New Research Finds Dearth of Finance Professionals with Big Data Analysis Skills

Chief financial officers may not be able to maximize the potential value of Big Data for their organizations due to difficulties attracting and retaining the professionals with the requisite expertise, research suggests. According to a new report from global staffing firm Robert Half and Institute of Management Accountants, or IMA®, finance leaders face significant shortages of accounting and finance professionals who possess the technical and nontechnical skills required for data analytics initiatives.

The report, Building a Team to Capitalize on the Promise of Big Data, is based on a survey of nearly 500 finance executives and managers. Survey findings revealed that the most severe skill gaps include:

  • Identifying key data trends
  • Data mining and extraction
  • Operational analysis
  • Decision analysis
  • Process improvement
  • Strategic thinking and execution

“Many organizations are being hindered by an inability to find and retain accounting and finance professionals who can turn data analytics into actionable business intelligence,” says Paul McDonald, senior executive director at Robert Half. “To successfully build teams with the necessary skills, financial leaders need to establish a comprehensive recruiting process and professional development program.”

“Management must support efforts to retain financial professionals with data analytics skills through attractive compensation and benefits, training, a supportive corporate culture and an emphasis on work-life balance,” says Kip Krumwiede, director of research. “Of course, since the number of internal employees with these skills is limited, businesses must also encourage continuing education and ongoing training.”

In addition to developing talent from within, the survey found that 44% of businesses are focusing on building their teams’ analytics skills by hiring from outside the company, while 39% of respondents are working with external consultants. Financial leaders also need to remove self-inflicted obstacles commonly reported: a lack of competitive compensation and inadequate workforce planning.

“Finding accounting and finance professionals with in-demand skills is always difficult,” says McDonald, “but especially in a competitive hiring environment and when companies hamstring their own efforts through poor staffing strategies.”