Harnessing the Power of Big Data

Today’s CEOs face a host of complex business challenges, including how to harness disparate streams of data to generate pragmatic insights and deliver increased profitability.

The difficulty CEOs face is not in obtaining the data, but in determining how to effectively use it in order to make intelligent business decisions and gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace. These challenges were the focus of a recent roundtable discussion at the 30th annual chief executive of the year gala, sponsored by the Chartered Global Management Accountant® (CGMA®) designation [powered by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA)].

A 2013 survey conducted by the AICPA and CIMA revealed that 86 percent of businesses are struggling to turn growing volumes of data into valuable business insights. In addressing this challenge, nearly 20 chief executives from large corporations and small and medium-sized enterprises provided personal challenges their organizations face in making effective use of data.

According to participants, at the heart of the issue is understanding how CEOs can break down data silos to spur cross collaboration across an organization, including finance, sales, marketing and IT, to effectively leverage the abundance of data they are gathering.

“The key to big data success is effective collaboration between the CEO, the finance team and other business units to break down data silos to bolster collection and analytics capabilities as well as turn that data into insights that drive competitive business performance,” said Arleen Thomas, CPA, CGMA, the AICPA’s senior vice president for management accounting and global markets.

At the roundtable, Thomas presented the five steps that CEOs can take to create a data centric business:

  • Understand what data, including new data, is relevant.
  • Access what data initiatives are already in place.
  • Get “quick wins” by starting small scale-scale and prove concept.
  • Formalize a project and develop the data strategy.
  • Build on that initiative to deepen the organization’s data culture.

These five steps reinforce the importance of the CEO in determining the best business partners within an organization to analyze and interpret copious volumes of financial and non-financial data to drive insights and enable better business decisions.

For more information on the AICPA and CIMA report, “From Insight to Impact: Unlocking Opportunities in Big Data,” or the Chartered Global Management Accountant® (CGMA®) please visit www.cgma.org.