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Big Data Analytics: Opportunity or Threat for the Accounting Profession?

40 Pages Posted: 15 Sep 2016 Last revised: 24 May 2017

Greg Richins

University of Waterloo - School of Accounting and Finance

Andrea Stapleton

University of Waterloo - School of Accounting and Finance

Theophanis C. Stratopoulos

University of Waterloo - School of Accounting and Finance

Christopher Wong

University of Waterloo - School of Accounting and Finance

Date Written: September 10, 2016

Abstract

Contrary to Frey and Osborne’s (2013) prediction that the accounting profession faces extinction, we argue that accountants can still create value in a world of big data analytics. To advance this argument, we provide a conceptual framework based on structured/unstructured data and problem driven/exploratory analysis. We argue that accountants already excel at problem driven analysis of structured data, are well positioned to play a leading role in the problem driven analysis of unstructured data, and can support data scientists performing exploratory analysis on big data. Our argument rests on two pillars: accountants are familiar with structured data sets, easing the transition to working with unstructured data, and possess knowledge of business fundamentals. Thus, rather than replacing accountants, we argue that big data analytics complements accountants’ skills and knowledge. However, educators, standard setters, and professional bodies must adjust their curricula, standards, and frameworks to accommodate the challenges of big data analytics.

Keywords: big data, data analytics, job automation, managerial accounting, financial accounting, auditing

Suggested Citation

Richins, Greg and Stapleton, Andrea and Stratopoulos, Theophanis C. and Wong, Christopher, Big Data Analytics: Opportunity or Threat for the Accounting Profession? (September 10, 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2813817 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2813817

Greg Richins

University of Waterloo - School of Accounting and Finance ( email )

200 University Avenue West
Waterloo, Ontario N2L 3G1 N2L 3G1
Canada

Andrea Stapleton

University of Waterloo - School of Accounting and Finance ( email )

200 University Avenue West
Waterloo, Ontario N2L 3G1 N2L 3G1
Canada

Theophanis Stratopoulos (Contact Author)

University of Waterloo - School of Accounting and Finance ( email )

200 University Avenue West
Waterloo, Ontario N2L 3G1 N2L 3G1
Canada
519-888-4567 x35943 (Phone)

Christopher Wong

University of Waterloo - School of Accounting and Finance ( email )

200 University Avenue West
Waterloo, Ontario N2L 3G1 N2L 3G1
Canada

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