Date posted: 14/11/2022

CAs well-placed to ‘cut through noise’ to drive businesses' data culture

Finance professionals need to expand data analytics skills and knowledge to capitalise on rapidly growing data opportunities

In brief

  • Demand for people with a data analytics skillset is predicted to increase up to 1,800% in the next five years.
  • Finance professionals are well-suited to advise businesses on data use and help build a data culture.
  • A new suite of micro courses assists financial professionals deepen their knowledge in data analytics.

Advanced use of big data is opening up a world of opportunity. Organisations globally are tapping into big data sets, developing algorithms and gaining valuable insights that would have been impossible before.

Take just one example: some mortgage brokers now use predictive analytics to alert them to which clients are most likely to switch to another provider. The data includes an array of factors from demographics to customer behaviour. They can then use personalised emails with offers or incentives which halves their customer churn rate, gaining significant financial advantage over the life of a loan.

Data is everywhere and easily gathered: the challenge is making sense of it. For accountants and finance professionals, a sound understanding of data analytics is an increasingly necessary skill set as business leaders search for opportunities to gain competitive advantage. 

“We bring our experience to the fore because we know business,” said Talis Evans CA, Digital and Improvement executive at BDO. “We know data. We know how data can be structured, and we know the sorts of things that can ultimately drive success. And so that's a very powerful combination.” 

Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand — recognising that data analytics is a rapidly evolving practice with its own lexicon, processes, technological and organisational challenges — has introduced a new suite of four micro courses to assist people deepen their knowledge.

The courses are suited to those who may already not have much exposure to data analytics. The content covers preparing data for analysis, techniques and telling stories with data. 

Cut through the noise 

At a recent webinar hosted by CA ANZ, experts discussed why CAs are well-suited to advise businesses on the use of data and help build a data culture. They can “cut through the noise” and transform data to enable decisions that can be trusted, using well-honed client communication skills, Evans said. 

The importance of people skills was echoed by Priyanka Roy, a data and AI specialist at Microsoft in New Zealand. “You need to have good relationship management skills because people need to believe in you. People need to understand you and relate to you and be part of the cause you are trying to change within an organisation - these are important for a data-driven leader.” 

Paul Hodge, a data business storyteller and analyst, said data visualisation tools are the ideal way for accountants to ensure clients get the most value from their data and establish credibility and trust.

“These tools bring data into an environment where it can foster a decision, so that people can think about the insights and the focus, whether it’s forecasting or anomalies or narratives. Integrating this into an experience helps drive an outcome and build confidence.” 

It gives you a massive benefit if you already understand how to think about data, develop insights and find those solutions.” 
Stewart Munro CA, Assistant Secretary Corporate and Financial Services at the Australian Department of Health.

Accountants will get left behind if they don’t have data analytics knowledge as the desire for people with in-demand digital, data analytics and data science skillsets are predicted to increase by circa 700-1,800% in the next five years, according to Stewart Munro CA, Assistant Secretary Corporate and Financial Services at the Australian Department of Health. 

“It’s not really optional — it’s an expectation that as you become a more senior business adviser you can interface with these types of data sets,” he said. “It gives you a massive benefit if you already understand how to think about data, develop insights and find those solutions.” 

CA ANZ members and non-members can enrol in the new micro courses. Taking four to six hours to complete, they are offered online and involve two virtual interactive workshops. 

Capped at 25 people, workshop participants will learn from experts and interact with their peers. Courses include a mixture of readings, videos, real-life case studies and practical examples.

The main outcomes are for participants to learn how to critically evaluate whether data is suitable, use Power BI to analyse data, understand privacy issues, learn about different data strategies and be able to develop actionable insights from analysing data and communicating effectively.

Analysing data for business insights | Micro course

Learn how to identify, analyse, solve and communicate business problems using data analysis techniques and modern business intelligence tools.

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