Roles Changing for Management Accountants

Management accountants now spend more time wrestling with strategic issues than ever before. New research revealed they spend less of their time performing traditional accounting functions and more time on strategic planning, internal consulting and computer-based operations.

Long-term strategic planning topped the list of work activities most critical to company success for the majority of accountants in business and industry (53%) surveyed in Counting More, Counting Less: The 1999 Practice Analysis of Management Accounting, published by the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA).

Planning was followed by working on computer systems and operations, process improvement and performing financial and economic analyses. According to the accountants surveyed, internal consulting, strategic planning, and working on computer systems now occupy more time than they did five years ago. Conversely, accounting systems and financial reporting take less time.

“Now accountants and financial managers are part of the management team and part of the decision-making process,” said IMA President C.S. “Bud” Kulesza. Where once a management accountant’s main role was simply to identify problems, now he or she is called on to provide solutions. “In response, accountants and financial managers are stepping forward with good analyses and ideas on how to solve issues,” he said.

University accounting departments are also responding to the challenge of the changing skills accountants need to perform their new roles.

Addressing the second key finding of the study—that accounting graduates enter the work force without the fundamental skills they need to succeed in their careers—Kulesza said universities were using the IMA study to modify their current curriculums to prepare students with the new skill requirements. “This report on the state of our profession illuminates the changes necessary within academia, corporate America and professional organizations.”

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