The global pandemic has cast a new light on priorities across many different industries.
Suddenly, the most important asset a pub can have is a large open garden. Low wooden beams and small rooms seem dangerous rather than charming and characterful.
Public transport systems that offered efficient mass transit across cities are being shunned by those worried about the inability to keep socially distant, with those who need to travel looking to any form of personal transport by cycle, electric scooter or private car to fill the gap.
In the finance industry, Covid-19 has had an immediate and fundamental effect on the value we attach to the role of accountants.
The team unjustly perceived as the one that told you how the previous quarter had gone are now being more widely appreciated for the insight they provide through financial metrics, and are helping to plot the course to financial survival for many businesses at the highest level.
We’ve all become acutely aware of the power of data throughout the pandemic through detailed statistics on infection rates and their consequences. And this is just as relevant to the health of an organisation.
What is now required more than ever is real-time insight that can help the management team to make the best decisions possible or even data that can suggest what that decision should be, based on all the information available.
This is both an amazing opportunity and a challenge for the finance professionals that we represent.
Our recent report “Analytics in Finance and Accountancy”, which we produced with Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CA ANZ) and NTT DATA, warned that finance teams must leave their comfort zone and champion big data and forward-looking analytics to remain relevant.
Accountants and finance teams have an opportunity to lead their organisations to better business decisions driven by insights from analysis of big data, rather than following the familiar pattern of reporting on past events.
However, our survey of 1,150 accountancy professionals showed many were slow to leave behind traditional reporting of results.
Many accountancy and finance professionals are still using rearward-looking analytics: reporting on past performance and telling their stakeholders what has happened. There has never been a greater need to invest in forward-looking analytics.
Accountancy and finance professionals need to ensure they are developing skills in the appropriate directions, to provide our stakeholders with forward-looking insights.
ACCA and CA ANZ have both updated their qualifications to ensure members and future members can develop the right skills needed to understand and apply the insights data can offer. ACCA has also just launched a cost-effective online course, the Certificate in Data Analytics (CertDA) to provide learners with a strong understanding of data analytics and how it can unlock new opportunities.
The technological revolution has vastly increased the amount of data and information which is available to us. From that data, we can generate insights and support effective decision making.
The Covid-19 pandemic has heightened the need for organisations to be agile and responsive, developing plans to cope with a range of scenarios and opportunities as they evolve.
Finance professionals can now use tools such as predictive analytics, which uses existing data to make statistical models of what is predicted to happen in the future, and prescriptive analytics goes a further step by suggesting a course of action from a set of options.
This may seem like a step into the future, but decisions no longer need to rest solely on the good judgement of the senior leaders. These forward-looking tools can help predict future performance and guide leaders towards the best decision available to them.
Chief financial officers are increasingly acting as enablers of decision making for the whole organisation, based on interpreting the vast amounts of data now available to them.
Analytics can be vital in driving business efficiencies, risk management, planning, budgeting and forecasting.
Our research highlights an industry evolving from handling just financial data towards dealing with a diverse array of financial and non-financial information and data in order to drive the business towards good decisions based on rich, multi-faceted information.
We are not alone in having to move fast to adapt to the new world which technology is advancing, and this has been given extra momentum by the effects of the global pandemic. As the profession rises to the challenge, those in it can play a leading role in keeping business strong and sustainable.
Main image credit: Getty