Boxing Clever: What bookkeepers can learn from Olympians about data

For bookkeepers, The Olympics provides a lesson in data mastery. Everyone from Canadian canoeists to British boxers are employing analytics to guide their Rio 2016 training. And Rio has earmarked 20% of its initial $2.25bn budget to spend on IT and telecoms.

And just like the athletes in pursuit of gold, bookkeepers’ performance could be turbo-charged by clever use of technology. It’s already happening, notes Nick Frost, head of audit technology at KPMG UK: “Data analytics is enhancing the effectiveness of accountants and making them more valuable.”

Here’s what bookkeepers can learn from Olympians’ use of data.

1. How to think big

Forget electrolytes – data is the new athletes’ fuel.

Access to ever greater amounts of data has souped-up the performance of Olympians. Canada’s national swimming team poured over 2m data points in preparation for Rio 2016. This has enhanced decision-making, to maximise Canada’s medal count, notes the National Post.

Bookkeepers too are now benefiting from “big data”.

“We can now get the full picture as opposed to extrapolating samples statistically,” says KPMG’s Frost, who calls this “the watershed moment we’ve been waiting for”.

He says: “This is very powerful — it makes our responses more focused…And brings us closer to the client.”

2. How to Use Data Efficiently

Bookkeepers, like Olympians, can get bogged down by the data deluge.

At Rio 2016 however, athletes are using tech to cut training costs and, ultimately, deliver medals.
USA Cyclists are a sterling example.

They’ve plugged into IBM’s supercomputer Watson, which instantly sends training data to their coaches’ smartphones. Before, they had to plug bike sensors into desktop computers and crunch data manually, which could take days. An experience that may sound familiar.

Bookkeepers too are often hindered by dreaded data entry. But with clever use of technology like Receipt Bank, these manual processes can be automated, says Richard Anning, head of IT faculty at the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales — freeing up time to deliver real value.

3. A Knock-Out Blow

As well as helping improve current processes, data is helping Olympians find space to do what really matters. Team GB’s Olympic boxers, for instance, have been crunching a wealth of data on their opponents in search of when to land a knock-out blow, according to the BBC.

Data analytics provides opportunities to understand your clients better, and see where you could go further. Expanding into value-added services allows you to focus on services that really help your clients’ businesses.

This could be offering new insights, or pitching additional strategies and fixes for the problems you discover, says the ICAEW’s Anning.

5. How to Live in the Moment

These insights are now discovered in real-time, allowing adjustments to be made on the fly — in both sports and accountancy.

The Olympics provide plenty of examples. Take Team USA track cyclists. They’ve been grilling live data during training using augmented reality glasses, reports Spectrum. Data on power, speed and pedal revolutions are sent wirelessly to their glasses.

Businesses, like cyclists, also need real-time visibility. To keep an eye on their liquidity, companies need a live view of their financial flows and forecasts.

This will ultimately change the role the bookkeeper, says Faye Chua, head of future research at the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants: “It will no longer be reactive and backward-looking, but proactive and continuous.”

When used correctly, analytics ultimately increases the value bookkeepers’ bring to a business. Like Olympians, harnessing the power of data keeps them fighting-fit.

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