Management Technology Strategy

Business Analytics for Chartered Professional Accountants

Guest blogger David Elsner on the growing role of data analytics in business

Author: David Elsner

After lecturing in data analytics for over 10 years for more than 5,000 students, I’ve developed a great understanding of what the power of analytics can do. Constant change in tools and technologies makes this one of the most exciting and rewarding fields of business to be in. Every time I teach a class I still get excited about sharing the insights that data analytics can bring to life.

I get excited to see the moment that the lightbulb turns on for one of my students when they realize that the hours they’ve been spending to analyze data can now become minutes. I get excited when an executive tells me that they’ve developed a newfound appreciation for data-generated insights that will guide them to create a more efficient data-driven culture in their organization. And I get excited when a non-analytics business professional uses their newly developed skills to generate a visual analysis with insightful findings that they hadn’t thought possible.

After teaching analytics-based workshops at CPA Ontario, I’m often asked by business professionals who work with data how they can develop broader analytic capabilities so they can make faster and smarter business decisions and better understand data-based decision-making to monitor, measure and manage performance.

While big data is still in its early beginnings, technology advances are starting to catch up to fulfil the promise of what analysts, statisticians and business leaders have wanted for years. The use of advanced analytics is intensifying and will very soon become the new normal for businesses.

The growing role of data analytics

Advanced analytics is helping organizations harness their data and use it to identify new opportunities. This is helping them to make smarter business decisions, create more efficient operations, and generate higher profits. Businesses are using analytics to uncover insights and trends and produce a world of new opportunities.

According to a report by The Economist Intelligence Unit, executives dramatically increase their chances of success when they incorporate facts and data into the decision-making process. Global companies experienced a 26 per cent improvement in their performance over the last three years when advanced analytics were applied to the decision-making process. Data-savvy executives are forecasting a 41 per cent improvement over the next three years. 

Any future-facing business will need to become skilled at collecting, processing and analyzing data if they want to survive the next decade. It will be a given that every business professional will have to cope with and use various data assets and tools to augment the data they work with internally. 

For these reasons, I encourage all business professionals, from recent graduates to senior executives, to seek out professional business analytics training so you can develop broader analytic capabilities to make faster and smarter business decisions to monitor, measure and manage performance. 

The importance of training

As a Chartered Professional Accountant, your job likely involves analyzing, summarizing and reporting data. And whether you work for a large or small organization, you most likely use Microsoft Excel. Your role might also involve building models to help reduce costs, increase profits or better manage operations.

Professional training will teach you how to use Microsoft Excel more competently to analyze data, create models and generate insights. More advanced training, such as using the R programming language, will further train you in extending your skills to industry strength analytics.

No matter who provides your training, ensure that the classes provide a combination of interactive discussion, case studies and lecture formats that focus on the use of Excel for analytics. Training should be hands-on, with participants working alongside knowledgeable instructors, learning within the context of real-world, practical examples.

With the right training, you can build your analytical capabilities, learn techniques to solve any business problem in any industry, and gain the confidence in data to impress top companies and executives.

David Elsner is president of DHE Consulting, a boutique training, consulting, and solution building firm that provides analytical training to business professionals, consulting services to small and large organizations, and builds customized visual tools to enable data-driven decisions.

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