By the SMU School of Accountancy Social Media Team
Today’s accounting professionals need a very different set of skills than their predecessors. In addition to having strong accounting knowledge, they are expected to process and derive meaningful analysis from large amounts of data. In addition to this, they must possess the ability to clearly and effectively communicate data analysis to their clients, team members, and managers.
Sound like a challenge? SMU’s Bachelor of Accounting (SOA) Class of 2021 graduate Ho Ming Quan, who earned a second major in Accounting Data and Analytics (ADA), was well prepared for it.
Ming Quan is a Data Analytics Associate within the Audit & Assurance function at Deloitte Singapore and helps financial audit teams apply data analytics techniques such as data processing, analysis and visualization in the process to improve the quality and efficiency of the audit, as well as to bring value to the organization’s customers. Additionally, he also supports client consulting projects, such as assisting clients with automation initiatives to improve the accuracy and efficiency of their processes.
However, he wasn’t always so good at working with data analysis and programming.
Discovering the SMU Second Major in Accounting Data and Analytics
“I remember learning about the second ADA major through a newsletter I saw in my school’s email. The email explained how data analytics is transforming the way audits are performed and the value it brings to different stakeholders. As I was going to join the working world in a few years, I felt it was the perfect opportunity to undertake this second major in order to equip myself with skills related to data analysis. Ming Quan took the second major with no previous experience in data or programming, armed with the belief that it would push him out of his comfort zone.
His decision paid off. As a Data Analytics Associate at Deloitte, one of Ming Quan’s responsibilities is to cleanse and transform “dirty” data (a term used to describe data that contains elements that prevent meaningful analysis) using Python and SQL into data ready for analysis. The processed data is then “fed” into dashboards and used for analysis by the various stakeholders. His second major in ADA had equipped him with the technical skills to use software such as VBA, Python, R and SQL for data processing, and Tableau for data visualization. “It helped me adapt to my role faster because I already have the prior knowledge of the skills required to perform my tasks.”
Solve real business problems
Another second major course that left Ming Quan with a deep impression is the Audit Analytics course (SMU-X) provided by Deloitte. As part of the course, students learn to apply data analytics in financial auditing through the use of real Deloitte case studies. This allows students to understand how the concepts and skills they are learning could be used to solve business challenges.
For their final presentation, students are given industry data and must develop an approach to meet a given set of audit objectives. They will then present it to a jury made up of the course instructor and two Deloitte audit partners.
“For me, the main takeaway from this course was learning how to identify pain points and relevant business issues before applying data analytics. During the final presentation, we were able to provide an approach to achieve the right audit objectives. This experience has given me a very important perspective on approaching business problems with analytics.”
Ming Quan’s supervisor and lecturer, Mr. Tee Chong Yu, Director of Data Analytics at Deloitte Singapore and SMU Adjunct Lecturer, has this to say, “I was Ming Quan’s lecturer two years ago, for the ACCT 423 Audit Analytics module. His attitude and performance left me in no doubt that he embodies the characteristics of a “purple person,” a concept that represents someone who possesses a mix of business and technology skills. At Deloitte, “purple people” are a key differentiator for us in the market for our data analytics services. »
The Accounting Analytics Capstone Course (SMU-X) was another course Ming Quan found particularly relevant to his role today. The Capstone course focuses on an experiential learning opportunity that allows students to translate knowledge gained in the classroom into practical solutions for real organizations. Through their Student Consulting Project, students learn how to solve complex business problems, from problem definition to final client presentation in real-world settings.
For their Capstone project, Ming Quan’s group worked with a client who encountered data inconsistencies in one of their existing processes. Fixing the issue took many hours of work, as much of the process was still manual. Using an automation script developed by his group, Ming Quan and his team eliminated repetitive tasks and also developed functions to ensure consistency. “For this project, the automation script was developed from scratch. I had to do a lot of self-study as I didn’t have a lot of prior knowledge, but that’s to be expected – as technology advances we need to improve our skills to keep up. Through this experience, I became more comfortable writing scripts from scratch to automate manual processes as well as ensure data quality and accuracy. »
Added value at work
This experience proved invaluable to Ming Quan when he worked on a process improvement project for Interflour Group shortly after joining Deloitte. The project was to enhance the client’s existing automation script that automates the financial consolidation process, a task now familiar to Ming Quan. With his previous hands-on experience from his Capstone project, he was able to understand the business requirements and how to make relevant improvements to the underlying automation script.
Ming Quan went even further. “The Capstone project experience gave me the technical ability and confidence to do more in my current role. While working on this project, I noticed an area of potential improvement that was not included in the original requirements. After reviewing the processes, I found two that caused inefficiencies and long runtime. To improve this, I refactored the codes and optimized the processes, which resulted in a 85% reduction in overall execution time.”
His initiative and technical abilities won him high praise from the client.
“The Interflour Group, with subsidiaries in various jurisdictions, manages its reporting requirements using multiple systems, with reporting packages that are significantly large and complex even for a trained eye. We engaged Deloitte to update the existing automation program with new reporting requirements. Ming Quan was part of the team assigned to Deloitte. Exceeding our expectations, Ming Quan, in addition to carrying out the update, reviewed the coding of the entire script on its own initiative and succeeded in further improving the structural composition of the existing program to make it work longer. 85% more efficiently with the same infrastructure,” said Interflour Group CFO, Mr. Anthony Liaw.
Commenting on Ming Quan’s work, Ms. Corene Phang, Group Financial Controller, Interflour Group, said, “Working with Ming Quan reinforces the importance of working with the right consultant and his team. By going further and thinking outside the box, Ming Quan has developed a more powerful tool for the Interflour Group.
“The automation project with Interflour Group demonstrated Ming Quan’s attention to detail as well as a clear understanding of the business user’s problem. He recognized the need to make the necessary script changes, which resulted in a fantastic outcome for the client in the final deliverables to the client,” Mr. Tee added.
Strong supporter of lifelong learning
Despite his technical mastery, Ming Quan still feels he can do better. “I believe that continuous learning is important in all roles. In data analytics, this is crucial because new technologies are constantly emerging in the market with the potential to bring even more value to today’s businesses. Deloitte is an organization that supports skill development for its people, and on the recommendation of my team members and supervisors, the firm sponsored my professional certifications in Tableau and UiPath. Going forward, I plan to leverage Deloitte’s e-learning platforms to accept other certifications such as AWS to ensure my skills remain relevant. »
Through his personal journey, Ming Quan deeply appreciates the importance of data analytics in the age of digitization and big data. He strongly encourages accounting students to take on the second major in ADA to build a solid foundation in this field: “While there are many online resources for learning data analysis, it can be difficult to sift through relevant sources. Therefore, I think it’s a good opportunity to start your data analytics learning journey with a structured curriculum like SMU’s second major in ADA where you’ll be guided to apply what you learn to real-world scenarios. For students considering this as something new, adopt a growth mindset and enjoy the learning process. »
Find out how far the SMU Second Major in Accounting Data and Analytics can take you. Accept your offer now!
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