IMA Moments

Becoming an Analytics Translator

By Raef Lawson, PH.D., CMA, CSCA, CFA, CPA
February 15, 2018
3 comments

information technology

Management accounting, like many fields, is being disrupted by a host of new technologies, including Big Data, predictive analytics, artificial intelligence, blockchain, cognitive computing, machine learning, and robotics process automation.

 

Implementation of these technologies will result in elimination of many management accounting positions, especially those that are more repetitive or rules-based in nature. But these technologies also have the potential to create new jobs, enabling finance and accounting professionals to better become strategic business partners with the rest of the organization.

 

In this evolving finance landscape, what level of technological prowess will management accountants need to possess? There are some who think in this new data-driven age that management accountants will need to become data scientists—a new role that combines analytical, information technology, and business skills in order to extract information from data and add value to organizations. The reality is that the role of most management accountants won’t become that of a data scientist but rather that of an analytics translator.

 

WHAT IS AN ANALYTICS TRANSLATOR?

 

Analytics translators bridge the gap between data scientists and managers. In this role, management accountants bridge the technical expertise of the data scientists with the expertise of operational managers. Finance professionals must learn to communicate with data scientists and technology specialists, helping them ask the right questions and translate data into business insights. Data scientists will serve as valuable support for management accountants, making it possible to derive recommendations for action from large quantities of structured and unstructured data.

 

With this new role, though, comes the need for new skills.

 

WHAT NEW SKILLS ARE NEEDED?

 

Management accountants already possess most of the skills of a data scientist, but in order to become an analytics translator, we need to explore new ways to manage, analyze, and extract value from data; to apply analytical and critical thinking skills to address strategic issues; and to be able to identify the questions Big Data can most usefully answer.

 

In the past, management accountants have performed analytics at a fairly rudimentary level. In order to stay relevant, not only for today but for the next five to 10 years, we must aspire to the higher end of the analytics continuum—to predictive and prescriptive analytics. To perform this type of analysis, new competencies will be required.

 

WHAT TECHNOLOGY IS CHANGING THE LANDSCAPE?

 

Blockchain, the technology behind Bitcoin, will increasingly impact how organizations operate, especially in a global environment. Although the future of Bitcoin is undecided, digital currency is seen as the next frontier. Understanding how blockchain and other similar technologies work, and analyzing the data from them, will help analytics translators become true business partners.

 

Will YOU become an analytic translator? What are your thoughts about digital currency?

 


FURTHER READING

Adapting for Digital Survival

XBRL, Blockchain, and New Technologies



Raef Lawson, Ph.D., CMA, CSCA, CFA, CPA, is professor-in-residence and vice president of research and policy at IMA. You can reach him at (201) 474-1532 or rlawson@imanet.org.
3 + Show Comments

3 comments
    joel February 16, 2018 AT 4:58 pm

    tHIS EXACTLY WHY ima MUST PROVIDE ANOTHER COMPLEMENTARY DEGREE ON DATA ANALYTICS TO CMA.

    Stephen Mason, CAM February 18, 2018 AT 7:56 pm

    So what are the sources for learning these new technologies. We are working with Arizona State University in their new bachelors of acctg in corp acctg (mapped to cma-only 2nd university to attempt this)/

    Stephen Mason, CAM February 18, 2018 AT 7:59 pm

    Where do we learn these new technologies. I am working with Arizona State Univ – school of accountancy on their new degree mapped to the cma