OBU RAP Topic 11 – Analyse and evaluate how an organisation has managed the use of data to inform business performance and achieve strategic advantage. Consideration must be given to how the ethics of data use is managed



Data is being used in every industry and every field in different ways. Data is information that has been translated into a form that is efficient for movement or processing.

In the field of accounting, organizations use facts and figures or information in raw form and then organize it to evaluate different trends to form better-informed decisions. Many different business models, KPIs and measures are used to plan resources and outcomes.

The following points should be considered

  • Primary data collection is essential
  • Internally generated information may help your evaluation

This topic requires the students to study the ways in which management has transformed raw data into meaningful form to extract the trends in its past performances. Big data is simply a collection of data that may be assessed to disclose patterns and trends. Several multinational companies use it to filter the data and business of various companies.

Companies are taking great advantage of data. It can benefit companies to make adequate decisions in less time and make their work easier and more profitable. Even data helps companies to understand their customer’s needs and wants and enables a business to engage in a real-time, one-on-one conversation with consumers.

There are several benefits of using data to gain strategic growth and make better business decisions. Companies use data to gain insight into customer demands and markets. Data analytics can predict the patterns of consumers. After that, they use these patterns to promote brand loyalty among customers.

In this topic, it is crucial that students know how companies manage to use this data to their advantage. Instead of going with a strategy you think is best, data-driven decision-making is a strategy that uses data to inform business decisions. Often referred to as DDDM or information-based decision-making, you group together historical information to analyze trends and make decisions for the future based on what’s worked in the past – rather than make decisions based on gut feelings, opinions or experience. So, for your RAP to qualify, you need to make a critical assessment of the transformation of raw data into a meaningful form for the business and how the company managed to achieve that. moreover, this topic requires you to research the ethical practices of the business in relation to data usage.

Data ethics talks about the moral obligations of gathering, protecting, and using personally identifiable information and how it affects individuals. “Data ethics asks, ‘Is this the right thing to do? Privacy rights, data validity, and algorithm fairness in the areas of Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, and Machine Learning are the most important ethical challenges in need of a more thorough investigation. Students are required to consider whether the company is using data in an ethical manner or not. A critical assessment of the company’s ethics is required.

Key features/requirements for topic (usage of data)

These are the major requirements of topic 11

  • Selecting a company that uses big data to ensure its business growth
  • Analysing the transformation of raw data into meaningful data by the company to make better-informed decisions
  • Analysing the ethical business practices regarding the use of the data
  • Examining any breach of ethical principles by the company
  • Assessing what informed decisions have been made by the company with the data usage

Key success factors for topic (usage of data)

Following are the main points that need to be considered for a successful RAP submission

  • Selecting a suitable company that is a user of big data
  • Identification of the strategic advantages achieved in the company
  • Identification of the business growth of the company
  • Assessing the use of data analytics in the management of performance of the business
  • Assessing the ethical practices of the management in relation to the data usage
  • Assessing the breach of ethical values regarding the usage of data
  • Access to the internally generated information
  • Permission from the management to use the internally generated information
  • In-depth knowledge of all the data analytics used to enhance the strategic or operational performance of the company
  • Demonstrating a clear understanding of the industry and its competitive peers
  • Adequate application of the selected goals and objectives that were set at the beginning of the RAP in the proper sections of RAP
  • The implementation of the correct research methodology to get good results on all the selected goals and objectives that were put in place at the beginning of the RAP
  • Keeping the discussion logical by keeping all the objectives in mind
  • Using reliable and appropriate sources for data gathering
  • Properly referencing the information gathered according to the Harvard referencing style as told by the OBU.
  • Usage of suitable business models to study the impact of data usage on the company’s success
  • A comparison to another organisation or the industry sector average if the publicly available information is being used
  • Explaining the approach (primary or secondary data collection) that has been used for the RAP

Accounting and business models for topic 11 (usage of data)

This topic can also be analysed with the help of financial ratios. A good financial analysis is crucial to the passing grade of the RAP. Financial analysis refers to the usage of financial data to access a company’s performance and make recommendations about how the company can go forward.  The most suitable is ratio analysis.

RATIO ANALYSIS: It is a quantitative method of gaining insight into a company’s operational efficiency, profitability, solvency or liquidity by studying its financial statements such as the balance sheet and income statement. The types of ratio analysis include profitability ratios, liquidity ratios, solvency ratios, turnover ratios and earnings Any of the ratios can be used to analyse the financial position of the company over some time.

Relevant KPIs can also be used to better analyse this topic. KPIs are the key targets you should track to make the most impact on your strategic business outcomes. KPIs support your strategy and help your teams focus on what’s important. One approach to incorporating insightful KPIs is to use the SMART criteria: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time bound. Then focus on how to fine-tune the KPIs to reflect the most insightful data. Many other models and modes of analysis can be used to produce a well-researched RAP with the help and guidance of your experienced mentor.

The concept of professional and corporate ethics can also be used to study and research the data usage ethics of the company. Professional ethics are principles that govern the behaviour of a person or group in a business environment. Like values, professional ethics provide rules on how a person should act towards other people and institutions in such an environment. Business ethics (also known as corporate ethics) is a form of applied ethics or professional ethics, which examines ethical principles and moral or ethical problems that can arise in a business environment.

By assessing if the organization is operating under the principles of corporate and professional ethics, this topic can easily be undertaken.

Data privacy regulation: all the countries around the world have their own set of data privacy regulations to control how information is used and they need to be followed by all the people and organisations of that country. Students need to obtain a clear understanding of all the consumer privacy laws operating in the state in which the organisation is working.

Cost-benefit analysis of data use: Generally speaking, cost-benefit analysis is a way to ensure if a particular data transformation decision or management change will prove to be beneficial for the areas in which data is being applied. If a company is unsure whether the effort and resources being used will be worth the data transformation or not, then this model can be applied to projected costs and benefits to analyse if they make sense to the business. There are enormous economic benefits to running these tests before taking up a major decision regarding the strategic change. By doing this analysis, a company can find out the most critical information regarding the outcomes of strategic decisions like the ROI and value chain. The first step of a cost-benefit analysis is to establish a framework for analysis. Then all the projected costs and their estimated benefits are laid out. Companies should then assign a dollar value to each cost and benefit. Then tally the total value of costs and benefits and compare. If the benefits outweigh the cost, then the management should invest in data analytics without a second thought.

Possible limitations faced by the students while researching topic 11

The main aim of conducting research is to set up new facts or confirm the outcomes of the previous research. It enables us to gain new knowledge regarding the subject. However, while preparing for OBU thesis research students face many problems.

General Limitations

  • Research method: Students need to have a clear understanding of the research methods. The research methods are not relevant or reliable as students are not trained in different methodologies. Simply replicating the knowledge available online or from different sources is not wise. There is a lack of basic knowledge regarding the correct methods of research.
  • Interaction between the subject company and student: There isn’t any proper interaction between the subject company and the student. This means that a substantial amount of data going into the thesis goes untapped. The key issues of the company can only be highlighted with the help of internal company management.
  • Overlapping information: overlapping information is often obtained because of excessive research through various sources. Each source has its own story to tell. Students often get confused regarding the facts and statements
  • Students may not be able to get authorization to talk to the higher management and also some information may not be provided due to confidentiality issues.
  • Time constraints: it is without a doubt that students need to complete their RAP before the deadline hits. Sometimes, the time limit can affect the quality of RAP very negatively. Students need to acknowledge this from the very start and set a schedule to be consistent with their research.
  • Data collection process: The diverse ways of collecting data presents a strong limitation. If a student conducts an interview person to person or if he does it over the phone, both can have different effects on the interview. Hence, this data limitation must be reflected upon

Specific Limitations

  • No access to internal data: Students must have access to the internal management for this topic. The usage of data is an internal matter and limited secondary sources will be available.
  • Lack of understanding of big data: students may not be aware of the transformation of big data. it must be understood before your RAP

Suitable organisation for topic 11

The most suitable organization is the one that uses big data and transforms it into meaningful form to extract patterns and trends. Selecting a company that is established enough so that its performance and financial position to be studied over some time is necessary. To make a high-quality RAP, it is essential that students choose a company whose operations are easily understood by the student, and he can make connections between various topics.

The following factors should be kept in mind while choosing a company for RAP:

  • The general interest of the student in the company
  • The amount of information available for the company
  • Access to reliable secondary sources of information
  • Access to internal information
  • Familiarity with the industry sector associated with the company

Big data is being used by many sectors to achieve strategic advantages. Students can consider the companies operating in Healthcare, Insurance, banking and securities, communications, media and entertainment for research on topic 11.

Suggested approach for topic 11

Before starting your research, you should understand the assignment. The guidelines mentioned in the information pack should be read. The word count and length should be looked upon. What kind of sources are required by the topic, primary or secondary? The style of citation ‘Harvard referencing’ should be understood by the students. All the other requirements and directions made by the OBU must be complied with. After choosing this topic, a proper mind map must be made from the start, so the student conducts all the required tasks in a proper and timely manner. All the major requirements and aspects of the topic should be considered thoroughly so that a strategy can be devised to meet those requirements. A research methodology and all reliable websites and authentic sources should be noted down. The style of referencing must be kept in mind while researching this topic in order to pass the OBU RAP. A comparison organisation should be used for this topic if, the publicly available information is being used.

In Part 1– (Research objectives and overall research approach), Students need to make a table of contents and a title page mentioning the ACCA reg number and the selected topic. Part 1 mostly contains the introduction and the objectives of the RAP. The objectives should be consistent with the research of the project. Your personal aims and goals are not required to be a part of this section. The reasons for selecting the topic must be jotted down. The organisation which is suitable for topic 11 and why that organisation was deemed appropriate for the topic.  The aims and objectives of the project should be explained in a number of points. Research questions are written in detail, and it targets the specific areas that need to be researched. Usually, there are 3 or 4 research questions. Consideration of all these points is important in part 1. If you follow all these instructions, you can move very strongly ahead.

Part 2- (Information gathering/accounting and business techniques) is a crucial section as all your understanding of the business and accountancy models is analysed here. A quality explanation of the used models or any other frameworks and analysis of all their possible limitations must be performed. The most structured way of representing section 2 is by first mentioning the sources of information that were used to acquire the data for research on topic 11. It is related to the use of data and its transformation, so this type of information is not very publicly available. Students need to acquire primary data as it may help in their evaluation better. Internally generated information must be used. If you are working at an organisation, then it will be easier for you to work on this topic. You can research on your own company by first taking permission from the authorities. A discussion of the limitations of your information gathering must be included. Limitations might include the confidentiality of companies or the in access to internally generated information. Students should find references to mention limitations instead of writing from their own opinion. Any ethical issues that arose during information gathering and your solutions regarding the issues. Every part should be backed up by good references. Next, you would list down all the business and accountancy models and their limitations. OBU suggests using ratio analysis and the usage of relevant KPIs to study the analysis. Ethics can be evaluated through the ethics and corporate framework. To find out more about the selection of respective models for topic 11, kindly refer to section ‘Accounting and business models for topic 11’ above.  Word count is to be prioritized which is 1800-2000 words.

In part 3, there is a further evaluation, analysis, and conclusion. It should contain a description of the results obtained and all the limitations. Further research with examples and comparisons between the two companies is done. It is the most critical section, and most students fail in it if they are not in the hands of an experienced mentor. Only a qualified mentor can guide the students critically to secure a passing grade. Evaluation and analysis of topic 5 means you need to explain the financial performance with the help of ratios and compare those ratios over the three-year time period. Analysis and evaluation are done by using ratios and not absolute numbers. Merely writing the figures or absolute numbers will not be sufficient. You should analyse the usage of big data effects. Has the company’s profit increased or decreased? The gearing and liquidity trends over three years and whether the company’s efficiency is increased. All findings should be presented in a good form with the help of graphs, pie charts, tables etc. The ethical frameworks must also be analysed critically. Conclusions must be made based on your research work. Recommendations to the selected company may be made but it is not very necessary. It is of utmost importance that word count must be kept in mind. If you exceed it in any way, then the examiner will not mark the conclusions resulting in failure.  4500 words must be written to ensure a detailed analysis.

Every student takes his approach regarding the given topic, and this is only an extremely broad version of what can be done. The detailed approach depends on the student’s perception of the topic and the sources of information being used. Whatever approach is taken, the guidance of the project mentor is needed every step of the way to pass RAP with good grades.

Suggested approach for SLS

The meetings with the mentor must be planned at the start of the RAP and a track of those meetings must be kept in a diary as it will help later on to write the SLS.

This will help you demonstrate your learning with the mentor. Your SLS must be based on self-reflection and not the description of events. The timetable should be devised in the beginning and must be followed. Taking the guidance of the mentor and resolving the issues timely will help to write a good SLS.

Sources of information

There are two types of sources that can be used, primary and secondary.

The primary source is the first-hand source collected by the student and is very essential for this topic. In this topic students can get the data reports from management and conduct interviews with the employees. Surveys and questionnaires can also be devised.

Secondary Information is readily available information. The annual reports and websites can provide data required for the research. The reliability and relevancy of the source must be checked before usage.

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