Data Analytics software for business

While just a few years ago the necessity for accountants to have data analysis skills was a relatively minor concern, the recent pace of technological changes and increasing volumes of data being dealt with, has created a need for finance professionals to be able to manipulate and analyse data to aid in-depth insights, improve financial reporting and ultimately facilitate better business decision making.

Moving away from spreadsheets

Excel and spreadsheets have long been the main tools which accountants use for data analysis. However, businesses dealing with unusually large data sets (such as those operating online) will be better suited to data analytics software due to its ability to automate data collection, real-time analysis and augment insights from different sources. Ancillary benefits of data analytics software include being able to effectively business partner across entire organisations by visualising data graphically and by incorporating data sets from a number of different departments. 

Software considered

In the extended article, we look at features and indicative pricing for five leading solutions:

  • Microsoft Power BI - likely to be a popular analytics solution for individuals and companies who are advanced Excel users, given the similarity of its navigation
  • Qlik - the software falls into two different groups: data integrations and data analytics
  • Tableau - acquired by Salesforce last year, Tableau’s product development is strongly informed by its evangelist community
  • ThoughtSpot - is designed for everyday users as opposed to data professionals
  • Salesforce Einstein Analytics Platform - is predominantly used in businesses by sales teams and senior management.

The vendors featured in this guide provide just a snapshot of the market, with the selection heavily weighted towards those featured in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant, widely considered as the benchmark of cutting-edge software companies within their individual categories.

Based on the needs of the business

As there is a variety of different analytics tools on the market accountants should consider their vendor selection based on their own user needs, alongside those of their businesses and the scalability of solutions. Smaller organisations, dealing with less volumes of data, may place less importance on bot and voice activated insights in favour of being able to create out-of-the-box templates to measure their own personal suite of KPIs. Additionally, greater emphasis may be placed on data visualisation for accountants whose roles require business partnering across their companies.

Migrating to a new data analytics package has the potential to cause significant business disruption, so a consultative led selection approach should be adopted, including input from a range of different internal stakeholders.

Tech Faculty members can read the full reviews here.

This article has been written for the faculty by Nick Levine, Chartered Accountant and Business Consultant.