In this guest video, Advisory Board member and Co-Founder of flinder, Alastair Barlow, shares how they use heterogeneous data mashing to have deeper, richer conversations with their clients.

Don’t want to watch the video? You can read the full transcription below.

Hi there. My name’s Alastair Barlow. I’m the founder and chief dreamer at flinder. flinder’s an accounting, consulting, and data analytics business here in London. We are an ACCA member firm and personally I sit on the ACCA Practitioners’ Network Panel as well. I’m really excited to be telling you my top tip for this month, which is all-around data and data mashing. We leverage a lot of technology in our business from the technology we develop ourselves through to robotic process automation. But what we really do at Flinder is ultimately we deliver rich management information for businesses to make better decisions on the back of that.

So how do we do that? Well, we actually draw data in from multiple data sources and we call this heterogeneous data mashing because we bring it in from different sources and different types of different contents of data. So as accountants, we’re pretty familiar with financial data coming from a finance system or coming from an Excel sheet, but probably what were less confident and less familiar with is bringing data in from say a CRM system, some other type of operational system, and really blending that data together to add richness and enrich the story so we can have the deeper, richer conversations with our clients.

Now there are some huge challenges here. As accountants, we’ve never really traditionally dealt with those and that’s around the data sources themselves and the format that the data comes in. So a lot of the time when we look at what does good practice management information look like, we’re bringing in data real-time through application programming interfaces. Those sources tend to be different to the tabular formats we’re used to. So it could be a JSON or an XML file with nested arrays in it, and that adds a huge amount of complexity. But actually it tells a much richer story and really, really adds value to the business to make better decisions.

So a simple example could be, we’re bringing customer numbers in from either a CRM system or a proprietary system that’s been developed by the business, as well as bringing it in from a finance system such as QuickBooks, Xero, and other such systems, and really blending the two together to understand not just what’s happening in the business, whether the numbers have gone up or down, but why it’s happened. Do we have more customers, or do we have a change in average price? So that really, really enriches the story there to have with our clients. So I’d love to hear what you have to say about that and whether you’re blending data together and how you’re actually adopting that in your business. So please connect with me on LinkedIn or share some of your thoughts on Twitter.

“Alastair is Chief Dreamer and founder at flinder – an international and multiple award-winning accounting, consulting and data analytics business. He is a certified chartered accountant and ACCA UK panel member and has over 20 years’ experience practising accounting and finance consulting across a number of sectors and countries.”