving their finance processes onto a single source of truth, transitioning to a cloud architecture, maximizing automation for routine tasks, and much more.

The second blog in this four-part series will explore crowdfunding – an innovation beacon that is engendering competition and risk from startling sources. Look for that on Monday, June 5.

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Christian Horak

About Christian Horak

Christian Horak is a Global VP at SAP responsible for the positioning, messaging and thought leadership, awareness and demand generation content for SAP S/4HANA Finance Line of Business Solutions (Accounting & Financial Close, Treasury & Financial Risk Management, Collaborative Finance Operations, etc.), as well as SAP JAM Collaboration & Communities.