Accounting in the data-driven economy

The business world is changing in front of our eyes, and making use of the constant tide of information that is now available is essential for companies to remain competitive. With this in mind, employers are urgently looking for the personnel that can help them keep up and manage their data. 

Consequently, professionals in accounting jobs should seek to develop the expertise that will allow them to help companies thrive in the data-driven future.

Finance professionals vital for an effective data-driven business

Data analytics allows businesses to create more reliable plans for long term developments, and can improve the effectiveness of daily operations when placed in the hands of the appropriate individuals. The Journal of Accountancy (JoA) says that people have the highest level of confidence in information when it comes from an accountant, and it's the skills of these professionals that can help add clarity and relevance to an otherwise overwhelming set of data.  

"Finance is the key to help unlock the power of business intelligence," said CPA.CITP, CGMA Donny Shimamoto to JoA."The role of the accountant as a purveyor of truth and as an attester to the quality of the information has become increasingly important."

According to Mr Shimamoto, having access to an expanse of data lets accountants take their advisory functions to the next level and form real-world strategies for business development.

"[Accountants] can go beyond traditional cost control and start to evolve the role to be looking at the organisation as a whole and discussing how to best optimise the performance," he said.

Data management skills for accountants

However, a 2015 report from the Institute of Management Accountants found that finance professionals with good IT data analytical skills are hard to find. The survey revealed that there is a talent gap of 28 per cent in data mining and extraction skills, and a 27 per cent gap in data analysis expertise. This is particularly problematic in light of the fact that accountants are now able to operate largely without the support of tech staff, making them all the more valuable to organisations.

"The tools have evolved to become so user-friendly that you don't need IT to help get the information," said Shimamoto. "It's evolved now so finance can do it all on [its] own. That's a huge change within the last decade."

As a result, PricewaterhouseCoopers recommends integrating data analytics and related proficiencies into the accounting curriculum to expand the pool of talent with this skill set. If you're equipped with data management expertise, you are going to be a lot more attractive to data-driven businesses that are hiring an accountant

Alex Harrison