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The Race for Relevance

By Jeffrey C. Thomson, CMA, CSCA, CAE
May 1, 2021

Digital transformation was on the horizon even before COVID-19 hit. Now we’re rushing toward it at breakneck speed. According to a recent study by McKinsey & Company, “COVID-19 has pushed companies over the technology tipping point,” with many organizations reporting they’ve accelerated the digitization of their customer and supply-chain interactions and their internal operations by three to four years. That’s why it’s only fitting that this month, when IMA® and the world celebrate International Management Accounting Day, we also acknowledge the role management accountants will play in this new landscape, helping their organizations realize untapped opportunities and operate more effectively.

 

Clearly, technologies such as robotic process automation, process mining, blockchain, AI, and more have impacted the business and finance supply chain over the past decade. But we’re now seeing these technologies advance exponentially—and that requires a response from the profession if we want to remain relevant.

 

In this race for relevance, we’re competing in a business environment dominated by the four VUCA trends: volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. The accounting and finance profession must thrive amid this turmoil and move faster and smarter. We need to absorb and understand emerging technologies, leverage their capabilities, add more value to our stakeholders, and adopt new behaviors and competencies.

 

Among these required new behaviors is agility, defined as the ability to quickly move employees into new roles or areas of the organization to support changing business needs. This can be daunting. According to McKinsey, the five most common organizational barriers to achieving agility are silos, slow decision making, lack of strategic clarity, rigid policies, and formal hierarchy. If your organization is entrenched in any of these practices, being agile in a VUCA world is less likely.

 

To gain relevance in the Digital Age and capitalize on developing technologies, embracing the call to upskill in areas such as data science, analytics, visualization, and strategy is imperative. Individuals and organizations must learn to be anticipatory, foreseeing what might be required in the future. Insight and foresight add to the traditional lines of sight (hindsight and oversight) and value that management accountants deliver. They do this through leading indicators, scenario planning, risk assessment, and much more.

 

These are part of the competencies outlined in the IMA Management Accounting Competency Framework, which was created to help individuals and organizations alike understand the scope of knowledge, skills, and expertise that finance and accounting professionals need to remain relevant and perform their duties effectively.

 

With this framework, as well as research reports, publications, continuing education courses, and of course, the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) certification, IMA is committed to helping the profession and our members cross the finish line. I’m betting on us as a team that we’ll come out ahead and, yes, win the race for relevance! What about you?

 

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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