It’s no secret accounting technology is revolutionizing the business world with the strategic insights and improved risk management it provides.
The problem with revolutions, though, is that they move quickly, and heads may be on the figurative chopping block if accounting and finance executives don’t keep up with the changes — and challenges — of big data.
One big challenge is the competition for big data experts. A Robert Half report, Building an Accounting and Finance Team to Capitalize on the Promise of Big Data, includes comments from financial executives and managers about the hard skills needed for their companies to thrive.
The report identifies a definite talent gap between “factors important for success” and “the skills possessed by your team” in the following areas:
- Identifying key data trends
- Data mining and extraction
- Operational analysis
- Statistical modeling and data analysis
- Technological acumen
Although the concept of big data has been around for as long as we’ve had the ability to gather large amounts of information, businesses have only recently had the tools and computing power to glean useful knowledge from enormous, complex data sets. And because this advantage is so new, the supply of financial professionals with the technical expertise to manage big data processes has not kept up with demand.
Here are four ways your company can close the talent gap when it comes to accounting technology skills:
1. Refine college recruitment
Most college accounting programs today teach data analytics and big data skills. The problem, though, is that educational institutions are also playing catch-up with emerging technology. Consider contacting universities to find out exactly what their accounting departments are teaching before you target their seniors and recent graduates.
2. Provide access to data-related education
College recruitment is a key approach to getting the talent you need, but it can’t do it all. Big data training for existing staff is an excellent investment for employees and employers. Groups like Microsoft Virtual Academy and Coursera offer online classes on big data, including how to organize, analyze and interpret it using a variety of programming frameworks.
There’s not yet a standard certification just for this emerging field, but Certified Analytics Professional offers the CAP credential for related skills, such as how to frame problems, extract data and build models. Also, several universities offer a master’s degree in information and data science. Designed for working professionals, these are online programs with an on-campus immersion component.
3. Arrange accounting technology training internally
Your company’s IT department is likely already familiar with the tools and infrastructure needed to extract meaningful information from big data. However, tech specialists don’t have the financial or modeling acumen to identify meaningful trends. The IT team can help by offering your existing staff cross-training, showing them how to store, manage, access and use data.
4. Attend industry events
Several groups hold conferences and summits that focus on accounting technology and big data. Because so many fields want to understand and harness the power of big data applications, industry events run the gamut from marketing and finance to geoscience and biomedicine. While online courses and programs are valuable, there is nothing like sitting in on live presentations, asking questions of industry experts and networking with likeminded professionals.
Here are some of the top events in the field of big data:
- eMetrics Summit — marketing analytics
- Data Summit — for IT and business professionals
- Predictive Analytics World — separate conferences focusing on business, financial, healthcare or government
- Big Data Innovation Summit — cross-industry
- IEEE International Conference on Big Data — research-focused event in the fields of engineering, physical and social science, and computer science, with a separate industrial track
Big data is ubiquitous, but the revolution is still in its infancy. Organizations have suddenly shifted from a state of data scarcity to data abundance, and most people are still trying to work out how to exploit analytics to give them a competitive edge. So now is a great time to invest in the accounting technology and people to make sense of this flood of information. If you need help with that, just let us know.