All Change > Predictions for 2024

2023 has seen more change than anyone could have predicted – but amongst all that tumult, a few trends have become clear. These trends tell about some of what we can expect from 2024: more technology, more turmoil – and an enhanced sense of the value of truth.

CFOs, here are my top trends for 2024:

AI, AI Everywhere

Although it may appear as though AI chatbots like ChatGPT, Bard and Copilot have made their way into everything – producing a mixture of excitement and exasperation in their wake – the AI-led transformation of business can’t be said to have fairly begun. Developments came so thick and fast in 2023 that no one had any time to integrate any of the new AI capabilities shoehorned into so many of the tools that support an enterprise. Microsoft pivoted to Copilot ‘all the things’, but providing a capability and harnessing that capability are two entirely separate tasks. We’ve got a lot of capacity, but we have very little support. That begins to change in 2024.

In this coming year, CFOs will have the opportunity to explore a first generation of tools that will help them harness AI for some basic tasks; summarising and extracting data from financial reports; preparation of ‘boilerplate’ financial statements; and the automated monitoring of investments. All of that barely scratches the surface of what’s possible with AI, yet even that will result in a generous improvement in productivity. Will you need less staff in 2024 – or will you want your staff to be doing more with their new tools?

Deepfakes and Fake news

AI is getting very good at generating synthetic versions of us, duplicating the style and tone of our written communications, the cadence of our speech, even the visible tics we make when in front of a camera – all the things that people use to identify us. Now that each of us can be so effectively ‘deepfaked’, CFOs need to have a deep think about how to secure sensitive processes against those sorts of representations.

An email can be ignored as ‘phishing’; a phone call that sounds like the CEO screaming an order down the line cannot be dismissed so easily. How do we add the equivalent of ‘dual-factor authentication’ to our real-world real-time communications so we can avoid being fooled – and defrauded – by these new tools?

There’s another and broader concern that grows from the widespread adoption of AI: industrial-scale generation of ‘fake’ news. Sometimes the goal of fake news is to make us believe something that isn’t true, but more often, the goal is simply to make us distrust any news. If we can’t discern truth from falsehood, how can we make any decisions at all?

With national elections coming up in Taiwan in January, India in April and May, and the United States in November of 2024, we can expect the disinformation taps will be wide open – aiming to confuse voters and weaken those nations. CFOs will need to check their facts carefully in 2024, and – wherever possible – avoid acting from raw emotion.

The Rising Cost of Cybercrime

Year-on-year, the number and severity of cybercrime attacks increased more than 20% in 2023. Much of that can be traced to poor security practices leaving organisations vulnerable to infiltration and attack. CFOs need to make sure they work closely with CSOs and CISOs, to ensure that security is a core economic priority of their organisation, and to reassure themselves that their arm of the organisation is as secure as possible.

Software has to be updated to the latest releases, and all devices with corporate network access need to have strict security controls. In addition, staff need to have continuous training on how to detect and avoid the latest ‘phishing’ and social hacks. Security can never be a one-and-done; it’s a process.

Fortunately, we’ll see some real improvements to security in 2024. The password will finally begin to give way to the ‘passkey’, using a mix of access control, biometrics and authorised devices to dramatically decrease the chance of an infiltration.

AI-powered tools will work behind-the-scenes to detect and isolate intruders. Formal coordination at national and international levels about emerging cyberthreats will greatly help organisations prepare for and counter wide-scale attacks. The Internet will remain a potentially hostile environment, but CFOs won’t be defenseless.

The Quality of Truth

A world chockers with deepfakes, phishing, fake news and stealthy cyberattacks places a premium on the value of truth. As a result, 2024 will see a tectonic shift, as we decide that it’s worth paying for the truth. Nothing is entirely new about that – the first newspapers earned their subscription revenues from entrepreneurs who wanted factual accounts of the latest political or business happenings. Those sorts of old-fashioned, ‘slow’ truths are a poor fit to the needs of a hyperconnected 2024. We’ll need something much more real-time, something that’s fast, transparent, and auditable. We’ll want to know the truth, and want to know why we should trust that truth.

Automation and AI don’t increase trust; instead we’ll see the rise of a ‘human chain’ of data gathering and sense-making, something like a newspaper or a news channel – yet not really like either of them as we’ve ever known them. This ‘news trust’ builds its entire reputation on trustworthiness, and is therefore careful, cautious, even a bit conservative, stating only what it knows it can prove to be true. That sounds like a loss for those of us used to an information-rich age. But trust isn’t about quantity of information, it’s about the quality of that information. Quality can’t be faked or hurried – and it can’t be automated. That makes it expensive – and worth every dollar.

Final thoughts

The world of 2024 is going to push us to move faster; to keep pace with every development in AI, every news flash, every emerging threat. Yet a stampeding herd has no sense of direction. It’s all just emotion, that often ends in disaster. To succeed in a world where we’ll all be pulled in every direction, take the time to pause, locating and acting from the truth. In a time that will feel like chaos, look to the steady, stable lights.