Anyone in, or preparing to enter, the accounting profession should know the headlines by now: Data analytics is transforming decision making for all types of businesses.

Experts Rosemary M. Amato, CMA, CISA, CPA, former Deloitte Risk Advisory Director and EMEA Controller and currently head of Demand Management at ING Bank in the Netherlands; and Byford Boyd, CISA, Deloitte Advisory Analytics Services, Deloitte & Touche LLP USA, shared their insights on this topic during IMA’s most recent Student Leadership Conference in St. Louis. Visit this link, “Data Analytics: Transforming Data into Decision Making,” to view a copy of their presentation.

Amato and Boyd began their presentation by telling attendees, “In today’s world, the key to growth and success is unlocking the golden nuggets of key business information through the use of data analytics.” Their presentation then defined terms that have garnered attention in recent years: big data, analytics, and visualization.

They discussed the growing need for data visualization, required when “columns of numbers are no longer sufficient. In those cases, we need color, shape, and movement in time and space in order to convey information.” The ultimate purpose of data visualization tools: to put data into the hands of the business user and to bring the analysis closer to the decision makers.

Amato and Boyd also explained the genesis of visualization tools, which were developed primarily in response to information overload. These tools, they said, help to reduce information overload by drawing people’s attention to the most important pieces of data. “The result is that you’re able to see, discover, and explore deeper insights within large, complex data sets.”

Also provided were examples of metrics conveyed in a purely table form and then, examples of the data transformed into more compelling visual stories. They also reviewed the DIKI Pyramid Model, which traces the progression of data, at the base of the pyramid, to information, then to knowledge, and finally, at the pinnacle, to insight.

The last part of the presentation covered why it’s important to understand data and what the primary business purpose of such an endeavor is: “The leading institutions in industry recognize that a better understanding of data (particularly as a predictor of the future or an identifier of existing issues) can create new opportunities and makes a significant difference to managing performance, costs, and risks.” On the flip side, the opposite is also true: Poorly managing reliable data can lead an organization to lose customers, inflate costs, and expose the business to unbounded levels of risk.

Finally, they presented a “blueprint for success,” reminding attendees working with data analytics to:
  • Start somewhere and avoid “analysis paralysis”
  • Plan on multiple versions and phases, because one size does not fit all
  • Begin with the end in mind: Have a vision and a strategy
  • Present the right metrics and data
  • Remember that looks are important: Visual design impacts a dashboard’s effectiveness
  • Assess technology needs
Want more information on the latest “hot topics” in the profession? Come to IMA’s next Student Leadership Conference, which will be held in Charlotte, N.C., November 14-16, 2019. Keep checking the IMA website at for more details as they become available.