Double Threat Talent

Shohei Ohtani is taking Major League Baseball by storm.  If you don’t know the name, Ohtani is a rising star from Japan making a big splash. He is a pitcher whose team has won six of his seven starts (his official record is 4-1) and strikes out more than one batter an inning on average; and a hitter whose batting average is over .300 that hits with power.  When he isn’t pitching, he is the designated hitter for his club the Los Angeles Angels. On the one hand, everyone is acting as if this is the first time anyone has ever done such a thing, which at the major league level is mostly true.  The difference is that if you go back to little league and even high school, usually the pitchers are the best players, including the best hitters, on the team.  It’s only when the player becomes a professional baseball player that he (and for now every major league player is a he) specializes and become either a hitter or a pitcher.

A similar process happens in the accounting profession.  Most start off as one of the best and brightest students in high school, but over time they specialize in tax, audit, managerial accounting or any of several areas; and people seem to forget that most accountants come with a keen analytical mind which is perfect for adapting to the data analysis world we now live in.  Professional accountants have been steeped in data analytics for decades, but somehow people seem shocked that accountants are knowledgeable about such a “new” area.  The only thing new about data analytics is the volume of data and the computing power to analyze it all.  The concept of looking at data to make better decisions has been around at least as long as the accounting profession.

Accounting work is already dependent on several specializations such as tax and valuation work.  Now we are adding data analysis to that list.  Will the addition change the profession?  Yes.  But this isn’t so much a revolution as a continued evolution on the path we have been on for the past several decades.  Those entering the profession today are like the high school baseball stars that can pitch and hit.  Many wanting to become professionals understand accounting and data analytics.  Some may decide to specialize in the new area of data analytics, which to those outside the profession may seem like something other than accounting.  But I think the real answer is that these data analysts will be embraced by and become part of the profession because, in the end, it’s not specific skills, but a desire to help and serve the public interest that already binds the accounting profession together today.

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