We have more computing power in our hands than ever before in history. But with this growing amount of data come many questions about how to effectively leverage it. The data created and stored by accounting firms provides new insights into efficiency and opportunities for growth. That is, if they actually do something with it.
To help firms best make use of their data, Shari Dodgen, Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting’s director of strategic relationships and product marketing, turned to Pam Metzger, Chief Marketing Officer Porte Brown LLC, and Bruce Washam, an Implementation Consultant with Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting’s. The resulting webinar, “New Strategies for Data Analytics & Business Intelligence,” is the fourth in The Evolving Accountant Series hosted by CPA Practice Advisor.
Making a Mindset Shift
Accounting firms have been collecting and analyzing historical data for reporting for decades. But that simple act doesn’t get your firm very far. Today, there’s so much more you can do to leverage both internal and external data to help your firm grow. But it takes a shift in thinking from basic data collection to actionable business intelligence you can use for marketing strategies, connecting with clients about legislative changes, or improving internal processes for greater efficiency.
Metzger says Porte Brown uses data to analyze its marketing spend based on the best opportunity for response and results. Washam recommends that firms turn away from static “snapshot” reports. Instead, he says they should become more proactive by using dynamic dashboards that provide information in near real time.
Bridging the Skills Gap
While the trend is toward using data analytics and business intelligence, finding employees with the right skillset remains a struggle. To fill the gap, some firms are hiring in-house data analysts. Other firms contract with outside consultants, training existing staff, or actively recruiting new staff with specific data analytics skills. Washam says some of the data analytics skills to look for are “the ability to see patterns in data that others might not notice and to see what data can be, not just what it is right now.”
Tools and Techniques for Using Your Firm’s Data
Data visualization tools help make numbers, trends, and other information easier to digest at a glance so you can spend more time using the data and less time trying to understand it. They also make it easier to identify patterns in your data.
In terms of creating dashboards, you can choose between off-the-shelf and homegrown tools. Wolters Kluwer offers an off-the-shelf solution called CCH Axcess™ Data Insights with six prebuilt dashboards that use the Power BI tools including firm, partner and staff overview dashboards, as well as dashboards for firm profitability, projects, and marketing.
For firms that want to dive into their data their own way, CCH Axcess offers some other options including Data Axcess Utility and Data Axcess APIs, which allow you to do your own programming and create your own dashboards.
Make Your Data Work for You
The Evolving Accountant Series webinar “New Strategies for Data Analytics & Business Intelligence” is available online. Watch now.