Becoming data-fluent will require you to shift the way you think about data, allowing you to have a bigger picture view of your work and its effect on the business. Then you’ll take your coveted spreadsheet skills and expand on them to learn modern analytics.
We searched high and low to find the most important data and analytics skills for accounting and finance professionals. Here’s our list — along with some advice on how to jumpstart your skill-building journey.
Build predictive model forecasting skills
Predictive analytics means taking historical data and analyzing it with algorithms or tools to make educated guesses about future events.
It’s not hard to see how this would be useful in the accounting and finance function, particularly when it comes to forecasts. The ability to accurately predict the outcomes of horse races and sporting events transformed Biff Tannen (think Back to the Future) from a car-washin’, tracksuit-wearin’ loser into a casino-runnin’, hot tub-soakin’ fat cat who owned half of Hill Valley.
Unfortunately, most of us can’t rely on a future version of ourselves traveling back in time to give us a sports almanac that helps us cheat our way to fame and fortune. We have to make do with building and using forecasting models that can intelligently predict future market behavior.
Accounting and finance professionals are using data and analytics tools to look at revenue in new ways — helping to create innovative strategies for increasing cash flow that both make the business stronger and increase their individual importance within the organization.
“Advanced revenue analytics” is a broad category that may encompass many different algorithms, models, and tools — so it’s pretty much impossible to explain “how to do it” within the confines of this blog.
What we can do here is show you some areas where advanced revenue analytics are currently being applied. From there, you can work backward to learn how to use analytics to perform each of these three tasks — or whatever revenue-related metric or forecast you want to create.
1. Smarter geographical pricing. If you work at a larger company that spans multiple regions or countries, you may have experienced the difficulties of setting appropriate prices in relation to geography. Advanced revenue analytics can help solve that problem, allowing you to dynamically adjust prices for different locations based on a wide variety of factors — and do so with minimal risk to profitability.
2. Data-driven promotions. It’s a given fact that promotions and marketing have the power to increase revenue. But, for most of human history, measuring the direct impact of a specific promotion or campaign has been the equivalent of playing “Guess Who?” blindfolded — you can’t be sure if you’re winning, and even if you are, you have no clue how you’re doing it. Advanced revenue analytics can bring more clarity to promotion and marketing metrics, allowing the business to examine the effect of certain strategies from a wide variety of angles — and then optimize campaigns accordingly.
3. Optimizing physical and digital shelf-space. Putting your best-selling products and services front and center is common sense in the business world, whether that means a supermarket giving Cap’n Crunch the most shelf space (even though Cinnamon Toast Crunch is so obviously superior) or a news site putting all the Star Wars articles above-the-fold. It’s often considered too dangerous to put newer or less-popular items in these coveted spaces — but advanced revenue analytics changes the equation. Using certain tools and algorithms, your organization can move its physical and digital products around and create small-scale tests to measure the change in revenue with little risk — or it can even go zero risk by running these tests in simulated environments.
Taking the next step
Predictive model forecasting, advanced revenue analytics, and making the shift from spreadsheets to analytics workflows will put you way ahead of your accounting and finance peers — but in case that’s not enough homework for you, here are a few other skills you might want to look into:
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