Today, companies have a much better understanding of Big Data and how Big Data technologies can benefit their operation across different areas. In fact, according to our latest survey, in 2019 the number of business areas companies expect to benefit from these technologies has more than doubled from just a year ago. Top of the list is reporting accuracy and insight which jumped to 67% from just 24% last year, followed by process optimisation at 61% and improvements financial data analysis and workforce management, both at 56%.
Reporting accuracy & insight
Businesses rely on data analysis to gain insight, make decisions and even report to regulators. Inaccurate or inconsistent information can have dire consequences for the wider business.
When analytical techniques are applied effectively to Big Data, businesses can gain new insights by interrogating entire data sets, linking data from disparate sources -internal and external, identifying exceptions and outliers, uncovering new associations and patterns and detecting anomalies. These new insights provide opportunities for improvements across the business, from sales and marketing to risk management.
Decision makers however need to understand that insights derived from using Big Data analytical techniques are not infallible. Whereas in more traditional methods of analysis and reporting, data quality and human error have been the cause of spurious outcomes, in Big Data, it is important to have a clear context in order to understand what insight the analysis really gives.
Big Data can be used to help businesses gain a competitive edge by providing insight into what's working within the business and what's not, as well as identifying where to cut costs and where to invest more.
Data analysis, enables companies to examine all stages of a process on a more granular level, understand interdependencies, and decide which improvements may be most beneficial. What’s more, Big Data can also be used to ensure that the end result will be cost-effective overall, by analysing the cost and the financial benefits of applying the change.
Process optimisation more often than not is about change. While analysing and planning for improvements in their processes, companies need to be mindful on how various employees involved with these processes might be impacted and ensure they are part of the solution.
The developments in the information and communication technologies have made large amounts of datasets more accessible and introduced new types of data, such as real-time contents and Big Data which directly affect financial reporting and accounting. For example, revenue recognition in many industries today entails complex billing systems and large volumes of data, like in the airline and telecommunications industries. Traditional accounting information systems cannot handle effectively, accurately or timely the increasing complexity of data.
Besides the proliferation of data and data sources, a key challenge companies face is the increasing complexity of the requirements surrounding financial reporting, especially as many bodies and governments are almost constantly changing the guidelines.
Another significant pressure mechanism comes from external bodies and regulators who often use their own analytics software to uncover irregularities in reported data, which means companies need to have in place the right tools and mechanisms in order to avoid fines.
Big Data Analytics allows finance and accounting departments to link traditional data as found in ERP systems to new sources of data, giving professionals a tool to identify risks earlier on and resolve them before they cause too much damage to the organisation, helping to reduce the cost of errors and omissions.
Workforce analytics is a required business process and an indispensable part of being competitive and profitable, especially within resource intensive sectors like call centres, hotels, retail chains, airlines and more. Big Data can really enhance the role of Human Resources and Recruitment. These are three areas were the impact is more palpable:
Optimum workforce planning. With workforce analytics, companies have visibility in real-time of available resources and utilise them to cover spikes in demand improving overall productivity and performance. Moreover, they can estimate their future workforce needs based on internal and external trends that may affect the labour market but also market demand, identify potential shortfalls or gaps, and plan accordingly its scheduling and recruitment.
Improved Employee Recruitment. Big Data and Artificial Intelligence can help companies make smarter choices when hiring. Analysis of historical data on what a successful employee looks like and even what customers have identified as the most appealing traits in interacting with the various touchpoint of the business, can produce a profile of the ideal employee to use as a basis for future applicants.
Greater Employee Retention. Using Artificial Intelligence to analyse historical data, a company can assess which employees are most likely to leave and take action so it can improve employee retention. It can also identify correlations between various events (like breaks, flexi-working options etc) and performance and improve employee engagement and productivity by leveraging those events that have the most impact.