Big data is significantly changing many sectors of the Chinese economy, according to research by ICAEW, in partnership with the Shanghai National Accounting Institute and Chinese technology company Inspur. In its latest report Big Data in Chinese Businesses, the finance and accountancy body says substantial investment in data and associated technology is transforming businesses and putting China at the forefront of opportunities with artificial intelligence.

In 2017 there were over 731m internet users in China. The volume of data and users provides significant advantages – more data powers more accurate predictive models, richer analysis, and supports more advanced machine learning and deeper learning techniques.

Kirstin Gillon, ICAEW IT Technical Manager, said, “China provides an excellent learning environment about the opportunities to learn from big data. Two features put China in a strong position to generate and exploit big data – the sheer size of China, and its rapid adoption of mobile technology. The most transformational way for big data to create value is through new business models, but it can also enhance sales and marketing, operational efficiency, and product planning and investment.”

However, there are significant organisational challenges in realising the value of big data. The research and case studies highlight many practical issues that are common to companies across the world as they transition from legacy systems and thinking to become a more data-centric organisation.

Kirstin said: “traditional businesses in particular face significant practical challenges, they need to deliver much wider organisational and cultural change alongside technology investments.

“Exploiting data requires three skill-sets: IT skills in data, analysis and mining of data, and business skills to interpret the results. Accountants possess most of these skills, but they also need to have deeper understanding around IT systems and data. This will make it easier for accountants and data scientists to have good quality conversations about how they can use big data to bring the most value to business in the UK.”