Accounting Firms

Industry must champion big data to ‘remain relevant’, says ACCA

Accountants and finance teams must “lead their organisations to better business decisions” driven by insights from analysis of big data, ACCA has warned. 

According to the association, firms should no longer “follow a familiar pattern of reporting on past events” if they want to remain “relevant”, and instead champion forward-looking analytics.

It comes as a new report from ACCA, Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CA ANZ) and NTT DATA revealed that the technological revolution has “thrown up an unprecedented chance for finance professionals to champion and lead the use of data analysis, broadening their influence”.

The Analytics in Finance and Accountancy report, which surveyed 1,150 accountancy professionals, showed many were slow to leave behind the traditional ways of reporting of results.

Author Clive Webb, head of business management, ACCA, said: “Our survey shows some reluctance to move from looking backwards to looking ahead. 

“Traditional reports are in the comfort zone for most finance teams. But the most progressive and successful finance teams are those that use data to look ahead to remain relevant in organisations.”

The forward-looking tools in question include predictive analytics, which uses existing data to make statistical models of what is predicted to happen in the future, and prescriptive analytics, which suggests a course of action from a set of options.

Utilising these two forward-looking disciplines, organisations can predict future performance and make decisions based on their findings, according to ACCA.

Helen Brand, chief executive of ACCA, said: “Many accountancy and finance professionals are still using rearward-looking analytics: reporting on past performance and telling their stakeholders what has happened. There has never been a greater need to invest in forward-looking analytics.

“Accountancy and finance professionals need to ensure they are developing skills in the appropriate directions, to provide our stakeholders with forward-looking insights.”

Ainslie van Onselen, CEO of CA ANZ said: “The research highlights an industry evolving from handling just financial data towards dealing with a diverse array of financial and non-financial information and data.

“This is enabling organisations to make data-driven decisions more quickly, driving tangible results.” 

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