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Data Wrangling in Accounting

October 27, 2016

Long before data-driven decision making became indispensable to every business function, accountants were scouring through numbers that would inform key financial decisions. In a sense, they are the original data nerds. The life of the accountant has always revolved around measuring data that serves as guideposts for the business.

Today, however, with the rise of big data, accountants are faced with unique opportunities to work with more data, to derive insights faster, and to connect the dots on financial activities that were previously disjointed. For the modern accountant, it’s about more than just measuring; today, it’a also a questions of what is important to measure? Ask any data analyst and they’ll tell you, the difficulty with big data typically isn’t about finding data, but about culling through hordes of information to choose the most interesting and relevant pieces.

Trifacta Solves Accounting Challenges

When one of the biggest auditors in the world, and a Trifacta customer, asked us to speak at the annual conference for The American Accounting Association in September, we discussed the challenges of executing efficient data exploration and transformation when working with Big Data.

This discussion touched on a few of this particular accounting firm’s own use cases, which demand quick insights derived from a lot of information. In one such use-case, they sought to more efficiently wrangle its clients’ business travel details. This information is provided in a variety of diverse data sets, ranging from HR employee data to flight, hotel and corporate plane data. On top of that, each client provides this detail in different formats and standards, yet this accounting firm needed it all to be completely cleaned, normalized and blended together before they can feed the detail into the travel engine they have built.

The Biggest Barrier to Effective Data Wrangling

That brings us to the root of the problem for this particular firm, and for all business-oriented analysts: In order to explore and quickly sift through data, you need fast access to it, which can be incredibly difficult when that data lives behind technical barriers. At the same time, this firm has over 225,000 business accountants at the ready who are armed with the business context that can drive effective data transformation. For this accounting firm, getting consultants access to raw data, which they are then able to prepare for analysis themselves, was key to the success of its business. They selected Trifacta’s data wrangling solution to increase the efficiency of how teams explore and wrangle data for analysis, while simultaneously reducing resourcing cost by leveraging existing consultants.

When most accountants hear “data wrangling,” they likely think Excel, a tool that has served them well, and will continue to do so for many tasks into the future. But as the volume and variety of data soars past Excel’s capabilities and businesses begin to invest more heavily in data platforms that can consolidate vast quantities and varieties of data at once, accountants  benefit from a data wrangling solution that can handle the scale and diversity of data while also leveraging the latest techniques in data visualization and machine learning to accelerate the process.

At Trifacta, the core elements of our user experience were specifically designed to solve these challenges accounts face today. Interactive Exploration gives users a bird’s eye view into raw data with automated visual representations of a variety of different data types. Predictive Transformation to automatically suggests transformations specific to the data being worked on and leverages powerful machine learning to adjust these suggestions over time based on the usage patterns. We’re excited to see our customers solve huge wrangling challenges and derive deeper insights with a tool designed especially for the users that know the data best.

Final Thoughts

Today, accountants have the ability to work with data unlike ever before and a unique opportunity to define a new set of best practices, given their long history working with data. It was exciting to speak at the conference and feel the participants abuzz with energy for what these new technologies and techniques can potentially bring to their respective organizations. We’re excited to witness (and provide support to) the innovative work that leading accountants do next.

For more information on Trifacta’s data wrangling solution, read PepsiCo’s customer case study and click here to learn more about the American Accounting Association.