COP27: Big Data critical to climate resilience and food security

November 16, 2022

The global impact on food security is one of the major priorities at the COP27 climate summit. Recently the Commonwealth Secretary-General called on other leaders to collaborate and learn from each other to transform their future strategies.

Patricia Scotland, the Commonwealth Secretary-General, emphasised that for countries to deliver a more productive and sustainable agricultural industry and ultimately be more resilient to climate change, we must utilise big data and other digital technology. New digital tools can transform business plans within the agricultural chain and tackle productivity, harvesting, finance and supply chain management issues.

At COP27, Commonwealth Secretary announced a new policy guide focusing specifically on global food security. This guide is one of the first to explore how digital technology impacts the agricultural industry. Scotland believes that this policy guide is a critical step, not only for the Commonwealth but also for small, developing and middle-income nations. The guide supports policy leaders in recognising key areas that can improve and develop this market.

Agriculture is responsible for food security and employment in most Commonwealth member states, with over half of the collective 2.5 billion people residing in rural regions and connected with smallholder farming.
Created by the Commonwealth Connectivity Agenda, the framework discussed in The State of Digital Agriculture in the Commonwealth guide explores various regions based on their current digital technology, infrastructure, and enabling further digital progression and suggesting strategies for progress.

According to the policy guide, while regions like Africa lack some critical data infrastructure, considerable progress has been made through digital innovation, new technologies and services. In Asia, technologies for agriculture have progressed across the region, but overall affordability continues to challenge the most vulnerable communities.

The business development market, financing and investments remain underdeveloped within the Caribbean and Pacific Small Island nations. In Europe, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, smart digital technologies are widely used, and the policy guide encourages other regions to collaborate and learn from these innovations to assist them in making continued progress. While speaking about climate resilience and food security at COP27, Secretary-General Scotland emphasised that further efforts must be made by the public and private sectors to recognise the potential of digital and big data solutions for the agricultural industry.

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New Deloitte and IMA survey suggests the majority are unprepared for the future of finance

September 22, 2022

A new survey of finance professionals found many are unprepared to meet the demands for more insights and information, despite ongoing significant transformation efforts already in place. The national survey from Deloitte’s Centre for Controllership and IMA (The Institute of Management Accountants) discovered that 76% of finance professionals confirm their controllership functions have started their transformation journeys but nearly 95% report additional work is needed and admit progress is slow. A further 65% admit their business function isn’t prepared or only somewhat prepared to meet their future demands. 

The report “Stepping into the future of controllership: from accounting to finance”, explores the impacts of the pandemic on financial services and how finance professionals can use this period to drive innovation within controllership and generate more value for their businesses. 

According to Kyle Cheney, risk and financial advisory partner at Deloitte, a clear lesson from the pandemic is that driving digital functions within controllership is here to stay. Cheney explains that activities previously considered a part of the future of finance, such as data modelling and analytics, are now mainstream parts of the industry. Financial controllers are confident that they need to transform, but this doesn’t change the fact that there are still challenges to overcome on the shift toward an innovative, strategic and digital controllership future. Further data from survey respondents found a mix of responses between the existing and future conditions of controllership, including maturity gaps within vital controllership, enabling and domain areas. Enablers, like governance and compliance, were ranked as the farthest along the maturity continuum by 65% of finance professionals while nearly 50% reported data and analytics to still be in the early stages of maturity. 

Similarly, over 50% of respondents identified financial planning and analysis (FP&A) as a dominant area most in need of progress to meet the future demands of the controllership function. 

Over 60% of surveyed finance professionals agree that advanced maturity levels, or those considered to be integrated or optimised, will be required across enabling and domain areas to achieve the demands of controllership function in the next few years. The report also highlights actions that finance leaders believe will increase their ability to perform in a more innovative, challenging and increasingly digital era. 

Loreal Jile, IMA VP of research and thought leadership and the lead on this study, highlighted that transformation in controllership is more than adopting new technology. It also involves considering how finance teams use that technology to become more strategic partners to the business. Jile explains that the hope is controllers, CFOs, and other finance leaders can use the report as a roadmap to continue progress with their digital plans. The report can enable organisations to structure organisational silos to support intelligent, flexible and more resilient operations capable of managing future industry challenges.

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How finance leaders are tackling the insight challenge

July 27, 2022

Terrance Wampler, the general manager of WorkDay, describes some of the biggest challenges in finance and how businesses can create added value.

Data represents the core of modern businesses. The main goal for most is creating a reliable data source and utilising this information to improve performance. Achieving this is challenging, especially with the volume of data we generate today. The World Economic Forum predicts that the data generated will exceed 463 exabytes daily worldwide by 2025.

The fact is the majority of value created from information comes from intangible assets, most of which aren’t recorded on finance balance sheets. This can include customer relationships to social and intellectual capital. The importance of intangibles has increased considerably over the last few years, but finding a trusted source of data has become harder than ever as companies face multiple sources, both internal and external.

The expectations of a CFO have also changed, and CFOs require the necessary data, technology and people to generate new channels of value. Traditional systems predominantly focus on tracking value rather than creating it. Legacy systems aren’t configured to examine intangible value drivers, and so the data created makes it challenging for CFOs to meet these new expectations.

One case study of a business facing these challenges is US broadcaster, the EW Scripps company. The company experienced a major transformation, requiring a technology upgrade intended to improve the integration of finance and HR. WorkDay applied its service to digitise the HR operations, and Scripps added WorkDay financial management and Prism Analytics to unify their financial and HR data. Scripps removed multiple system interfaces, making it simpler to access and examine information. The finance team can spend more time on analytics, reporting and forecasting rather than focusing too much time on basic financial activities. Vagelis Kontopos, the VP of financial planning and analysis at Scripps, explains that Workday has provided the data and insights to guide the business strategically, especially during disruptive times. Applying a common platform for all divisions has reduced the monthly reporting time to just a few seconds, enabling rapid and frequent delivery of real-time reports, forecasts and budget updates.

This is a fine example of a business that has transitioned from using technology to measure value to shifting to a position to find value from its data. Creating a trusted data source is critical to generating successful value creation. Businesses require their data to be a single-source, accurate and realistic version of the truth. Once this is achieved, businesses can generate valuable insights and improve business performance, including the most profitable drivers and where to allocate capital to get the best return on investment.

In today’s digital economy, businesses need to consider their data as an opportunity for creating business value, rather than just an asset used to track progress. To achieve this, it’s important to create a trusted source of data, as shown by the previous example. With the appropriate technology, finance can shift from tracking value to creating value, supported with the relevant insights to determine and respond to events, the flexibility to adapt and harness opportunities and the talent to support this transformation.

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How finance leaders are accelerating their focus on data

November 17, 2021

How can finance leaders leverage analytics and cloud systems to improve their business functions?

Our workforce today is experiencing significant change. Technology and the rise of automotive products are transforming how processes are done and how senior leaders manage their business, particularly in the case of CFOs. In the last year, digital technology has accelerated the need for businesses to adapt their working models to remain flexible, smarter and efficient.

Businesses that enhance their focus on data and analytics to support their transformation are often considered more successful. Investing in these products, however, is only the beginning. There are several things financial leaders should consider to leverage the potential of analytics on the finance service.

Investing in cloud technology

Businesses are consumed in data but yet are still hungry for additional insights. The ability to utilise data insights can determine the success of a business, and while many leaders believe they are capable of leveraging data, studies suggest that those leading the way are experiencing a 7% higher revenue growth.

This process involves the following measures:

  1. Real-time insights in data allow businesses to be proactive and explore what is happening through analysing trends and analytics.
  2. Businesses will often interpret data in various ways. Cloud technology will allow finance leaders to measure data more flexibly and transparently. This will support overall decisions and ensure finance avoids any unnecessary or time-consuming efforts.
  3. Being capable of benchmarking information is important for businesses to understand how they compare to others.

Businesses are looking towards the future and appreciate that investing in cloud and finance technology will ultimately benefit their organisation. For over 50% of businesses, the cloud has moved beyond an idea to a reality in terms of integrating cloud-focused HR tools. This represents a key force in transforming today’s workplace, enabling businesses to make smarter decisions. 

Create a clear plan

To enable growth, remain resilient and flexible, businesses need to ensure they have a clear strategy on how they can operate in the cloud. Consistent planning represents a key factor for exploring new growth options. An annual report is no longer sufficient. Applying tools like AI, ML and predictive analytics enable businesses to deploy reports and plans more effectively while reducing potential risk to their business.

Leverage the potential of collaborating data

Consolidating finance, HR and data in one place can create multiple benefits. It can lead to better outcomes while enabling each area to reach its own goals. Consolidating all information enables a business to think more holistically and ultimately make better decisions for the long term.

The success of a business will depend on whether your team has the necessary tools to be more efficient, flexible and operate securely. Being open and capable of collaborating are the new ways of working, and the cloud allows this in many ways. Not only will this lower time spent on manual tasks, but it also enables businesses to make real-time, data-driven plans to grow and attract the best talent.

Measuring results

For most, salary and benefits represent the biggest expense, meaning two major cost drivers are people related. Businesses often spend money on products and technology that fail to show ROI or direct benefits to employees. If employees aren’t satisfied, engagement will drop, and benefits to a company will be lost. This has become even more challenging as the pandemic has made it easier for people to move jobs.

With finance playing a critical part in business decisions, it must be capable of determining what data is needed and analysing it effectively to deliver the necessary actions. Measuring employee engagement and goals is one big step in talent retention.

Making the commitment

Cloud systems enable businesses to target specific talent and identify the skills and experience needed for the most vital roles. Not only will it improve finance functions, but it also enables HR teams to determine the best candidates, highlight potential engagement issues and identify what employees are looking for in a business.

Consolidating finance, HR and data in the cloud integrate valuable insights across your organisation, enabling teams a better understanding of their data, where there may be potential gaps and how to optimise particular areas to generate better and smarter results.


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Supporting digital transformation in finance

August 25, 2021

The combination of digital technology with the rising demand for talent are two trends reshaping the finance industry. Businesses are facing challenges of transitioning to digital and the importance of the finance function in this transformation.

The challenges faced during 2020 created the impetus for many to adapt and integrate new digital services that appeal to their customers. The function of the CFO has been critical in driving this digital transition. IT, strategy and business leaders are vital in assessing business opportunities and ensuring the most efficient allocation of revenue and capital. The finance team consistently adapts processes to ensure the business remains focused on transforming rather than repetitive traditional tasks that hinder overall performance.

The function of the CFO has also had to embrace its digital transformation. By reshaping particular areas of the role with a digital-focused approach, businesses can leverage the potential growth of an organisation.

The pandemic also showed the importance of real-time data and the speed and agility of analytics. During Covid, many businesses responded quickly to technology investments, allowing employees the right tools to perform vital functions. Companies had to show resilience and have a mindset that focuses on innovation and technology. CFOs are encouraged to leverage creative and innovative digital communications to enhance connectivity and engagement, generating new opportunities and increasing dialogue within the business.

Data and technology progression will remain important in delivering continued progress in finance, enabling businesses to attract and retain the best talent, support decision-making and provide greater financial transparency. Businesses need to maintain a check on changes through their culture, talent leadership and innovation in technology. By creating clear expectations, strong talent leadership, and continuously evolving through technology, the function of the CFO will become even more critical, and a business will experience accelerated growth.

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Data science and analytics remains a top priority for leaders in finance

April 22, 2021

Data represents a key element of success in the finance industry. Recent studies suggest that 60% of finance leaders consider the leveraging of data science and analytics for clearer insights and enhanced decision making as top priorities for this year.

The ability to use data analytics and big data to create a competitive advantage and to improve the operations and management of strategies plans are considered top factors for senior-level executives across the world.

Data analytics can be applied in three particular areas. In regards to planning, data analytics can be utilised for efficient risk management, data testing and statistical sampling. Data analytics can also improve the delivery of audits, generating rapid and efficient monitoring of particular controls, detecting possible cases of fraud and recognising any trends suggesting future risk.

Based on the findings from Protiviti’s latest finance trends survey, security, privacy and data analysis are considered top priorities. All three are connected with data, with data analytics regarded as very important by over 60% of CFOs surveyed.

Data is viewed as a very important area because it supports the generating of useful commercials insights, the ability to increase sales and improve the overall management and decision-making process. It also enhances the internal operations of the finance area, with over 50% of respondents regarding data analytics as a vital element of process improvement. Applying data analytics effectively, however, requires several factors to be put in place.

One key factor that senior finance leaders are struggling to cope with is the quality of data. As with most other industries, the analytical and reporting that is delivered by finance depends on the overall quality and completeness of the data used. Data governance is a vital part of this process. Finance leaders need to ensure they implement a strong data governance system and understand data ownership in the business.
The quality of data can also be improved by dedicated data management, an area that can require considerable time and expense. Once implemented and ready, however, finance leaders will be capable of gaining a much deeper understanding of various functions associated with profitability and risk. Without quality data, the results from any data and analytical processes will not necessarily hold as much reliability and value to the business. This is particularly true with the continued growth of AI and Machine Learning, meaning data quality will become even more important to businesses soon.

Data security

In a time of rising cybersecurity threats and new data legislation, businesses need to keep a close check on data safety. If any financial data is leaked, businesses could face considerable financial and reputational damages. This is why security and data in finance are regarded as a top priority by finance leaders. Over 70% of CFOs and VPs listed this as the most important factor.

For larger financial organisations, the stakes are much higher. The volume, complexity and sensitivity of their data reach another level and with more businesses moving to the cloud, the range of security risks continues to increase.

Other demands pointed out by finance leaders are the changing demands of customers, managing regulatory changes, the movement to the cloud and new tax requirements. One particular area that is often covered in the robotics process automation (RPA) market, yet many finance leaders are taking a fairly cautious approach to RPA. Only around 20% of CFOs and finance leaders regard RPA to be a top priority for the next year.

Tony Abel, the MD of Protiviti explains that many businesses are still collecting more information on how to leverage tools like RPA. Growing financial concerns and the demand for improving efficiency mean the use of RPA and other innovative technologies will increase over time.

One of the key benefits of RPA is that it can be deployed relatively easily and perform repetitive tasks across various systems. For many financial businesses, RPA could be effectively used in the accounts payable area, for processing invoices, payment verification and account reconciliation.

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The progression and importance of the chief data scientist

March 31, 2021

In previous years, employing a chief data scientist was viewed as quite a luxury. Today, the role has become a necessity, especially as more businesses continue to accelerate their digital transformation plans in challenging conditions.

The importance of data science and analytics has surged during the impacts of the pandemic as businesses recognise how data is critical for survival and continued progress. With data now influencing major decisions at the highest level, the need for senior leaders in data science has become more important.

Today, it is clear that leaders need to work beyond identifying and measuring analytics. Organisations require chief data scientists, capable of connecting executives and data science teams, an individual capable of defining strategy and executing data-focused plans. As a result, investment into chief data scientists roles has increased as they primarily focus on managing the data systems, creating a clear strategy and improving the overall quality of data used. 

A chief data scientist is regarded as having a deeper understanding of how new technology systems such as AI and Machine Learning can enhance data management. This has become more important as ML has continued to influence data quality and navigating big data concepts into real-world ML implementation. The chief data scientist is responsible for the navigation of this process, focusing on data as the primary driver for new initiatives. 

Businesses are actively engaging with their customers in new and innovative ways, generating new business models and exploring more efficient ways to launch their products. These processes all require complex data plans and need the support of an experienced and skilled data leader.

When it comes to making important decisions, senior executives are becoming more reliant on the chief data scientist. A study by the IDC discovered that nearly 60% of chief data scientists report directly to the CEO. The position has progressed significantly over the last few years in terms of value and responsibility.

For this year, the priorities of chief data scientists will be focused on discovering ways machine learning can be applied to manage the challenges related to the pandemic and economic recession. One area is identifying churn rate, understand when customers are likely to leave. This type of information requires expertise as well as different levels of technical and data science knowledge.

This year, chief data scientists will need to expand on their existing influence across their business during a critical stage in the economy. Pressure will be higher for them to discover solutions and so challenges will focus on ensuring data science teams are focused and working with the right data sets. At the same time, chief data scientists will be empowered to utilise corporate data assets to make important decisions for their business.


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Trends in technology opportunities in the UK

March 24, 2021

Despite the rising demand for cloud computing skills, the number of job opportunities available on LinkedIn declined by 57% last year.

Less than 55,000 technology industry roles were being advertising on LinkedIn near the end of last year, driven predominantly by reduced demand for cybersecurity and data analytics professionals. According to Accenture, the 57% decline during last year was sustained despite continued demand for selected skills in northern England and a significant rise in demand for cloud computing professionals.
Of the 55,000 open positions, approximately 35,000 advertised positions required professionals with skills in cloud computing, reflecting the growing trend of UK businesses shifting their workloads towards the cloud in response to the impacts of the pandemic.

Demand for professionals with skills in AI increased, rising by over 70% in six months, equating to nearly 7,000 roles. This was matched by similar rises in opportunities in positions associated with quantum computing and robotic skills.

The overall decline in technology opportunities is largely down to a reduction in listings for data analytics and cybersecurity-related roles, both experiencing just over a 50% drop throughout 2020.

Shaheen Sayed, the technology lead for the UK and Ireland at Accenture explains that while the pandemic has taken a toll on technology jobs in the UK, certain skills remain in high demand.

Businesses have accelerated their migration plans to the cloud quicker than anyone anticipated and many have enhanced their digital processes and utilised new technology available on the market. As more businesses look to hire talent in the cloud, AI and robotics, experienced professionals are discovering new skills to ensure they remain on top of the constant change in the technology industry and to enhance their marketability.

Overall demand for skilled professionals in robotics increased considerably in cities in the north last year, with a 450% rise in Newcastle, a 250% rise in Leeds and a 115% increase in Liverpool. These figures reflect that many cities are focusing on recruiting more technology talent and developing their status as key technology hubs. This is emphasised further by the government’s decision to base the headquarters of the UK National Cyber Force in the North of England, generating thousands of new technology-related opportunities in the region.

In other regions, Oxford experienced a 3,400% increase in demand for quantum computing skills, reflective of the rising scale of research projects and developments of businesses such as Oxford Quantum Circuits.

The overall decline in demand for technology skills over last year contradicts other figures that indicate a rise in employer demand for applicants with IT degrees. A study of one million job adverts by suggested that 60% of university degrees requested by recruiters were specifically related to IT and computing. Other findings from the Learning & Work Institute published data that suggested the skills challenge, with the number of young people taking IT related subjects decreasing by 40% since 2015.

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Reasons for the technology industry to remain positive in 2021

November 25, 2020

Optimism within the technology industry regarding the year ahead remains strong thanks to the continued trend in the digital market. Despite being a very disruptive and challenging year, many technology businesses experienced a surge in business and forecasted rise of new opportunities in 2021. The significant shift towards remote working created a wave of demand that had never been experienced and resulted in several technology tools becoming critical in business operations and management. For these technology organisations, they proved to play an important role and support in challenging conditions. Many tech leaders anticipate a gradual process of recovery next year where demand for technology will continue due to a fragmented workforce and society that has more complex solutions that cannot be fulfilled in a regular office environment. Many technology businesses have proven to be capable of supporting customers through the crisis and the implications of this on business culture has been positive due to a more personalised experience between businesses and customers. David Watts, the managing director of Tech Data UK and Ireland explains that businesses have responded well to the pandemic and have demonstrated both resilience and adaptability and a genuine care for their customers, partners and own employees. Watts admits it hasn’t been easy and overall trading customers has declined in the UK and Europe by around 10% and while corporate resellers had a very successful first half of the year, the second half has presented more challenges. Nevertheless, industry leaders believe 2021 is looking positive. Many projects are emerging and coming back online and more businesses are reviewing their cloud strategies and investing more in this arena. Companies are now actively engaging in security systems since moving to remote and hybrid working facilities. 

There are a number of both challenges and opportunities available around the management of data. The potential that was there before the pandemic, with cloud, security and other emerging technologies remain. Industry leaders that show agility to the impacts of Covid and Brexit will require speed of change, but opportunities do exist across many markets. Many infrastructure projects that may have been paused while management observed how the pandemic played are likely to restart as demands change and begin to increase. 

Accelerated Digital Transformation Technology leaders believe this year accelerated digital transformation for many companies, adding resilience and increasing the level of expertise and relationships between companies and the customer. Rob Tomlin, VP at Dell Technologies states that what is evident is that digitisation isn’t slowing down and will continue to remain central to further growth in the UK. Tomlin predicts the edge computing sector to be a primary focus of sales, referring to many innovative technologies like AI and IoT. It’s very difficult to predict what exactly the next year will look like as the business landscape is changing continuously. Stable growth will be dependent upon creativity, solid customer relationships and staying close to business developments. Industry leaders in cloud, cyber and communications networks explain that enabling companies to work securely and remotely is an important requirement and as a result, all these area and the associated services have seen considerable growth. IT technology has proven vital during the pandemic, enabling many businesses to continue to trade, albeit in a remote and digital environment. There are still many challenges, and one of the biggest one predicted is a sustained period of lockdown and the existing recession which would directly impact the success of businesses and investment for the technology industry.

Technology leaders are cautiously optimistic about next year and looking to continue building on successes from 2020 while being prepared for possible disruptions on a similar scale. The rise of remote working and shift towards subscription models has generated an accelerated decline in demand for traditional systems. The recurring revenue stream will prevail more in overall revenue streams uring the next year. Businesses will need to remain focused on support their customers and ensuring they reach their goals and generate clear value. Some businesses have invested a significant amount of time supporting their customers by acquiring and integrating the tools they require to operate their business in the ‘new normal’. Software, technology updates and security services will likely be a focus for businesses and an area that customers will require support during 2021.

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The rising demand for digital skills in the finance industry

November 25, 2020

Digital transformation has accelerated in many businesses this year and as a result, the demand for finance professionals with data analytical skills has never been higher.

The Future of Jobs Report 2020 created by the World Economic Forum (WEF) investigates how automation, in collaboration with the impacts of the Covid-19 recession has generated an even more disruptive outcome. The report suggests that there is likely to be a significant change in jobs, duties and skills within the next few years, with finance, accounting and auditing being areas likely to be impacted and data analytics and data science considered the high growth markets.

The trend identified in the report is supported by recent figures in the finance and accounting industry and a shift in roles towards digital and technical duties in response to the pandemic. The demand for upskilling has become even more important, and in the case of finance, this translates into a greater focus on business planning and analysis. This change comes with a need to enhance digital skills in business, with the report suggesting that 2 in 5 business leaders are committed to accelerating digital transformation plans. A separate study by EY discovered similar findings, suggesting that nearly 60% of all respondents believed predictive and prescriptive analytical skills were critical.

With digital transformation plans accelerating, the data available to support the decision-making process is increasing. The finance industry needs to be capable of utilising this data to support its own individual decision-making plans. 

The situation, however, is that the skills currently aren’t’ there to meet the rising demand. Consultancy business McKinsey states that under 20% of businesses believe they have the necessary skills and experience to gather and utilise the insights effectively. A further 80% of respondents interviewed by McKinsey said they did not have the confidence in their data insight processes and their positive impact on business sales.

There generally tends to be a lack of knowledge surrounding the potential of data. Businesses may have more data availability than ever before, but most don’t really know what the data is or what it could actually enable them to do.

Data analytics professionals within finance can support businesses in effectively using the data. These individuals have certain skills that enable them to respond to certain information points and make informed decisions. Insights can only be delivered if there is a clear understanding of the business and what the data is telling you. Individuals need to be capable of connecting data analytics to the overall strategy and business objectives.

McKinsey describes the importance of data translators, people capable of defining data insights, drawing information from the data and converting this information into clear, actionable language that can be applied within the business. Once data is generated into insights, this information needs to be transferred into messages and offers that can be delivered into the wider business and industry.


Finance professionals have generally been responsible for gathering financial information and presenting it to other individuals in their business. The key difference today is the sheer scale and range of data available from multiple sources. This is a challenge in itself, but it also offers the opportunity to add even more value to a business.

Data analytics involves harnessing skills in both technical and non-technical fields. The collection and assessment of detailed data also create new ethical factors that finance professionals will need to consider. Aside from efficiently extracting, measuring and analysing data, finance professionals need to understand the ethical implications of this entire process.

Industry experts believe that digitisation will generate automation further into traditional finance and accountancy roles. The need for finance professionals capable of interpreting data and delivering clear decisions based on data-driven insights is likely to continue to grow. The world is evolving, business is changing and finance professionals will need to change too.

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