Unlocking the value of data

content open data visualisation

If there is one unexpected feature of our ‘new normal’ that it is hard not to notice, then it is how the use and importance of data has been propelled into the mainstream.

The phrase ‘next slide, please’ has slipped into our common parlance, where once it would have been saved for meeting rooms and conference halls. Graphs, charts and the ups and downs in R number displayed in the data have all become prompts for everyday conversations. Even the most misguided of social media arguments will conclude with someone pointing to the ‘data’.

Our digital and data infrastructures have been tested and stretched to breaking point over the last two years. But the need to drive trusted insight from our data has never been more important, whether that is in researching vaccines, understanding the spread of new variants or their social and economic impacts.

Finance professionals’ work has always been grounded in data. It has long been the key to supporting decision-making, but there is now so much more data to crunch in so many different forms. This surfeit of data can be used to achieve so much more for businesses – from increased efficiency to better, more timely decision-making. But it is important to ensure that everyone in business understands what they are looking at and what they are looking for.

Interpreting data

Finance professionals need to be trained to understand exactly what data is, how it can work for them, how it is collected, processed, stored and stewarded. We also need to ensure understanding as to how analytical techniques are used to cement strong governance and adherence to the regulation of data. Anyone in the world of finance needs to have the ability to interpret data, draw insights from it, ask the right questions and then confidently recommend a course of action for their businesses.

Search hundreds of roles from all over the world on ACCA Careers

Sign up for a job alert tailored to your desired location and role

For you to be able to maximise the opportunity that data offers, and drive more value from the data held, you need a certain level of what we call data literacy. You must develop these skills, as without them your ability to drive value for your businesses will be less effective and, as a result, your role may become less important.

Finance professionals are already very well placed to expand their current skills and build on their experience. They understand prudence, scepticism, risk management, governance, regulation and compliance, but they now need to understand how they grow these skills to keep abreast of the growing governance and regulation around the use of data.

Much of what we do as finance professionals is now automated. We need our finance professionals to transform their roles into the stewarding, compliance and governance surrounding data across our organisations. This will enable us to equip ourselves with the skills needed to unlock the value of data and respond to the immense opportunity it presents.

Data literacy

At the Open Data Institute (ODI), we offer data literacy training to support openness and trustworthiness in how data is collected, used and shared by business, the public sector and governments. We see data literacy as the ability to think critically about data in different contexts and examine the impact of different approaches.

Our data skills framework outlines the wide area in which the ODI provides support. It’s not a competency framework, it’s not linear and there is no mandatory progression. So your area of focus as a finance professional will determine what is of interest in the framework.

Author: Louise Burke, managing director, Open Data Institute

This article was first published in Student Accountant in March 2022

Back to listing