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ACCA/IMA Report Reveals Big Data Opportunities; Challenges Include Legal and Ethical Pitfalls

December 02, 2013

Marc Gerrone
IMA
(201) 474-1502
mgerrone@imanet.org

Ryan Bartholomew
Stern + Associates
(908) 276-4344, x-221
ryan@sternassociates.com

New York, N.Y. and Montvale, N.J., December 2, 2013 – It is clear the business world will be greatly impacted by big data, but accountants and finance professionals are still faced with the question: “How will big data impact business over the next five to 10 years, and what opportunities and challenges will it create?” A new survey released today by ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) and IMA® (the Institute of Management Accountants) addresses this forward-thinking question and the big data trends likely to affect global business. Follow this link to access the report: http://www.accaglobal.com/content/dam/acca/global/PDF-technical/futures/pol-afa-bdpap.pdf.

Big data: its power and perils” reveals the potential benefits, as well as the possible legal and ethical pitfalls, of harnessing this wealth of unstructured information for businesses of all sizes, governments and regulators. ACCA and IMA compiled the research through a combination of published literature on big data, roundtable discussions with leading finance professionals and interviews with big data experts.

In a separate survey conducted by ACCA and IMA, 62 percent of respondents in the U.S. and around the world cited big data as hugely important to the future of business, potentially giving businesses an edge over their competitors. As the volume and variety of data available is increasing at an intense rate, the ability to organize, make sense and analyze data is at the core of substantial investments corporations are making. This means big data can offer professionals the possibility of reinvention – the chance to take a more strategic, “future-facing” role in their organizations.

“Big data represents one of the biggest opportunities the finance profession has seen in recent times,” says Faye Chua, ACCA head of future research. “Using their analytical skills, finance professionals will be able to provide senior management with real-time updates on a wider set of variables, which will place them at the heart of business strategy.”

It is not just the private sector where big data will prove invaluable. Big data will also make it easier for auditors and regulators to spot large-scale fraud. Authorities are already using it in their investigations, and ethical stewardship of data is becoming increasingly essential.

“While big data may provide huge opportunities for businesses, we must also bear in mind that privacy is high on the agenda of governments and individuals,” says Raef Lawson, Ph.D., CMA, CPA, IMA vice president of research.  “We’ve seen high-profile protests about the amount of data that organizations are holding, and, in some cases, selling. It is vital that finance professionals steer their organizations carefully through this ethical and legal minefield.”

Lawson continues, “In order to use big data we will need to see a shift away from working in silos towards more cross- departmental cooperation. Data and more importantly, the results of data analysis, must be shared for the company to make informed, evidence-based decisions and equally to manage future risks.”

Sandra B. Richtermeyer, Ph.D., CMA, CPA, professor and chair of accountancy at Xavier University and former IMA Chair said: “Profits or cash flows can be linked with investments in initiatives that may be regarded as using big data. Time and resources spent generating big data capabilities may be appropriately capitalized and valued similarly to customer software or other custom technology.”

The report acknowledges that accountants are neither software engineers nor data scientists, but they could be in the future. The report suggests three imperatives for professionals in the next 10 years, including:

          1.    Developing new metrics,
          2.    Learning new analytical skills, and
          3.    Creating a visual language of data “art.”

These opportunities will bring a change in focus for many finance professionals and may offset the risk that the finance function will be downgraded as smart tools and technologies commoditize its skills. As such, the roles of the chief financial officer, chief technology officer and chief information officer will adapt to provide the strategic insights needed to bring significant net value.

This and other ACCA and IMA reports are available through the ACCA and IMA joint website, roleofcfo.com, a resource for current and aspiring finance leaders.

About ACCA
ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) is the global body for professional accountants with 162,000 members and 428,000 students in 170 countries worldwide. We aim to offer business-relevant, first-choice qualifications to people of application, ability and ambition around the world who seek a rewarding career in accountancy, finance and management.

We work through a network of 89 offices and centers and more than 8,400 Approved Employers worldwide, who provide high standards of employee learning and development.
www.accaglobal.com

About IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants)
IMA®, the association of accountants and financial professionals in business, is one of the largest and most respected associations focused exclusively on advancing the management accounting profession. Globally, IMA supports the profession through research, the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) program, continuing education, networking and advocacy of the highest ethical business practices.

IMA has a global network of more than 65,000 members in 120 countries and 300 professional and student chapter communities. IMA provides localized services through its offices in Montvale, N.J., USA; Zurich, Switzerland; Dubai, UAE; and Beijing, China. For more information about IMA, please visit www.imanet.org


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