Accounting

The CPA’s Role in Business Intelligence

Nov 19, 2013 | By Chris Sluty

Business Intelligence: Cutting through the Clutter in Information Overload

Organizations typically turn to their CPAs for help in cutting through information overload to arrive at the data they need for decision making. Forward thinking practices are adopting cloud-based platforms to increase collaboration within their organization and to reinforce the CPA’s role as “trusted business advisers”. Successful business intelligence initiatives need a broad business perspective, high discipline and robust analytical skills, all of that which CPA’s exemplify. By beginning small and incrementing on success, one can empower their organization with strong decision-making tools throughout the organization.

What opportunities are your company—or your client’s companies—losing due to information overload? Turning raw data into useable information is critical for businesses, and that’s where business intelligence tools come into play. No matter what size a business is, it collects and analyzes information from a variety of perspectives. That means there is no single definition or understanding of what the data means and what impact it might have. It can also be difficult to identify inaccuracies in vast amounts of data or to turn data into useful information on which you can base business decisions. This is particularly important for accounting BPOs managing many different companies and working with a lot of data.

A properly managed business intelligence program will essentially change the manner an organization analyzes and makes selections about its future. Business intelligence is an enterprise-level program targeted on the analysis, distribution and discourse use of data for higher cognitive process and performance improvement. Business intelligence supports activities from the strategic level right down to the operational level. Once pervasive in a company, business intelligence will drive the transformation of business processes from mundane and isolated to information-rich and integrated. Unfortunately, in searching for solutions, organizations may find that some business intelligence processes raise as many questions as they answer, leaving users struggling to make sense of it all. To arrive at actionable information, organizations are best served by using these tools:

  • Enhanced data integration and management, which retrieves data from the silos and offers a big-picture view that can be used in collaborative decision making;
  • Dashboards, which are specifically customized to offer visual summaries of key data and provide drill-down access to greater detail;
  • Scorecards, which draw on industry data to enable you to benchmark and measure your own performance on an ongoing basis;
  • Analytics, which create scalable reports highlighting both summary insights and comprehensive details;
  • Performance management solutions that deliver high-level analytics; and
  • Knowledge management systems that reduce document management inefficiencies and overall costs while facilitating collaboration.

These tools can put financial and operational information at decision makers’ fingertips, revealing where they should focus their energy and resources and enabling them to make timely strategic decisions.  This streamlined and organized information flow can help organizations:

  • Increase revenue
  • Lower costs
  • Make the most of existing resources
  • Monitor performance against goals
  • Achieve strategic objectives

There are two ways to approach a business intelligence implementation at an organization: top-down and organically. The top-down approach starts with high-level enterprise metrics and works right down to the operational level, building the business intelligence design as it branches downward. On the opposite hand, the organic approach focuses on a selected issue initially, which can be at any level of the organization. Then it either replicates the business intelligence model to alternative issue areas, or starts to drag in adjacent/related areas, thereby increasing the scope of its business intelligence design.

FloQast makes software to empower accounting departments to collaborate and manage the financial close process.

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Chris Sluty

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