IMA Moments

New Competencies for the Digital Age

By Raef Lawson, PH.D., CMA, CSCA, CFA, CPA, CAE
October 18, 2017

Over the past few years, the management accounting profession has seen rapid change, especially in the area of technology. To keep pace with the digital age, IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants) and its Technology Solutions and Practices Committee are currently exploring the competencies management accountants need to be future-ready. This IMA thought leadership report will support IMA’s key mission of preparing our members and the broader management accounting profession for what lies ahead.









We are living in an age where predictive analytics, Big Data, and artificial intelligence are having an increased impact on our profession. In the past, these may have been perceived as being on a distant horizon, but now technology has a direct impact on how management accountants perform their jobs, and they need to have the skills to succeed in this new business environment.


For our upcoming report, we are conducting research about what competencies management accountants will need to be future-ready. This report will be based on primary research, including a survey of members, and secondary research encompassing studies by others.


This report is the first step in a larger IMA project. After our initial research is complete, we’ll be reviewing IMA’s Management Accounting Competency Framework with an eye to whether it needs to be updated to reflect the additional emerging skills that will be necessary for working in a digital age.


Our preliminary report will be ready by the end of November 2017. It will be the first report that focuses on the digital age.




I’ve been in the profession for quite a number of years now. I’ve seen technology evolve from punched cards to what it is today. Today there is an information explosion. With the new competencies, management accountants will be able to exploit the flood of data that’s now available. This will be key for companies to compete in the future business environment.


On a broader level, it’s really important for the future of the management accounting profession that we expand our competencies. For one, the lower-value-added tasks are increasingly being automated, and use of artificial intelligence is expanding vastly. Streamlining processes using technology will free up time for management accountants to perform the higher-value-added work. Management accountants will need to know how to exploit the data that’s accessible and learn how to analyze the data to become a better business partner for their organizations.


When I started out in Finance, the personal computer was just being introduced to the workforce. I remember programming one of the first computers to do a lot of the reporting for my job, freeing up 25% of my time to do more value-added duties. My bosses were pretty impressed. This definitely enhanced my skills as a finance professional in business.




As for management accounting in academia, interactive technology will vastly affect education going forward. Schools will have to reexamine their business model and reengineer how they offer education to students. We’ve already seen how massive open online courses (MOOCs) are more convenient and cheaper for students to take. Each school will have to assess whether its model makes sense, given the tremendous forces of change facing academia today. More on this topic can be found in an article I recently coauthored.

Additional Reading:

Karen V. Pincus, David E. Stout, James E. Sorensen, Kevin D. Stocks, and Raef A. Lawson, “Forces for Change in Higher Education and Implications for the Accounting Academy,” Journal of Accounting Education, September 2017.


Kip Krumwiede, “How to Keep Your Job,” IMA Pulse, September 21, 2017 .


Raef Lawson, Ph.D., CMA, CSCA, CFA, CPA, CAE, is professor-in-residence and vice president of research and policy at IMA. You can reach him at (201) 474-1532 or
1 + Show Comments

1 comment.
    Jim Scott October 20, 2017 AT 11:29 am

    Great information, useful and insightful.