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Data, alongside the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT), is the new industrial revolution that is taking over the marketplace. Millions of us use the internet and technology on a daily basis, meaning that access to data is readily available. However, ensuring that data is relevant and useful is the new challenge.

We produce 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day, and this is only set to increase. Such a significant amount of data allows businesses to utilise vast amounts of information. However, much of this data often proves to be ‘dark’ – we take a look at this concept below.

What is ‘dark data’?

Gartner, an IT research and advisory company, defines dark data as ‘the information assets organisations collect, process and store during regular business activities, but generally fail to use for other purposes’.

Dark data is, therefore, data that is being produced but not being utilised by businesses. According to research company International Data Corporation (IDC), 90% of data captured becomes dark.

Why does data become dark?

In many organisations, data collected sits idle. Many firms have ‘disparate and unintegrated systems’, which means that extracting, cleaning and standardising the data before it is used can often prove to be difficult. Additionally, with the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, more dark data may see the light of day.

Businesses are able to capture and analyse unprecedented amounts of data from places like the internet, sensors, satellites and social media, amongst others. By using this data, companies can analyse the behaviour of their customers, suppliers and competitors, in order to make informed decisions.

However, businesses also require the right expertise, so that they can interpret the data and make constructive insights.

Utilising data

Firstly, business owners need to work out what the business requires. Generally, firms need to know what their customers want, what business risks their company is facing and which new opportunities are out there. Businesses are then advised to look at both internal and external information to see where they can capture data about their customers, suppliers and competitors, and their behaviour and activities.

In order to analyse and understand the data, firms will need a mix of skills. Core IT and statistical skills are essential. Data scientists who specialise in data management and data architecture are also important: however, those who have visual and graphics skills and can present data in an easily digestible form will be key. Businesses will also require people with good business understanding, such as accountants, who can accurately interpret results.

Many firms will need to embrace data into their culture, rather than keeping it in isolated boxes, and seek to adopt cross-departmental working.

So where do accountants fit in?

Accountants are in a good position to help businesses review and use the data that is available to them. Accountants’ training and backgrounds put them in a good position to use their in-depth knowledge of the company in question, along with their attention to detail, which can be used to analyse data in a useful way. By working alongside data analysts, accountants may be able to use their strong critical thinking skills to obtain added value from the data.

With data revolutionising the workplace, accountants who can adapt to the new challenges and utilise data will be in a good position to help drive businesses forward.