Management Accounting Competencies: Fit for Purpose in a Digital Age?

Management accountants and the profession must step up to meet the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead as technology advances, according to a new paper, “Management Accounting Competencies: Fit for Purpose in a Digital Age?” by IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants). The short answer to the question posed by the paper is “no.”

The paper, released in tandem with International Management Accounting Day earlier this month, finds that the skill set of management accountants needs to change to adjust to the new role technology and analytics play in the profession.

As described by report author Raef Lawson, Ph.D., CMA, CSCA, CPA, CFA, IMA vice president of research and policy and professor-in-residence, many traditional accounting roles that exist today may not exist in a few years. Instead, value creation is becoming the essential role of management accountants – that is, using data to better support decision making as well as formulating and implementing strategy.

In order to exploit the digital transformation and successfully transition into the role of value creator, management accountants will need to:

  • Enhance their skills in data analytics;
  • Know how to leverage the technology that will free them from repetitive, time-intensive manual tasks;
  • Develop their strategic management/thinking skills; and
  • Focus on innovation and change management.

Specifically with regard to data analytics skills, management accountants will need to be able to:

  • Explore new ways to manage, analyze, and extract value from data;
  • Apply analytical and critical thinking skills to address strategic issues; and
  • Identify the most useful questions Big Data can answer.

To ensure management accountants stay at the forefront of these emerging technologies and practices, IMA is revising its Management Accounting Competency Framework to reflect the evolving knowledge, skills, and abilities needed in the profession. An Exposure Draft for public comment is expected to be released next month.

"Earning relevant certifications like the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) and CSCA® (Certified in Strategy and Competitive Analysis) can help management accountants gain the new skills needed in the profession," said Lawson. He also recommends developing an appropriate mindset, enhanced communication and relationship-management skills, and the ability to think critically.

For more information on the report, please visit the Research & Publications page on the IMA website.