The data revolution

Introduction

This report draws attention to the radical change in the role of data in relation to the accountancy profession. It touches upon issues of data management, data governance and data lifecycle, and describes key current and future trends for a broad range of data-related activities.

Demand for new data-related skills is already high and is likely to increase even further. Acknowledging the revolutionary nature of changes related to data and understanding the concepts and challenges that working withdata presents are likely to be among the key requirements for finance professionals in the near future.

Foreword

The catchy phrase has been in use since the mid-2000s and is arguably not the best of metaphors, but its key message is still valid. Oil facilitated the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century, and, in a similar way, data has become an essential resource of the digital economy in the 21st century, bringing tremendous benefits to businesses and to society at large. Like oil, data is seldom used in its raw form: it needs to undergo a number of transformations in order to generate value. If not stored and treated with due care and diligence, data too can cause massive problems, as data leaks can be highly toxic and very expensive to contain.

Calling data ‘the new oil’ of the digital economy may have become a cliché, but it still makes sense.

This report by ACCA and IMA suggests that, in order to fully anticipate the future impact of data and its role, the finance profession needs to look beyond the ‘new oil’ metaphor; instead, it should support the business in adopting a data-centric approach to modern information technology. What this means, in short, is that data should be seen not only as a useful commodity (which it undoubtedly is) but also as a factor that is critically important for business strategy, as it directly affects issues such as costs, efficiency and quality of service.

In the near future, data governance and managing data through its full lifecycle should no longer be considered among those boring tasks confined to the depths of the back office. New data-orientated business functions and roles will eventually emerge, and this should present accountants with a very good opportunity, as they are well placed to fulfil some of these functions and roles. For instance, such issues as calculating the true value of data and the monetary impact of data management decisions, as well as monitoring regulatory compliance of various data-related processes, would be well within the remit of finance professionals.

Imtiaz Ibne Sattar
ACCA Accountancy Futures Academy Global Forum