Career spotlight: Analytics in accounting

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Accounting is among the most basic functions of any organization, essential to keeping financial records in order and maintaining regulatory compliance. While accountants have always been vital to keeping everything from small businesses to multinational corporations on track, their role has transformed in recent years thanks to the impact of big data. According to a report from the Institute of Management Accountants and Robert Half, 87 percent of accounting and finance managers consider business analytics skills important to success, and a priority when seeking new employees.

Achieving the full potential for business growth offered by the huge quantities of information companies now collect calls for a broad range of expertise. Companies are on the lookout for professionals who know the practices and risks involved in financial recordkeeping, and are also adept at using advanced analytics techniques and software tools. Earning a masters in business analytics can lead to playing a crucial, expanding role in an accounting and finance firm or corporate department.

How analytics is changing accounting

The capabilities to collect ever-increasing stores of relevant information and draw out meaningful insights through analytics techniques have caused shifts in almost every aspect of the ways organizations operate. These findings have become a major part of how a company understands its place in the market and sets business strategy. The same is true for accounting and finance professionals, who now rely on data mining to discover opportunities and solve problems.

Accountants employ big-data methods in a variety of ways, developing statistical models to guide decision-making and identifying important financial trends. Using predictive analytics algorithms, they can synthesize information from sources like enterprise resource planning and customer relationship management systems to anticipate the changes ahead for the business. Big data makes it possible to assemble integrated reports that lay out how a company is creating value over time.

Analytics offers the means to perform higher-quality audits by examining entire datasets, rather than limited samples, and more reliably identifying potential problems, including fraud. Many accounting firms and departments have explored automating these traditional functions, setting up continuous auditing systems to perform control and risk assessments as well as continuous monitoring systems to check for compliance issues. By implementing this approach, finance and accounting experts are able to identify anomalies early and take action right away.

The business analytics skills in demand today

With the myriad opportunities to put big data to work in accounting, leaders are highly interested in hiring personnel with the necessary skills to optimize those processes. That expertise starts with an understanding of how to use tools for managing, cleaning, analyzing and visualizing quantitative information. Businesses may have specific needs for job applicants with experience in areas like data exploration, maintaining relational and nonrelational databases, or predictive modeling.

Bringing that technical know-how together with an understanding of financial recordkeeping and regulatory compliance makes an individual highly valuable to accounting firms and departments. Big-data experts make the best use of their findings if they can show how particular pieces of information have meaning for larger business goals. Pointing out the connections between analytics findings and immediate obstacles or long-term goals can empower the enterprise as a whole.

Both visualization tools and soft skills are important for getting big-data insights across to stakeholders. As decision-makers become more accustomed to taking their cues from analytics, experts are more likely to be called upon for strategic recommendations. Being able to clearly show how key financial indicators are changing over time and then explain the reasoning behind proposed next steps are now necessary parts of the work of accounting and finance specialists.

An education in bringing big-data insights to finance

In order to capture the growing opportunities in applying analytics to the pressing questions that exist in accounting and finance, professionals must possess an array of knowledge and skills. A business analytics masters program offers an education in using big-data tools and techniques to tackle the problems faced by today’s organizations. Being able to build data models, manage the enterprise’s stores of quantitative information and mine for meaningful patterns makes an analytics professional a great asset.

Accounting has entered the era of big data, and mastering the latest technology and techniques is a path to becoming a leader in this field. Working toward a masters in data analytics at Villanova University equips students with the abilities they need to uncover quantitative insights and perceive how they connect to the organization’s financial objectives. To learn more about how a data-driven education can prepare you for a changing world of business and find out how you can apply, visit the program page.

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