In the July 2015 column, the IMA® Technology Solutions & Practices (TS&P) Committee discussed its list of “Key Technology Trends for Management Accountants.” While understanding and tracking the trends is critical, it’s even more important to prepare yourself and your team to identify, analyze, recommend, and implement the technologies that will bring your organization (and your career) to the next level. In a short video on the Competency Crisis website (www.CompetencyCrisis.org), IMA President and CEO Jeff Thompson rallies our profession to meet the challenges of rapid technological and regulatory change and to lead our organizations to this next level as management accountants have always done.
A SURGE IN INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY
The management accountant’s role is to understand the business process, identify data capture points with appropriate accuracy checks and balances, compile the data into meaningful reports, interpret the reports to identify and resolve issues, and provide user-appropriate reports to all levels of management. Since the information technology revolution of the 1980s, information technology professionals have been overseeing data security, system change management, report development, and other activities associated with the on-site data center. As applications and services hosted in the cloud multiply, organizations that migrate will need fewer IT staff but more tech-savvy accountants. Having fewer IT support staff requires accountants to understand and manage the key aspects of protecting organizational data and delivering state-of-the-art information to management. Management accountants are best suited to fill this need. We are the ones who ensure information is timely, accurate, and appropriate. Indeed, we need to prepare ourselves now to not only meet this need when it arises but also to drive the identification and adoption of appropriate cloud-based technologies that will help our organizations lead their industry in utilizing beneficial technology. The tech-savvy management accountant delivers more value by leading the way in leveraging cloud systems to provide better information at reduced cost.
How do management accountants first identify and then acquire the skills needed to lead the way? How can we develop these skills in a way that’s fun, life-enhancing, and improves and reinvigorates our careers and enjoyment of work? To harken back to the July article, the three key trends most relevant to preparing ourselves professionally for cloud technologies are data governance, the cloud, and business intelligence and analytics. (See more in “Background of the Top Three Trends.”)
LEADING THE WAY
We all know we must be our own career coaches. Developing the knowledge and skills to assess cloud offerings for functionality and for the reliability and protection of our organization’s data is the way forward. We don’t need to be IT experts, but we do need to know the right questions to ask and be in a position to evaluate the responses thoroughly. We don’t need to know how to audit a cloud application, but we do need to know how to read and interpret a report on Statement on Standards for Attestation Engagements (SSAE) 16, “Reporting on Controls at a Service Organization,” to ensure our organizational needs are covered. Beyond the core application evaluation skills, developing expertise in widely used cloud systems makes us management accountants more valuable to our organizations and more attractive to other employers that use or are looking to implement these systems.
Cloud applications offer functionality that many organizations can’t afford otherwise. Generally, cloud applications will reduce input, use of spreadsheets, and other time-consuming aspects of the management accountant’s job that are drudgery. This efficiency frees up time for more analysis and insight or perhaps for you to watch your child’s soccer game after work. Attaining improved, timelier information with fewer staff-hours and less overtime improves personal satisfaction at work and work/life balance for you and your team. Migrating to superior systems will enable management accountants to provide greater insight to their management teams and earn their “seat at the table.” Because these systems are supported by cloud applications, and therefore are available on multiple platforms, they offer significant opportunities to supply information to and easily engage with decision makers. Putting information at the fingertips of board members, senior executives, and business owners via their PC, tablet, smartphone, or other device increases the likelihood that they will review this information during their downtime, such as when commuting or waiting for an appointment. This is an excellent way for the organization to promote deeper knowledge and engagement.
We all have experienced breakthrough ideas or understanding of complex problems during nonworking times. This is the way the mind works. Supporting our leaders with highly developed information on demand helps them achieve their breakthrough moments. Now is the time to prepare ourselves to help bring this future to our organizations and bring our profession to the next level.