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AFP 2019: Ready for FP&A’s Evolution?

May 1, 2019

This October, financial planning and analysis (FP&A) professionals won’t want to miss AFP 2019. If there is one word to describe this year’s FP&A track, it would be evolution. New technologies and new processes are forcing FP&A teams to change how they operate.

EVOLVING TECHNOLOGY

Bryan Lapidus, FP&A, director of AFP’s FP&A practice, explained that over the years, sessions have consisted of a lot of high-level discussion on artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, predictive analytics, and other tools that have been on the horizon. But this year, a lot of the discussion will be around moving that technology past the concept stage, and using it in the everyday FP&A process. “What we’re seeing this year in the submissions is that they’re really coming to fruition and we’re going to talk about how people are taking those high-level concepts and putting them in place every day,” he said.

Lapidus sees this as an important paradigm shift. “If you can't make this tactical and implement it, then somebody is going to and they're going to be moving a lot faster than you,” he said. “The economies of learning are moving much faster than the economies of scale. You've got to keep up, you've got to implement, and you've got to deploy quickly. We don't have a lot of time to have paralysis by analysis and wait to see what is going to shake out.”

Tech-savvy finance professionals surely won’t want to miss the FP&A Luncheon, which will feature a keynote address by Avi Goldfarb, author of “Prediction Machines” and Ellison Professor of Marketing at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. Goldfarb will discuss how the rise of AI and machine learning is dropping the cost of prediction. Attendees will learn how they can help organizations to leverage this revolutionary technology by using basic economic tools, while also providing an actionable framework for success.

Forward-thinking FP&A practitioners will also want to check out the educational session, Finance’s Evolving Role: The Importance of Transformation and Digitization to Finance. This session will look at how finance organizations are being forced to become more technically skilled and knowledgeable, as they turn to new technologies, such as business-process automation, cloud computing, data visualization and advanced analytics.

EVOLVING TEAMS

FP&A teams that don’t change with the times run the risk of falling behind. Another session, Earning (& Keeping) a Seat at the ‘Big Kids’ Table: How Finance Has to Adapt to Stay Relevant & In-Demand, looks at how today’s financial professionals are expected to have broad technical expertise, as well business partnering skills, cross-functional knowledge, and more. This session will reveal how that skillset will allow finance to earn and keep a key seat at the decision-making table.

Carmen Turner, FP&A, senior finance manager of sales for McGraw-Hill Education and a member of the AFP 2019 Planning Task Force, noted that many of the session submissions this year revolved around improving FP&A as a whole. “So in the FP&A track, the submissions we're seeing are around developing the FP&A team, having them develop their skillset, learning how to use more digital tools, to be more efficient and agile instead of using some of the older archaic tools that we used in the past,” she said.

CORE PROCESSES

Of course, it’s not all about the future. This year’s FP&A track also has sessions that focus on core FP&A processes and how to improve upon them, such as the panel discussion, Budgeting, Forecasting and Planning Best Practices. Attendees will hear from experienced FP&A practitioners from Harvard University and a pharmaceutical company as they explain how organizational strategy, people and technology can improve the budgeting, forecasting and planning process immensely. They’ll also share what it takes to succeed, how to organize for success, and what pitfalls to avoid along the way.

IF YOU MISS AFP 2019, YOU MISS OUT ON EVOLVING

Since the launch of the Certified Corporate FP&A Professional designation, the AFP conference has evolved into one of the top destinations for FP&A practitioners looking to expand their knowledge. But it’s not only the educational sessions; it’s also a great networking event. If you skip it, then you’ll miss out on networking opportunities that you won’t find anywhere else.

“I think, oftentimes, FP&A is a small team in a big company, and you might not have all the connections you need on a day-to-day basis,” said Craig Anderson, FP&A, director of finance and head of FP&A for TuneIn. “Going to a conference like this makes you a part of a larger community of professionals who do the same work as you. And making those connections, learning from their experience, is a really high value.”

Don’t miss the FP&A track at AFP 2019. Check out the conference brochure here. Register here.