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As we enter the new fiscal year, C-suite leaders appear motivated to pursue strategic transactions.

According to the latest EY Capital Confidence Barometer, which surveys more than 2,900 global executives across all sectors to gauge their sentiments regarding economic growth and their M&A intentions, 59 percent expect to acquire assets in the next 12 months. But are they using every avenue available to enhance their decision-making abilities?

When it comes to dealmaking, many companies are doing what they’ve always done. Unfortunately, that means they’re not thinking about the massive amounts of previously unavailable data that can help them analyze potential deals more quickly than ever.

As a society, we are currently creating data at a rate of 16.3 zettabytes per year. By 2025, we will create 10 times that amount annually. All that data is creating opportunities and a competitive advantage for companies that embrace the transformation it is enabling.

For buyers, on-demand data analytics can allow companies to reduce the risk associated with transactions. Companies are able to more robustly investigate target acquisitions, determine whether projected deal outcomes will align with their growth structure objective and derive greater insights from data with a faster turnaround time.

With the deal market as competitive as ever, buyers need data to determine a valuation they can feel comfortable with, in a short amount of time. Post-close, data can help buyers unlock additional value, offering leverage to create efficiencies, make improvements or drive growth.

On the sell-side, companies are finding that data, such as sales figures they previously had held close to the vest, are now table stakes. Withholding data could delay a deal or even cancel it. And they need that data for their own purposes, too.

We recently worked with a company that had completed several acquisitions and was seeking to sell. But thanks to disparate data coming from multiple operating systems across several manufacturing plants, the company did not have a holistic view of the business. It could not tell potential buyers what its top 10 products were or even its largest customers. The seller needed data to back up the story it was trying to tell buyers.

To embrace data and use it to the fullest, companies need to understand what information is available, both internally and externally. Data then will need to be cleansed and restructured before it can be fed into a tool for analysis and deriving insights.

Some companies have opted to perform this process in-house, hiring people with data science backgrounds. Others are turning to external advisors who can combine complex sets of structured and unstructured financial and operational data, typically spread across multiple systems, with relevant external data. The resulting analysis gives companies interactive access to enriched information that can help them drive faster and more decisive decisions throughout the transaction life cycle.

The future of transactions is going to be increasingly data-driven. To avoid being the missing link, embrace data. Whether you are the buyer or the seller, there is a critical need to understand historical operating results and the key drivers of revenue and profitability. Businesses are now better able to analyze and support key modeling assumptions and questions, as well as identify potential go-forward risks and opportunities. Data is no longer a nice to have, it is now the must-have to help you enhance your decision-making abilities.

Monte Repasky is the Cleveland Office Managing Partner of Ernst & Young LLP. With nearly 30 years of experience, Repasky has served a wide variety of global clients primarily in the manufacturing, transportation and construction sectors. Additionally, he served as the Corporate Controller of an international manufacturing company. He has extensive experience working with international corporations in acquisitions, divestitures and spin-offs, revenue recognition, accounting for income taxes, and SEC reporting and filing matters. To learn more, visit www.ey.com.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Ernst & Young LLP or any other member firm of the global EY organization.