IMA’s new Statement on Management Accounting (SMA), titled “Data Visualization,” discusses the increasingly important role of dynamic visuals in accounting and finance. The report, authored by Ann C. Dzuranin, Ph.D., CPA, professor of accountancy at Northern Illinois University, describes the different types of data visualizations, how to create effective visualizations, and how to tell a story with data.

The SMA explains that to take advantage of the vast troves of data businesses are gathering, accounting and finance professionals need to gain new skills to manage, analyze, and extract value from data. Having such data visualization skills enables management accountants to display what matters, propel business growth, and enable management to make strategic decisions.

“A well-crafted data presentation should have a balance between data, visuals, and the message you are trying to convey,” said Loreal Jiles, IMA vice president, research and thought leadership. “Increasingly, management accountants are relied upon to marry financial and nonfinancial data, leveraging business acumen, analysis, and communication tools, to make recommendations. Data visualization offers accounting and finance professionals a path to delivering this value.”

The full report is available on the IMA website, which also includes other IMA resources, including articles, podcasts, and online learning courses, on the topic of data visualization.

The SMA discusses the two types of data visualization: exploratory and explanatory. Both can be performed with interactive electronic dashboards with the use of advanced data visualization software that has now become integral to working in management accounting.

“Data visualization in management accounting is imperative to the overall decision-making process that will drive change and improve on traditional business practices,” said Jiles. “This SMA will help improve finance professionals’ understanding of how to better communicate data, influence decision making, establish best practices, and ultimately, drive change within organizations.”