Moore Together: Embracing Data Analytics

MOORE-Together_NEW-Moore-Brand.jpgAs technology continues to disrupt the accounting industry, many firms have embraced change as an opportunity for growth. Along with consulting services, data analytics has seen a resurgence and revolution within accounting firms. Ted Flom, partner in charge of advisory services at Brown Smith Wallace, shares how his firm has embraced data analytics over the years and how they plan to continue their investment and development of this service offering.

The origin of the practice. Over ten years ago, we began developing our data analytic capabilities internally. We first launched this area by bringing on board a highly experienced consultant from ACL (now Galvanize), with a focus on leveraging technology to support what we were doing for our internal audit clients. These efforts greatly increased our value proposition and helped us differentiate ourselves from the competition by improving the quality and relevance of findings and insights into our client’s business.

Evolving the practice. One of the biggest changes we’ve seen is the need to expand our data analytics toolset. As mentioned previously, our practice began with a strategic hire who was a highly experienced consultant and trainer for ACL. At the time, it was a nice skill to have on our team, but we never anticipated how it would evolve over time. Since then we’ve evolved beyond ACL and are training our people on several different tools to provide the best comprehensive solutions that meet our clients’ unique needs (e.g., PowerBI).

We’re starting to see clients leverage these tools to further automate and improve highly manual and data-intensive processes and reporting.  As an example, we recently helped a client automate their monthly, Excel-based commission calculation process, which included over 100 different types of methodologies. Today we see more demand for automating processes to support management information and dashboards. We’re even using this capability internally to automate and improve the efficiency of some manual processes.

The risk of forward-thinking. Developing analytics can be a complex and time-consuming process. It’s often difficult for stakeholders to fully appreciate the level of effort and costs involved to get these up and running, which can make it difficult to effectively communicate the cost-benefit of these investments. The key is to build analytics that can be utilized multiple times for the investment to pay off. 

We’ve had a few opportunities where we decided to invest in developing analytics that we thought would be utilized on multiple projects. For example, we developed scripts to help financial institutions validate their BSA/AML rule sets are working properly.  While we’ve done a half dozen of these engagements, we were hoping to see many more projects since BSA/AML rule validation is required by the regulators.  It’s possible that additional engagements will pop up that can utilize the scripts. But it’s important to recognize that being forward-thinking requires you to take risks.

Investing in the future. We have made a number of hires over the years. We participate in various conferences and facilitate local Galvanize (formerly ACL) user group meetings. But one of the most significant changes we’ve made is internal development. We’re training up many of our Advisory staff members so that others can be utilized on these engagements. Our core data analytics team is focused 100% on these types of engagements, but we now also have others in the group to be evangelists for where and how to use the tools on their engagements, and also to assist when we’re tight on resources. 

Selling a solution without a problem. It’s important to recognize that we aren’t selling “data analytics” – rather this is a tool that we use to support and make our engagements or solutions more effective. The demand for using these tools in our engagements has increased substantially over the last few years, allowing us to triple the number of professionals we’re developing with this skillset and expand the breadth of tools we’re able to leverage.

To learn more about utilizing data analytics, contact Ted Flom at tflom@bswllc.com.