It has been a great year of growth and influence at IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants). On a global level, we have grown to nearly 120,000 members worldwide, 80% of whom are vested in the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) program either as active CMAs or as candidates. We have also spent a lot of time on our Management Accounting Competency Framework, which aims to define the competencies and education needed for our members to thrive in the Digital Age.
One reason why I am so passionate about the drive to infuse more data analytics in the profession is because my education background is in mathematics and statistics. I can remember when I was teaching high school math, students would say, “How am I ever going to use math? Why are statistics important?” Well, turns out, math and statistics are paramount to this new world we live in as accountants with more data science, analytics, and visualization to enable more foresight and insight as business partners in the face of artificial intelligence (AI), robotics process automation (RPA), and more.
The IMA Management Accounting Competency Framework was released for public comment in June 2018, the comment period ended in September 2018, and we are currently in the process of evaluating those comments. Not only are the competencies in the Framework what you need to thrive in a digital world, but the Framework also recommends the training and education you will need to address the gaps in your knowledge. Then, with IMA’s CareerDriver® tool, you can create a more detailed self-assessment for your specific job role.
Among the competencies identified in the Framework are data analytics skills. There is no denying the need for a deeper understanding of the mass amounts of data, structured and unstructured, that we have to process in our day-to-day jobs. “Process” means converting data into decisions and information into insights in this new world.
I learned this lesson at my very first job in 1979 when I worked in the Analytical Support Center at AT&T, which was basically a data analytics group serving the rest of the company by providing financial and operational models for decision support. I never would have imagined that my educational background and first professional job would intersect with finance and accounting in such a pervasive and relevant way.
Automation, AI, machine learning, and robotics are today eliminating the more routine and repetitive job tasks in our profession, including auditing, transaction processing, and even preparing data for analysis. The call to action is clear—Participants in the “accounting ecosystem” (corporations, academia, and associations) must step up and commit to upskilling in data science, advanced data analytics, and data visualization, to name a few critical areas of competency.
So, who said that “math and statistics” aren’t relevant in the world of business? It goes to show that where you begin isn’t as important as where you end on a journey of continuous learning and growth.