Trends & Insights

Sage Speaks:  Accounting and Finance in 2024

Discover the 8 trends we believe will be in store for accounting and finance technology in 2024 and beyond.

What will be in store for accounting and finance technology in 2024 and beyond?  While I’d need a crystal ball to answer this question with certainty, I’ve spoken with several of our thought leaders and experts in the Sage community, to get their take on what’s hot, what’s not, and what we can expect to see in the year to come.  In this blog, we’ll start the conversation, and look forward to continuing it in an upcoming eBook and webinar on January 23, 2024. 

The 2020s so far have been tumultuous times.  We began the decade with the COVID pandemic, and as we enter 2024, the shutdowns, mandated work from home for non-essential workers, supply chain disruptions and shortages, and the tragic loss of life and health for many affected directly, among other things, are fresh in our minds.  The resulting global surge in inflation, only recently beginning to stabilize, as well as the shift to remote and hybrid work and the often-discussed worker dissatisfaction with return to office work-life balance in 2023 are hitting the fields of accounting and finance particularly hard.  At the same time, global conflicts in the Ukraine and Middle East continue unabated, with many economies facing high levels of uncertainty.  The challenge for businesses as industries evolve in the face of AI adoption and these changing geopolitical and environmental circumstances, is as great or greater than it has ever been.

In accounting and finance, we are seeing several specific trends affecting the small and medium sized business served by Sage across the globe.  The 8 trends we identified include:

1. Digital and AI will come of age. 

As we predicted last year, and continue to predict, automation and AI – process and task automation, analytics-based automation and large language models (LLMs) will continue their impact on accounting and finance, and most other industries.  Accounting firms and small and medium businesses will accelerate their use of automation to accomplish repetitive tasks, and free up staff time to manage growth and participate in higher-level strategic decision making.  Cloud-based accounting solutions will continue to drive re-platforming as companies continue the move to cloud accounting automation solutions with embedded AI, abandoning desktop and managed service offerings that do not offer the same level of flexibility and agility.

2. FP&A (finance planning and analysis) will be incorporated into accounting automation, and integrated with line of business applications. 

In this age of uncertainty, planning and staying flexible, managing risk and modeling scenarios will save companies from being victims of change, and help to ensure growth targets are met wherever possible.  This will be especially important to industries and regions affected by climate change, regulatory change or supply chain uncertainty related to global conflict.

3. Remote work will stabilize. 

The ongoing battle in 2023 between employees’ choices related to work-life balance, and employers’ desire to have staff in office to drive collaboration on key initiatives, will stabilize in 2024.  The employees affected by return-to-office mandates who do not wish to return will move on, seek and find remote positions, non traditional jobs, or retire and leave the workforce.  Companies that are positioned to take advantage of both remote and in office talent will have an advantage as talent wars among high level accounting and finance personnel – particularly at the controller and CFO levels – continue to be affected by the shortage of talent and an expected uptick in this shortage as older generations approach retirement age.  AI and automation will help to extend the reach of available staff and make them more efficient, helping to ease but not completely alleviate this shortage, requiring more firms to turn to outsourcing to find the talent needed in future years.

4. Geopolitical unrest and regulatory changes continue to drive change, particularly in the UK and European markets. 

The regulatory changes expected to have the most impact are digital tax and invoicing initiatives in the U.K and Europe, and ESG reporting requirements.  Renewable energy and carbon offsets will be key approaches to managing ESG requirements, and carbon accounting will become part of accounting and finance toolset and reporting in regions where there is a legal requirement for them, such as the U.K., but investment and priority of these investments will slow in regions where this is not required, like the U.S.

5. Closing the books and consolidating entities continue to be pain points for accounting and finance, but are increasingly addressed by automation. 

The need to consolidate entities and close the books on a regular basis creates a surge in activity in most accounting and finance organization; as more products with the capability to automate aspects of consolidation and closing are employed, the frequency and ease with which we conduct these activities will continue to grow.

6. Digital threats, ransomware and cybercrime will continue to grow, leading to even further investment by businesses in protecting against this threat. 

This threat also extends to physical theft, particularly in the retail industry.  As economic conditions remain tight and the higher prices and cost of living driven by inflation continues to outpace wage growth, more bad actors will emerge.  For businesses, it is not a matter of if, but when they will experience cyberattacks, and the frequency and severity of successful attacks will grow. Capabilities like LLMs powered by AI will make phishing attacks more sophisticated, and decrease IT users ability to identify and avoid falling victim to phishing.  Businesses and individuals will invest more in insurance to protect against the financial impact of cybercrime, and in technology to provide protection.

7. Inflation will stabilize and wages will continue to rise to meet the cost of living. 

The pandemic made it clear that workers who are unable to earn a living wage will not have the motivation to work and participate in traditional industries.  This will drive growth in small and medium business, particularly around service industries and consulting, entrepreneurship and ecommerce.  As we have seen inflation stabilize in many regions in recent months, wages will continue to rise in 2024 to meet the cost of living and retain talent.  This is the 2nd half of the wage-price spiral that started to evolve with supply chain disruptions during the pandemic.

8. Cryptocurrency will start to emerge from the trough of disillusionment created by failures in 2022-2023, and blockchain technology will provide some security of intellectual assets in the age of AI. 

High-profile failures of cryptocurrency in 2022 and 2023 have created a climate of distrust among investors.  In 2024, we will start to see the implementation of regulation in this market grow, to provide some security to investors, but the speculatory nature of cryptocurrency assets will continue to keep this market from being adopted by mainstream investors until proven regulatory measures are in place.  In the world of free content and LLM services created by applications like ChatGPT, the promise of these tools is being widely explored by companies and individuals alike.  In 2024, the creators of these models will begin to seek business models that allow them to monetize the technology, advertising will emerge on public platforms, and corporations will begin to deploy private instances of LLMs to support and monitor employees’ work and collaboration.  Blockchain-enabled approaches will begin to address provenance of content and documents largely ignored by first generation LLMs.