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How to Attack Too-Big Data with Process-Aware Reporting

Big Data is a dream come true for many of today’s retail businesses, business intelligence professionals, pundits, analysts, and other industry-watchers. Finally, the thinking goes, we’ll have all of the data we need to tell us everything we ever wanted to know about our customers, our competitors, and our industry.

What’s not to like? The more we know, the smarter we are. Or at least that’s what we think.

The sets of data available today are in the exabyte and petabyte range, and only promise to get bigger. This is primarily because of the progressing connectivity of the Internet of Things. Eventually, every thermostat, oven, TV, and door lock will be beaming information to their vendors and other interested parties.

Analytics professionals will be tasked with trying to make sense of all this. But accountants and finance groups will be handling something at least as challenging: combing through the piles of new data generated by financial transactions made all the more complex and multi-tiered.

Still, there’s good news. Finance professionals are well-positioned to help their organizations make financial sense of the coming onslaught.

The Journal of Information Systems says, “We argue that accountants already excel at the problem-driven analysis of structured data, are well positioned to play a leading role in the problem-driven analysis of unstructured data, and can support data scientists performing exploratory analysis on Big Data.”

Reporting Solutions Are Key

To do that, accountants and other finance professionals will need the best reporting tools available. They’ll want solutions that can handle extra-large data sets with maximum efficiency, ones that can operate without causing confusing interruptions in the reporting process.

Specifically, best-practice reporting solutions will have the following capabilities.

Near-Limitless Capacity & High Performance

It’s well known that, while Excel might claim to be able to handle a two-million-row report, it tends to top out before 100,000 rows.

By contrast, BlackLine’s reporting solution, using functions such as dynamic table creation and intelligent relationship trees, can handle 650 million rows without failure.

Full Process-Awareness

The best reporting solutions will contain intelligence that tells them what the user’s role is within the organization, and will deliver custom reports within that context.

Also, they’ll understand a company’s organizational structure and the uniqueness and histories of its various entities. All that information will be baked into the queries and query paths the tool uses to assemble the report.

Deep Integration

Finally, the best reporting solutions are deeply integrated within the accounting processes themselves, so don’t have to exit your ERP application to fire up a separate reporting process.

A separate reporting process can cause any number of problems. It risks basic errors in transferring data from one system to another; it prevents you from working with live data, which might have changed in the time it took for you to log into the reporting dashboard; and it slows you down, which tends to discourage people from using the solution at all, especially for looking at intermediate results.

Perhaps worst of all, the extra steps required can be confusing enough to inhibit creative what-if thinking on the part of the accountant. And a discouraged accountant is much less likely to look for creative solutions to problem areas – a talent that’s needed today more than ever before, thanks to Big Data.

Read this blog to learn how UHY achieved real-time reporting for their accounting and finance teams.

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