Become the Gatekeepers of Big Data

More financial professionals working in business are using Big Data in their decision-making process. And the explosion of data generated each day plays a huge role in how management accountants perform their day-to-day duties. Although there are many positive aspects of integrating new technology into our companies and using analytics to interpret data, there are also drawbacks. Here’s a breakdown of Big Data and how management accountants can become the gatekeepers of this information.

What Is Big Data?girl on phone - connect to customers
In 2013, IMA® and ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) published a report titled “Big Data: Its Power and Perils,” which defines Big Data as “the vast amount of data continually collected through devices and technologies such as credit cards and customer loyalty cards, the Internet and social media and, increasingly, Wi-Fi sensors, and electronic tags.” Big Data can help improve company performance and productivity to increase company revenue and stakeholder trust. Management accountants use Big Data to identify risks in real time and to make valuable business decisions.

What Are the Trends?
Big Data is changing the landscape of business. Companies are going from using predictive analytics to prescriptive analytics – they’re collecting data from their customers’ cell phones and other mobile devices to analyze customer profitability. This allows companies to cross-sell and up-sell their products. Management accountants are charged with analyzing this data and distilling it into bite-sized chunks so that management, who might not be familiar with the analytics, can find it easier to digest. As gatekeepers of this information, the management accountant’s role will become increasingly important.

What Are Some of the Risks?
As the amount of data grows, so does the risk for hackers to steal information and other actors to commit fraud. Although more data might make it easier to make decisions, it also requires an increase in both physical and digital internal controls. Securing your physical data warehouse and controlling who has access to it will help deter wrongdoing. And because hackers are everywhere, cybersecurity should be top of mind for every company – large or small. As a result, improved tools and techniques are being developed daily.

In addition, not knowing how to analyze so much data can lead to erroneous conclusions and decisions. There’s also an opportunity cost of gathering, storing, and analyzing bigger data instead of making other core investments. In other words, picking the wrong tools and hiring the wrong people to use them will increase the likelihood of misallocation of resources.

What Are the Rewards?
On the flip side, there are many opportunities for company growth and market expansion because of Big Data. Like I mentioned previously, companies can harness a new market by emerging in the mobile market. Mobile devices can be accessed through Wi-Fi (or if the customer downloads the company’s app – another opportunity for expansion), which makes it easier to connect to your customers and advertise new products. In turn this improves analytics, and thus, you can learn how to better serve your customers, increase revenue, and develop targeted services to niche markets.

How Can We Protect Company Data?
When using Big Data, companies should always consider a data governance strategy, which will help mitigate risk. The strategy should cover the availability, usability, or utility of information and the integrity, quality, and security of information. Management accountants play a large role in protecting company information, systems, data centers, and more through effective controls and monitoring. After all, you are the gatekeepers of Big Data.

To become part of the conversation, visit the Technology Solutions & Practices (TS&P) Committee on LinkUp IMA: http://bit.ly/1SrwFHe.

Written by Linda Devonish-Mills, CMA, CPA, CAE

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Women in Leadership: Power Your Way to the Top

There was a lot of excitement at the IMA® Annual Conference & Expo this year: the breath-taking city, the record-breaking numbers of CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) certificates awarded during the year, and the passionate winners of IMA’s various awards. I want to take this time to spotlight the winners of the Distinguished Member Award, which recognizes IMA members whose successes, exceptional achievements, dedication, and professionalism bring honor to IMA and the profession. This year, two inspiring women received the honor:

fatemaFatema El-Wakeel, CMA, MBA, is the bought-out engine strategy and capacity planner at Jaguar Land Rover in the United Kingdom. She has held many complex leadership roles while working in strategic planning, change management, and financial management in different industries across the EMEA region. She has been promoting IMA and the CMA program in Egypt, the U.K., and Ireland and has helped IMA and the CMA become internationally recognized. While she lived in Egypt, Fatema founded the IMA Cairo Chapter. Then she moved to the U.K. to continue her education. She recently graduated from Manchester University with an MBA. Within the past few years, Fatema has worked to connect the U.K. and Ireland to the CMA program and is currently working to establish an IMA chapter in the U.K. In addition, Fatema’s picture is featured in the lobby of IMA Headquarters in Montvale, N.J., welcoming everyone into the building with her warm smile.

NiwNjAzBLeslie F. Seidman, CPA, is the executive director of the Center for Excellence in Financial Reporting at the Lubin School of Business at Pace University. She also is a director at Moody’s Corporation, a governor of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), and is the immediate past chair of the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB). In keeping with IMA’s Mission and Core Values, Leslie supports female accounting professionals “so that they can reach their full career potential.” Most recently, Leslie launched the Women’s Accounting Leadership Series (WALS), which are events cosponsored by IMA and Pace University. This innovative forum focuses on both business acumen and career development, to help more women advance in the profession.

Blazing the Path
IMA and Pace University cosponsor the WALS events, which gather female accounting and finance leaders at all levels of their career to explore trends and topics important to the profession. Speakers at these events have included Leslie Seidman; Dr. Sandra Richtermeyer, former Chair of IMA’s Global Board of Directors and associate dean at Xavier University; and Kristin Bauer, partner at Deloitte LLP and former FASB Fellow.

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From left to right: Dr. Sandra Richtermeyer, former Chair of IMA’s Global Board of Directors and associate dean at Xavier University; Kristin Bauer, partner at Deloitte LLP and former FASB Fellow; and Leslie Seidman, executive director of the Center for Excellence in Financial Reporting at the Lubin School of Business at Pace University.

When Leslie first discussed with me the idea of a women’s accounting leadership forum to network, grow, and learn (and to address real-world issues like the low proportion of females in senior accounting leadership positions), I too became passionate about the idea and asked Sandra if she would be interested in working with Leslie. The answer was a resounding, “Are you kidding, of course!” And now we have conducted two sessions with strong attendance and engagement. The WALS events have turned into an interactive forum for women to discuss and educate each other on both technical and leadership skills. It’s important that IMA support this platform as a conversation for career issues, current business issues, and more.

The next event will be held October 9, 2015, at PACE University in New York City. Sandra and Leslie will be joined by Sue Cosper, chairman of the Emerging Issues Task Force and technical director of the FASB. Sandra and Leslie plan to hold these events twice per year.

Written by Jeff Thomson, CMA, CAE
Follow me on Twitter @ima_JeffThomson

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