Overview of Data Analytics Projects

Wendy Tietz (accountingintheheadlines.com) and I are presenting a poster at the American Accounting Association Annual meeting in Washington DC this upcoming week. Our presentation centers around using data analytics in introductory accounting.

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Data analytics is the process of inspecting, cleansing, transforming, and modeling data with the goal of discovering useful information, suggesting conclusions, and supporting decision-making.

In introductory accounting, we can begin to discuss with our students how data analytics is used to solve accounting questions. For example:

Walmart – In 2015, Walmart announce it was in the process of creating the world’s largest private data cloud which would be able to process 2.5 petabytes of information every hour. The company uses this data to analyze sales across different stores in different geographical areas in real time. 

Airbnb – Since 2008, Airbnb has collected around 1.5 petabytes on vacation habits and lodging preferences. The company developed an algorithm that helped landlords develop the right price of their rentals, identify areas where the company did not have enough listings to recruit potential rental property.

Dickey’s Barbecue Pit – Dickey’s has its own point-of sale (POS) system called “Smoke Stack” that provides real-time feedback on sales and key performance indicators (KPIs). Data is examined every 20 minutes to enable immediate decisions. If lower-than-expected sales occur, the company can send text invitations to their loyal customers with a coupon to increase sales. 

Source: Marr, B. (2016). Big data in practice. West Sussex, UK: John Wiley and Sons Ltd.

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We can also begin to teach more advanced excel and data analytics skills in our courses so students are more prepared for advanced data analytics in later business courses. The goal of our projects is to build students Excel skills using larger data sets while still learning accounting. Below you’ll find a summary of the projects we have developed so far:

Project 1: City of Somerville, MA: Transaction Analysis (Financial Accounting)

  • 55,000 records, real-world data
  • Pivot tables
  • Sum, count, and average columns in pivot table
  • Pivot charts

Project 2: Hula Hut Burger: Fixed Asset Schedule (Financial Accounting)

  • 1,500 records, anonymized data
  • Pivot tables
  • Calculated fields
  • Slicer, Timeline tool
  • Finding errors

Project 3: Cabinet Accessory Company: Sales, Cost, and Gross Profit Analysis (Financial Accounting)

  • 49,000 records
  • Pivot tables and pivot charts
  • Find and correct errors
  • Analyze sales data
  • Determine net impact on retained earnings
  • Interpret findings

Project 4: City of Somerville, MA: Budgeting and Performance Evaluation (Managerial Accounting)

  • 55,000 records, real-world data
  • Pivot tables
  • Format pivot tables
  • Apply filters
  • Prepare budget variances and analyze

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