It's all about the data, you know!

By Tarisai Masamvu

For the finance professional who is curious about the world of big data, our latest CGMA report is just what you are looking for. Data has become the new buzzword in business and has been described as a strategic “core asset”, with the potential to change business models and create new products and services. 

In 2011, it was estimated that Walmart alone was collecting about 2.5 pentabytes (that is 1000 x 1000 gigabytes) of data from its customer transactions each day. Through the use of predictive analytics, fellow retailers, like Target and Tesco (with its Clubcard programme) have led the way in being able to mine these masses of data and predict personal shopping habits with surprising accuracy.  Alongside growing volumes of enterprise data, social media and internet services have added to this exponential growth of data - a phenomenon now called “Big Data”. Data is big in terms of

 -          volume (we no longer talk about gigabytes, but pentabytes),

-          velocity (data processing speeds are faster than ever before) and

-          variety (data is not just text and numbers anymore, its pictures and voice/video recordings too).

 In our new CGMA report “From Insight to Impact - Unlocking opportunities for big data", we tackle this complex issue of Big Data from the perspective of the management accountant. Based on a survey of over 2,000 CGMAs and extensive desk research, the report brings to light how these developments in data technologies are impacting business and how these issues are relevant to finance professionals.

Through case studies and interviews with finance professionals at Shell, Sony, British American Tobacco and Google to name a few, the report focuses on how management accountants have a key role in deriving meaningful commercial insights from  data-focused initiatives. We do not, however, claim that the management accountant should be moving into the data scientist’s space - this is not where the focus of the management accountant should be. The management accountant should remain focused on being a more proactive partner to the business and gain a better understanding on how these data initiatives could impact on business models and their underlying metrics.

Big data is here and the management accountant needs to be ready to embrace the change, become more curious, and develop new ways of thinking to drive business forward.