Training for the future: DATA ANALYTICS IN ACCOUNTING AT DOUGLAS COLLEGE

“Data is the new oil.” Chances are you heard this quote some time ago. Today, however, to truly find value in the immense volumes of data being generated and captured, effective data analysis must be part of the equation. After all, it’s through analysis that data can provide useful information and support decision making and strategy setting.

To help future business professionals incorporate data analytics into their skill set, Douglas College has developed the Data Analytics in Accounting concentration. CPABC sat down to discuss with Douglas College’s former Accounting Department Chair Arsineh Garabedian, CPA, CA, to discuss how the program came about and how it will equip students to meet workplace demands, today and in the future.

Why did Douglas College create the Data Analytics in Accounting concentration?

In 2014 we came to realize that our BBA program was not addressing the profound impact of technology on the accounting profession, which has evolved into a multi-disciplinary profession where accountants not only provide financial reporting but also play a powerful role as a strategic partner by producing relevant information in the business planning and decision-making process. To prepare our students for the realities of big data, we created the data analytics concentration. The program transforms the concept of data analytics from a buzzword to a practical tool for our students.

What type of student will this concentration appeal to?

The concentration is offered in conjunction with our BBA degree in the Commerce & Business Administration Faculty, and should appeal to students on the CPA track who want to excel as business managers.

How will the program help students bring value to the workplace?

In several important ways – the concentration is intended to:

  • Provide our graduates with the analytics tools used in accounting and auditing so that they can adapt quickly to the workplace;
  • Help our students develop insight into identifying concerning signals in financial reporting which allows them to affect change in internal controls and financial statement preparation in the workplace; and
  • Allow graduates to contribute substantively to corporate strategy development by enabling them with the skills to properly identify, track and evaluate key performance indicators.

We see these skills as a necessity for all accountants to fulfill their job requirements successfully.

What type of careers does the concentration prepare students for?

Strategic operational business partner (CFO, CEO), controller, internal and external auditor, financial data analysts (an accountant that no longer processes data but plays a higher-level role in the analysis of data) – these are some of the careers the program prepares students for.

Job-ready skills are essential in today’s market – what skills will students gain from this concentration?

The concentration is designed to help students learn how to:

  • Create descriptive and predictive analytics of financial data. This will allow students to evaluate what is occurring in a business and what is expected to occur. They will be able to spot deviations in these expectations and provide strategic insights into how to address these deviations.
  • Implement analytical tools used in auditing; e.g. IDEA for audit sampling. In an audit firm, students will be able to quickly adapt to their specific audit technologies.
  • Analyze signals in financial reporting that are of serious concern to users, which in turn, will:
    • make students stronger at preparing financial statements as they can identify clear errors;
    • enhance student audit abilities as they can spot specific high risk areas; and
    • provide students with the ability to effectively advise clients on investment decisions.
  • Design and create financial models using advanced Excel.
  • Create real-time performance dashboards in Tableau to enable visual tracking of key performance indicators for strategic business decisions.
  • Analyze the ethical decision-making process adopted by various international organizations, which can help students become ethical decision makers in the workplace.

How does this program differ from those offered by other institutions?
The program is offered as a concentration, as opposed to a standalone course. We strongly believe that one course will not cover the skills our graduates need to become successful accountants, auditors and partners in business operations in the future.

Is there anything else that makes it unique?

The concentration offers students a choice of electives from other departments, including computer studies and information systems (data visualization and other courses), criminology (crime and intelligence analysis), and marketing (web data analytics).  The concentration goes beyond accounting courses, in order to add value by giving students exposure to data analytics in other disciplines.