Accounting has traditionally held a more retrospective approach. The accountant generally fits into the role of a steward in organisations, ensuring that everything checks out, dealing with financial irregularities, and seeing to it that compliance standards and regulations are being adhered to.
But in the age of Big Data, the profession has the potential to grow into something more and take on the role of analysis, fostering a more strategic involvement in the affairs of a company.
Executives are increasingly coming to terms with the amounts of data available to them and its usefulness, but at the same time are also finding it hard to parse out the relevant bits and apply them meaningfully.
Accountants are perfect to fill this gap in availability and usability. When it comes to analysing information and its veracity, no other department is trusted more and so in dealing with Big Data too there can be no better purveyor than the accountant. Understanding and responding to this is crucial for the accountants of the future, as it will not only help them not get outdated, but also enable them to rise to greater professional heights.
To turn Big Data into an advantage, accounting firms and professionals should ensure the following:
- Develop tools and services for the valuation of data and/or become proficient in analysis tools available
- Offer differentiated and tailored decision making assistance using trends and information gleaned from Big Data
- Use it to conduct risk and rewards analyses on investments in new products and untested markets
An example of how Big Data can serve company interests:
The financial department of Trax, a firm that provides a mobile app that collects information of products at retail stores using image recognition, was able to use data analytics to identify the peak and trough times of user activity on their website and used it to align the workloads of their staff so as to reduce spending and headcount costs.
The above just represents one of a multitude of avenues where accounting and the financial sector can influence decisions for the better when armed with greater data analysis.
Already, consensus is building on its benefits. In a survey conducted by the ACCA and the IMA, nearly 91 percent of Australian respondents stated big data to be influential.
There’s no turning away from Big Data, then. Accountants and firms that wish to be successful and grow should take seriously the prospect of integrating it into their work practices. And for those in the industry who have significant expertise in data analytics or are training for the same, they can expect brighter employment prospects as the sector comes to terms with adapting to latest developments in technology.
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