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.”

Photo by fabio on Unsplash


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Banking’s 2021 Outlook: Transformation and Resilience

When the pandemic forced the shutdown of businesses across much of the world, one of the sectors that adapted quickly was finance.

In a detailed forward-looking article, Deloitte applauded banking’s response calling it “notable… Banks effectively deployed technology and demonstrated unprecedented agility and resilience.” Looking ahead, the report says now is the time for the industry to institutionalize what it learned about engaging customers, digital transformation, finance and talent, among others.

While COVID impacted so many areas of the global economy and work, perhaps the most highly visible is in workforce management.

“Banking leaders around the world have faced an array of challenges on the talent front, from shifting to a remote, distributed workforce to finding ways to keep employees engaged and productivity high,” says the report written by two of Deloitte’s most senior leaders in its Banking & Capital Markets practice: Mark Shilling, a vice chairman, and Anna Celbner, vice chairman of Deloitte UK.

A majority of banks adopted flexible schedules and focused on employee safety and well-being. However, the economic fallout also led many to implement layoffs, furloughs and voluntary time off. Further “hard decisions on optimal talent models” may need to be made in 2021, the writers acknowledge.

But as uncertainties continue, “Bank leaders should continue to proactively recognize employee concerns, be sensitive to their personal/family needs, and prioritize physical and psychological health efforts that can also help maintain employee productivity.”

To improve retention and engage workers, especially the many that work, and may continue to work remotely, banks must “transform their talent strategies to enable employees to learn better, faster, and more frequently.”

Teaming needs to change to “facilitate flexible, self-organizing teams that come together for a common purpose,” the authors write. “Boosting productivity, creativity, and collaboration should be the ultimate goals.”

The lengthy report addresses multiple other areas of banking operations, suggesting how the industry can build on the lessons of the last year, as well as proposing ways to manage the uncertainties ahead. Resilience, a recurring theme throughout the article, is the overall message.

Acknowledging that, “Uncertainty about the effects of the pandemic will likely remain for the foreseeable future,” Shilling and Celbner, say “This should not prevent bank leaders from reimagining the future and making bold bets.

“They should institutionalize the lessons from the pandemic and build a new playbook by strengthening resilience now and accelerating the transformation in the post-pandemic world.”

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon


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