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Big Data and Data Analytics: What It Is and Why It Is Important

By Lena Ariola and Dami Adeniyi

The term big data means varying things to people from different backgrounds and interests. Traditionally, ‘big data’ simply suggests massive volume of data – such as the data from Google, NASA, and other organizations. For accountants, big data generally refers to the information captured in our accounting systems. To a manager, big data could apply to timesheet hours per employee, or inventory and cost of office supplies purchased over a specific time period. The amount of data is not as relevant as what organizations do with it. Big data can be analyzed for insights that lead to informed decisions that enhance and innovate operations and increase human capital. ​​​​​​​

Most of the activities undertaken by accounting professionals are data-driven. They deal with data from different revenue sources, invoices, bills, purchase orders, expense reports, timesheets and allocations, etc. All this information can be used to make decisions that will support the mission of nonprofit organizations. For example:

  • Donor Insights: What programs are donors giving towards? What time of the year do they give most of the funding? Strategically plan when to communicate with donors and target messaging to donors related to programs they are more likely to contribute to.

  • Employee Engagement: Which vendors do employees prefer to use? Leverage opportunities such as negotiating deals with different vendors to get the best price possible and reduce costs, request perks or additional benefits for employees.

  • Budgeting: How were funds spent? Make strategic decisions on departments’ budgets and expense policies.

  • Operations: Where did staff spend their time? Better allocation of staff across different projects. Broken internal controls or manual tracking systems, on the other hand, can contribute to unrecorded business expenses, missing documentation, which can result in inaccurate and late insights. This is where big data and data analytics are helpful. The way to best utilize big data and data analytics is through Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered applications and software, such as:

  • Expense management software, i.e. Expensify, Concur, Certify, etc

  • Automated billing systems, i.e., Concur, Nexonia, etc

  • Budgeting and forecasting tools, i.e. Adaptive Insights, Vena, Limelight, etc Although COVID-19 has brought many challenges to the workplace, there is an array of tools that can help us achieve our goals without having to compromise on data quality. This requires a shift to new technology like the use of big data and AI software. Kiwi Partners can assist you by advising how to use big data and analytics to support your organization’s mission.


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