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New Accounting Skills for the Digital Age

By Jeffrey C. Thomson, CMA, CSCA, CAE
May 1, 2018

Dear IMA Members, Our profession has been abuzz lately about the digital revolution—how advanced technologies are transforming the role and relevance of management accountants. The message is clear: Change is already here, and its pace is accelerating.


Change may be happening in your own organization right now. As technological advances are eliminating or displacing many entry-level tasks, accountants are being freed up to focus on higher-level, more strategic tasks. That means other skills will become increasingly important and will be required earlier in your career.


What are those skills? Right now, IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants) is developing an updated Competency Framework that will be released this summer for a 90-day public exposure period. That framework identifies six areas of core skills that management accountants need to remain relevant in the digital age:


Technology and Analytics. As Big Data matures, management accountants will need knowledge of data extraction tools for mining structured and unstructured data. They’ll need to be able to employ data analysis tools that help collate, manage, and analyze this data, as well as be used for data visualization and storytelling.


Strategic Management. Strategic management includes activities such as competitive analysis, forecasting and budgeting, oper­a­tional decision analysis, enterprise risk management, and innovation.


Reporting and Control. With robotic process automation (RPA) increasingly being used to automate accounting processes, management accountants will need to be able to evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of accounting processes and to make recommendations to optimize them. They’ll also need to implement sophisticated costing techniques and procedures to ensure data security, protect assets, and meet legal and reporting requirements.


Business Acumen and Operations. Business acumen includes industry-specific and operational knowledge as well as quality management, continuous improvement, and project management skills.


Leadership. Soft (personal) skills in areas such as motivating and collaborating with others, communications, change management, talent management, relationship management, negotiation, and conflict management will remain critical for management accountants.


Professional Ethics and Values. The evolution of technology and analytics raises new ethical dilemmas that must be addressed by accounting and finance professionals. As management accountants get more involved in the strategic planning process, there will be a greater need for professional skepticism around the inputs and assumptions in that process.


If our profession is to remain relevant and influential both now and in the future, we must move faster than the pace of technological change and embrace this call to action to upskill. Are you ready?


Jeffrey C. Thomson, CMA, CSCA, CAE, is IMA president and CEO. He also is a member of IMA’s Bergen-Rockland-Meadowlands Chapter. You can reach Jeff at jthomson@imanet.org or follow him on Twitter: @IMA_JeffThomson.
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1 comment.
    Stephen Mason, CMA May 11, 2018 AT 1:08 pm

    I would add to the business acumen area-you need ‘situational awareness’ of what is happening in other business models (also in your vendors & customers). Sometimes there are parallels that are not immediately obvious. get out and talk to people in these areas

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