Global Family, Local Roots

Whether you work for a for-profit or nonprofit organization, like IMA, which I lead as CEO, it’s a challenge to be relevant and valued in serving diverse needs and cultures around the globe. A starting point is to have a global network, a family or community if you will, for sharing common needs, advocacy, and values at a broader societal level but also to make sure that you “sprout” local roots in serving unique needs in specific markets. Both are necessary for
global and local market relevance, but, as is the way of business, it’s often easier said than done.

Big wool skeinGlobal Family
Most global organizations are networks of offices spread throughout the world. The headquarters serves the global membership from a central location(s) and communicates with its individual locales to serve their local needs, demonstrate the highest standards of integrity and professional ethics, and serve the public interest.

One way your organization can achieve this is by being involved with standard-setting bodies or advisory panels. Your organization will have a voice in the decisions shaping its industry and will, therefore, affect your stakeholders. And once you become a part of these bodies, make sure to maintain an ongoing dialog and active participation.

For example, IMA is involved with a variety of influential bodies. We’re currently a full voting member of the IFAC (International Federation of Accountants), which has helped us increase our global influence and relevance on matters of public policy, support for emerging economies, standards (e.g., accounting, education, and ethics), and best practices. Recently we were named a full voting member of the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC), which focuses on corporate reporting and analysis for internal and external stakeholders.

Local Roots
As organizations are becoming increasingly global, they can’t overlook the value of in-person connections to sustain the growth of engagement with the organization. Some nonprofits, like IMA, offer their members local chapter groups that provide a personal, in-person experience for networking, best practices sharing, and continuous learning and growth. Understanding local needs in a genuine and intense manner and how they may vary from “the corporate template” is key to local engagement with your global network of products and services.

strings attached - JTTo connect your global organization to its local members or staff, think about their needs and how you can address them within the local area. For IMA, our chapters serve as our local roots to communicate the universal language of business but with different needs, customs, and cultures specific to each region. Other global organizations host periodic global summits or board meetings, provide online forums for discussion, or offer volunteer opportunities to engage their stakeholders.

In turn, these chapters and local community groups foster the need for volunteers. They devote their time and talent to spread the word about the organization and are the link between their global network and the people they serve. Volunteers make serving the mission of the organization possible, particularly in a nonprofit, through their ambassadorship.

A Time of Thanks and an Inspiring Look Forward
This is the time of year when organizations of all types reflect on the strides they’ve made and hold aspirations for the future. This year, IMA has been advancing the management accounting profession by becoming more active in joining global bodies, and I’m proud of IMA’s growing community of volunteers and chapters around the world–truly a global family with local roots. But, like any family with diverse needs and backgrounds, it’s an ongoing challenge to be aligned on a common purpose.

I’m personally grateful for IMA’s global community of volunteers who have worked tirelessly to create stronger organizations and a better society. IMA’s volunteers are truly a competitive asset for the organization. We’re fortunate to have a network of more than 300 student and professional chapters to learn, grow, and contribute.

How is your organization dealing with the challenges and opportunities of being globally relevant? What are some of the approaches that have worked and some new approaches you may try in 2015?

Written by Jeff Thomson, CMA, CAE
Follow me on Twitter @ima_JeffThomson

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Technology-In-Residence: The Evolving Role of the Traveling Professional

As IMA VP of Research & Policy and Professor-in-Residence, I travel a lot to our offices in China, the Middle East, and Europe as well as to conferences around the world. But I manage to stay connected to IMA Global Headquarters in New Jersey via technology – something that has increasingly made an impact on the business world. The increased global need for connectedness is fuelling the development of technology and changing how we use it and where we do business.

The Changing Landscapetravel
Technology has drastically changed how and where we do business since I started working at IMA in 2006. That first year I traveled extensively around China, working on our study of management accounting in the country. At that time, my technological options were limited, and it was a challenge to keep in touch with the office and my family. Now when I travel, I make sure to pack my tablet, smartphone, and laptop, which – together with my mobile hotspot – ensure I can work and stay connected at all times.

Social media is also now playing a larger role in business, bringing us closer to business partners around the globe, exposing us to new markets in various countries, and increasing customer engagement. I’ve also started tweeting this past year (follow me at @RaefLawson) and recently participated in Twitter chats regarding accounting education, which engaged audiences from around the world. It’s proving to be a great way to quickly exchange information with others.

Where We Do Business
Since I’ve joined IMA our association has transformed from being a U.S. association to a global one. We now conduct research globally, enabling us to source the best talent from around the world while providing more relevant and insightful research to our global members. Technology helps us better serve our members, and that is of paramount importance.

Advances in technology provide the opportunity for members of my team to work remotely and still be connected to home base. Cloud technology and other data-sharing programs help ensure our research team can stay in touch and work collaboratively no matter where we are.

How Business Is Conducted
Of course, technology can be both a benefit and a curse, depending on whether it is appropriately used and if appropriate limits exist. It seems like we’re all now constantly connected with our devices, and business – especially now that IMA is global – has become 24/7. Because we’re increasingly working from home or on location, it has become more difficult to shut off our work devices. This “digital office” allows us to tablet, phonecollaborate through e-mail, Skype, and other platforms to successfully complete our work in a timely manner.

The way we do research has also changed. The days of paper-based surveys are pretty much gone as the development of online survey tools has made conducting surveys much easier and more effective. The cost of distributing surveys has been slashed (or eliminated) as has the cost of getting data ready for analysis.

Looking to the Future
Going forward, it’s clear that performance expectations will rise as competition increases and technology evolves. At IMA we’re working hard to upgrade our technology in an effective manner in order to ensure that we can adequately serve our expanding, more diverse membership. This will help us not only produce more research of use to our members but also more value to them throughout the organization.

Where do you think technology will be in the next 5-10 years? How has social media changed the way you do business at your company?

Written by Dr. Raef Lawson, CMA, CPA, CFP, CFA
Follow me on Twitter @RaefLawson

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