Data. Analytics. These two words are easy to read but professional accountants will understand the significance of integrating data and analytics into a business to achieve real-time insights to support business operations and strategic decisions.
Titled “Data & Analytics”, this second virtual session in the new Mini Conference Series, led by the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) team in collaboration with Alteryx, was live-streamed from ISCA House to a great turnout of more than 700 delegates on May 11. The attendees benefitted from the sharing by industry experts as they received updates on the latest trends in data and analytics. This would in turn help them drive digital transformation in their own organisations and discover new forms of value creation.
KEYNOTE PRESENTATION: THE ROLE OF DEMOCRATISING ANALYTICS IN DATA MODERNISATION
In his keynote presentation, Philip Madgwick, Regional Director of ASEAN and Greater China, Alteryx, pointed out that previously, analytics was performed solely by data scientists as a unique function within a company. However, analytics is becoming democratised with digital transformation as various business units have created the analyst function within their own departments, for more timely analysis to optimise data-driven insights.
According to the International Institute of Analytics, the average companies today are in stage 2: Localised Analytics, of the Stages of Analytic Maturity (Figure 1), and likely using the Excel spreadsheet for visualisation as part of their data analytics journey. They might not have started embracing other tools and technologies to move up the maturity curve. A Forbes survey revealed that many companies are investing significantly in data transformation and big technologies such as big data, artificial intelligence and robotic process automation, but only 24% of companies report being data-driven as the results are too slow, and the data scientist teams are consumed by low-level tasks presented by the business units (Figure 2).
With the growing divide between people and technology, and limited resources, Mr Madgwick advised the steps that companies who were effective in their digital transformation typically took (Figure 3):
- Leverage data scientist teams: Give them critical, high-value and complex projects which require urgent attention to tap on their capability in data analytics.
- Upscale knowledge workers: Give them appropriate platforms to drive the incremental opportunities and projects; provide access to the data scientists when they want to go deeper. The knowledge workers would have performed the mundane data analytics tasks, so the data scientists can focus on the more complex areas.
Mr Madgwick then presented the four steps that companies can incorporate in their data strategies to maximise their returns and accelerate digital transformation:
- Make analytics easy: Make the same platform available to everyone.
- Cover everything: Enable employees to upscale and leverage the tools in the same platform, to drive the answers they are looking for.
- Be everywhere: Connect the platform to data warehouses and cloud servers so that knowledge workers have access to the data.
- Enable everyone: The most important “e” is everyone. Address the needs of individual knowledge workers who have spent much time on the Excel spreadsheets or are wary of analytics, by helping them move to new tools.
Delegates were urged to explore the framework of COE2 (Figure 4), comprising Center of Excellence (representing data scientists) and Center of Enablement (representing knowledge workers), and merge these two functions to drive a data analytics strategy.
The insightful session encouraged delegates to think deeper about the motivations and best practices for building the right analytics culture, and identify why it is critical to overcome data silos and leverage the right tools and knowledge to simplify analytics.
TRANSFORMATION IN THE OFFICE OF FINANCE
In response to the challenges and priorities arising from market risks, changing business circumstances and the need for more finance agility, the office of finance has experienced changes, said Subho Banerjee, then-Solution Engineering Leader APJ, Alteryx, as he presented on the recent trends in digital transformation. Mr Banerjee, who has since left the company, continued with meaningful examples (Figure 5) to illustrate how analytics, data science and process automation could enhance productivity and cost savings in human efforts for key processes in the Office of Finance, chiefly, in FP&A (financial planning and analysis), tax and audit.
Applying an Alteryx tool on use cases comprising manufacturing and telecom companies, Mr Banerjee demonstrated how the tool can churn data and provide insights through visualisations to support various purposes (Figure 6); these include reconciliation of assets and liabilities, audit of purchase orders, cashflow forecasting and revenue analysis for reporting to the Board.
FIRESIDE CHAT: PIVOTING YOUR BUSINESS: HOW CFOS CAN LEVERAGE DATA AND ANALYTICS TO LEAD THEIR ORGANISATIONS TO GREATER HEIGHTS
The highlight of the Mini Conference was a fireside chat moderated by Suganthi Shivkumar, Vice President of Asia, Alteryx, and featuring Mark Jansen, Partner of PwC Singapore, and Dawn Duong, Senior Director of Alvarez & Marsal. They exchanged practical views and experiences on how CFOs could leverage data and analytics to lead their organisations to greater heights. The delegates peppered the panel with pertinent questions such as where to source for analytics use cases for finance, how an SME could kickstart its data analytics journey, and how to balance between the high costs of data transformation and the Board’s expectations.
(From left) Moderator Suganthi Shivkumar, Vice President of Asia, Alteryx, with Dawn Duong, Senior Director of Alvarez & Marsal, and Mark Jansen, Partner of PwC Singapore
One of the key messages for delegates is that real-time data and insights is the way forward. Businesses that fail to transform may fail to exist, and large-scale capability building is certainly possible in the digital age we live in. It is therefore critical for organisations to upskill their finance teams to leverage the opportunities that data analytics brings.