People, not technology, give data meaning, says CGMA study

In a Volatile Uncertain Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA) world, management accountants are expected to provide better support for decision-making, performance management and ongoing ‘insight’, in the form of financial and non-financial data. According to a latest CGMA research, ‘Business analytics and decision making – The human dimension’, analytics has little to do with technology. It is people, not technology, who give data meaning. While there may be technical issues to address, such as getting access to data, combining data sets or integrating financial data with data generated from social media or ‘connected things’, no analytical tool can do more than augment or complement what is a cognitive and sometimes social process. Generating insight is an inherently human trait. Thus, business intelligence resides not in the data warehouse but in the minds of people.

"Business intelligence resides not in the data warehouse but in the minds of people."

Management accountants need to look beyond IT tools to consider the human dimension when aiming to solve problems with big data. Moreover, they need to acquire new competencies and skill sets, including knowing how to start conversations and engage with colleagues to co-create insight. They also need to be clearer about what they aim to achieve from analytics, and become more strategic in their orientation and link to key business drivers.

"The accountant must be proactive in developing the capabilities needed before reaching the point where seeking insight from data is natural managerial behaviour."

The following will help to narrow focus on the human dimension when dealing with analytics:

  • Break down silo mentalities
  • Ask more second-order questions
  • Show relationships between cause and effect
  • Probe for data which you do and do not have
  • Be imaginative in seeking opportunities to harness data
  • Be ready to reframe the why, what and how of accepted approaches to business
  • Identify the 'appropriate' analytical techniques and tools to enable new ideas and counter-intuitive insights.