As transactional activities move toward automation, I’m seeing that operational data is becoming more and more a focus of the business world. We’ve always wanted operational metrics but now, more than ever, it’s becoming possible to get to them.
We’re all busy so rather than assuming we’re all on the same page of what big data is, here’s my take on it. Big data is throwing everything we know about transactions, processes, and activities into one bowl (often referred to as a data warehouse) and using that data to cull information that is useful for our businesses.
In a practical sense, it comes down to housing our ERP system data, our business budgeting data, and potentially other data sources such payroll data and CRM data in the same location. From the ground up, you’d have a layout where name fields, address lines, each occur only once and have big strings of data related to them. In the real world, it plays out a little differently.
Why should we care?
Unless you’re starting a company from scratch today and have the luxury of storing your data in one place from the start, you’re on the same boat as the rest of us; having data fields named and formatted different ways that all needs to be mapped together to make sense of it.
There are two essential reasons why we want to know about and move toward utilizing big data.
- The first is the obvious, for the metrics it can provide. Being able to easily isolate sales data by state, have the data about how inquiries were made on a product and how many resulted in completed orders can be a powerful thing.
- The second is that we need to ensure that the talent we hire as well as our existing staff, have the knowledge and understanding of how big data applies to us and the many ways it can be utilized to enhance our business tactics.
Big data can help us well before we get to the point of having a fully integrated data warehouse that stores the data from all our various computer applications. Having just a few key like fields can move us forward in providing better analytics to our management teams.
The sales data example tells us about what happened in the past but we can also blend the knowledge we have with our future projections. We all do that on some scale as we integrate our actuals with our budgets and produce our forecast as the years unfold. The ideal is to make the process much easier so that we can spend more time assessing the variances and adjusting our forecasts to reflect our additional knowledge.
Identify and Develop Talent
Last year’s report from the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA), “Building an Accounting and Finance Team to Capitalize on the Promise of Big Data” talks about the technical and soft skills that will help us adopt big data analytics and better prepare our teams for utilizing the information we pull together from various sources.
Promoting and encouraging our current employees to develop additional skills in data mining, statistical modeling, and identifying data trends can capitalize on their industry knowledge while progressing our decision making. When we need to add staff when our businesses grow or through attrition, make sure you adjust your job descriptions to incorporate big data skills to continue the progression toward more thorough metrics to guide our decision making.
Do your current job descriptions include big data skills for your accounting positions? It may be time to update them.
Businesses of every description rely on the Budget Maestro™ family of software solutions by Centage Corporation to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their business budgeting and planning, financial forecasting, financial consolidation and reporting processes. For more information, take a tour of Budget Maestro, contact Centage, or call 800-366-5111 now.