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Accounting's Use of Big Data Will Double This Year

January 21st, 2020

Accountants have always dealt with data, but now their adoption of "Big Data" is set for a break out.

The Institute of Management Accountants says the accounting profession will double its use of big data, exceeding the implementation of other technologies such as data visualization and process automation. The IMA report -- The Impact of Big Data on Finance Now and in the Future -- foresees big data analytics having its greatest, initial impact in performance management. While this includes employee performance, analytics use will involve organizational processes, equipment and the like.

In the IMA survey, 100% of the responding organizations said they were already using big data analytics in performance management. Three-quarters were also sifting through reams of data to help in formulating business strategy.

"The increased emphasis on data provides an opportunity for finance and accounting professionals — who traditionally are proficient at pulling data from a variety of information systems, manipulating that data, and gleaning insights from it — to build on this core competency and assume a business partnering role with others in their organizations," the authors of the study write in the report.

Specifically, the report authors say, "To stay relevant, finance professionals must take advantage of opportunities to create value around Big Data." They identify three areas of focus:

  1. Data governance -- Because of the profession's rigor and discipline in managing confidential data, accountants are well positioned to take a leading role in the security and use of data.
  2. Insights into business trends and operations -- With big data, accountants will "provide analysis to help business functions understand the financial implications of their activities or plans. They can help business functions improve the quality of information that goes into financial decision making."
  3. Risk management -- "Finance professionals can leverage the resource of Big Data to help organizations anticipate or preempt risks—and protect performance... By including diverse sets of data in their calculations, accountants and finance professionals can help better identify and mitigate the risks faced by their organizations."

Before accounting and finance professionals can realize the full value of Big Data, concludes the report, "They will need to develop new skills, including enhanced abilities to organize, structure, and understand data sets; the ability to provide more in-depth, strategic analysis; and the ability to collaborate across the enterprise with other functional teams. Communication and interpersonal and leadership skills will also become even more important for accountants and finance professionals in the new silo-less, Big Data-generating corporate environment."

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