5 Essential Business Skills Needed in Accounting

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It’s true that management accountants need the know-how to balance a budget, to complete a month-end report, and many other financial skills of managing a business. But other skills are equally important for success in our careers.

Mastering these 5 business skills will help you grow professionally and advance your career as a management accountant.

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  1. Verbal and Nonverbal Communication

Open communication and collaborating with your team are keys to success. Writing skills are necessary for clear and coherent reports. A very wise business leader once told me that he knew he didn’t really understand something until he could explain it succinctly, in writing, to someone else. Working on presentations and collaborating on special projects with employees outside of your department will help you cultivate this skill set.

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  1. Organization

Managing your workload isn’t easy when piles of papers have accumulated on your desk for the past three months. Organized employees have the most streamlined processes because they know where to find what they’re looking for, whether it be paper or digital. Organize your digital filing system in a clear and consistent manner; make sure your files are properly backed up, and important schedules and documents are available to your colleagues in your absence.

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  1. Leadership

Leadership skills are important for management accountants at every level of an organization. Taking charge of your work and your team will demonstrate your promotability. A leader emerges when the group is presented with a challenge, and one person demonstrates the commitment and competence to make sure the team delivers.

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  1. Time Management

Deadlines are an important part of our jobs as management accountants. We have regulatory filing deadlines and ever-increasing pressure for a rapid monthly close. Managing your time well reduces the stress of the deadline and allows you to prioritize your work. Streamlining the recurring work and completing it earlier in the month gives you more time to focus on new projects and innovations.

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  1. Use of Technology

In the age of digital offices and video conferencing, we need to be one step ahead of the cyberfraudsters. This means you’re continuously scanning the landscape for improved processes and accounting software and leading (or co-leading with the IT department) its implementation.

Accountants as Business Partners

Professionals holding the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) credential are in the perfect position to be leaders in their organization. They have the balance of accounting and business skills needed to become trusted business partners. You can find learning resources, including webinars, online courses, and educational articles, at IMA’s website: www.imanet.org/learning-center/learning-center-overview.

Written by Doreen Remmen

 


PLEASE NOTE: In the spirit of collaboration, the Moments that Matter blog will be migrating to the Strategic Finance website later in August under a new name: “IMA Moments.” We are very excited for this collaboration. I would like to thank all of our loyal readers for following our blog for the past three years, and I’m looking forward to your continued readership.

 


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My Road to Accounting

As IMA’s senior vice president of operations and CFO, I oversee the strategic planning process; the information technology, finance, facilities, and human resources departments; and other operational aspects of IMA. My responsibilities mirror “the expanding role of the CFO,” a role that IMA and others have written much about. Like  many CFOs, I have a strong background in accounting, but each of us has a unique journey. I haven’t always followed the traditional accounting path.

From English to Accounting

When I entered college, English literature was my passion, but I wasn’t really sure what direction my career would take. My husband and I moved several times in the early years of our marriage in support of his career as a racehorse trainer. We relied on professional tax and accounting services to run the business. When we discovered that our tax advisor had made a serious error, I decided to enter the MBA program at the University of Windsor in Ontario, Canada, to learn enough accounting and tax so that we would never be at the mercy of others to do that work for us. I knew I needed to understand the world of finance for self-preservation, and I discovered that the study of business was a new passion.

I landed a job as a staff accountant with Ernst and Whinney (now Ernst and Young) in Alberta, Canada, and convinced my husband to move his stable there. But, after two years in Alberta, it became clear that his talents belonged in the larger U.S. market. So we relocated to New Jersey. Our family had grown—we have three children—and, as much as I loved public accounting, I had to abandon that track to establish an acceptable work-life balance. I was very fortunate to land great jobs with progressively more responsibility.

A decade later, with a well-rounded accounting education, public accounting experience, and several years of controllership, I found myself searching for a new position when the company I worked for was sold. It was clear that I needed professional certification to obtain a desirable CFO role in an increasingly competitive job market. That’s when I found IMA® and its CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) certification.

Building My Brand

The CMA helped me pull together all the threads of my career—experience at a number of companies and education at several different universities—in order to present a credential that I could easily explain to potential employers.

Whenever I needed resources, I turned to IMA. Whether it was literature on best practices to streamline the finance department, implementing ethics training programs, or improving profitability by customer, IMA always offered valuable tools for me to build my personal brand and prove my expertise in the field. I was also published in Strategic Finance, IMA’s flagship publication, which helped prove my expertise.

Finding the career path that’s right for you isn’t always easy; sometimes you have to hold a variety of jobs, move around the country, or have a family to find what you’re truly passionate about. IMA helped me on my career journey, and it can help you, too.

By Doreen Remmen, CMA, CAE

Related Articles
How To Choose A New Career Path – Forbes
The Changing Role of the CFO – ACCA and IMA

Innovation: A PR Tool or Part of Business Success?

As IMA’s CEO, I fully support a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship. In fact, it’s one of IMA’s Global Core Values. We live in an environment of competition, consolidation, commoditization, and complexity. An emphasis on innovation as a sustainable business process helps you reach your company’s financial and nonfinancial goals by delivering differentiated value. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself when considering innovation in your company:

  1. Why is it important?

In today’s fast-paced business landscape, companies need to innovate to stay relevant and successful. A company that fosters innovation allows its employees and other stakeholders at all levels to become involved in the innovation cycle, from ideation to implementation.

For example, after two years of having a staff innovation council at IMA, we believe innovation is built into our strategic “DNA” with incentives to take risks and build prototypes to test ideas early. We follow Cynthia Barton Rabe’s credo: “Don’t let what you know limit what you can imagine.”

  1. How will you inspire innovation?

Recent IMA research found that while companies want to innovate, they fall short on the “how-to,” which includes innovation governance and measurement and the role of the CFO. Make it part of your culture and strategy to ensure sustainability. Treat it as a body of knowledge or a business process that requires investment, governance, and reasonable short- and long-term ROI expectations.

Per reengineering expert Gary Hamel, “Radical innovation comes from generating a collective sense of destiny, from unleashing the imagination of people across the organization and teaching people how to see unconventional opportunities… Most companies devote too much energy to optimizing what is there than to imagine what could be. We need to create constituencies for ‘What Could Be.’”

  1. How will you measure innovation?

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IMA recently published Advancing Innovation by Patrick Stroh that includes a new measure called Innovation Value Score (IVS). It uses the BSC framework developed by cofounder Robert S. Kaplan, who wrote the foreword of the book. IVS allows you to assess innovation success, drive innovation in your company, and provide actionable information to corporate decision makers.

While our members, customers, and the profession are the ultimate judge of IMA’s value-added products, services, and bundles, IMA has delivered on several innovative ideas in the past year, including CareerDriver, a new self-assessment competency management tool; the Student Leadership Experience, giving qualified students an opportunity to directly participate in IMA’s Board meetings; and an “inspired technology lab,” focusing squarely on the user experience with IMA portals.

Driving Home Innovation

Don’t treat innovation as a “one-hit wonder” or PR tool to impress your members, customers, board, or other stakeholders. Instead, enable innovation governance, measurement, and role clarity to experience long-term innovation success.

Hamel put it best: “To encourage innovation, to create a real constituency for What Could Be, companies need to unleash ideas, passion, and commitment across the company. We have to move…beyond innovation as a once-in-a-while project, to thinking about innovation as a deep capability.”

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

Related Articles:
How to Drive Innovation as a CFO – Jeff Thomson, Forbes
Advancing Innovation: What’s Your Role?Strategic Finance
How Crowdsourcing Delivers Supply Chain Innovation – CFO.com

Ethics Training: It Starts Earlier than You Think

Ethics is a serious topic for professionals working in business. Stories of financial professionals failing to act in an ethical manner – and the consequences – are unfortunately commonplace. It’s important for management accountants around the world to be able to understand and identify unethical behavior. This importance is reflected in the requirement for professionals holding the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) credential to earn two hours of CPE credit in ethics each year.

While we often refer to ethical issues on the job, ethics training for professionals starts earlier than you think – even before college.

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Growing up, you acquire ethical values through many avenues, including your culture, religion, family, and more. These values stay with you throughout your life. While many people would agree that ethics isn’t something that you can be taught in school, you can learn how to recognize unethical situations in kindergarten through college.

In college (and with continuing education courses), you can learn about applying your ethical beliefs in the real world, the red flags that alert you to fraud and other unethical situations, and the procedures to report these situations. Most higher education institutions require their accounting majors to take an ethics course before graduating or incorporate an ethics component in other courses. This is a great way for students to learn how to address real-world ethical situations and understand what can happen when faced with financial pressures and your business’s reputation is on the line.

If you were ever to get caught cheating in school, consequences can range up to getting expelled. But if you get caught “cheating” in the real world, the consequences can be much more serious, including losing your job, damaging your reputation, and facing criminal charges.

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After you graduate and get your first job, you’ll need to continue to develop your ability to identify unethical situations and learn how to avoid them. One way to do this is by asking for a mentor at your company, who could explain how a seasoned professional would handle such situations. How would he or she recognize the red flag? How would he or she report it? Each company has different procedures, which should be followed first. The IMA Statement of Ethical Professional Practice can also be a guide in resolving ethical conflicts.

HiRes - stepsApplying what you’ve learned in the classroom to the business world can be intimidating. But if you know the signs of unethical behavior and the resources available to you, you will be able to successfully uphold your values in the workplace and keep your company on the ethical path to success.

As a leader in upholding the highest ethical standards in business, IMA offers many resources to help guide accountants and financial professionals:

In a time when the news is flooded with stories about big corporations committing fraud, it’s more important than ever to understand your values and responsibility as an accountant to hold yourself to the highest ethical standards.

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

Related Articles:
Overcoming the Fraud TriangleStrategic Finance
The Importance of Internal ControlsForbes
Nine Steps to Make Your Company’s Ethics Training Program Stick – AccountingWeb

Personal Branding: Be an Advocate for Yourself

While your everyday job may offer various opportunities to be an advocate for your industry, company, or products and services, how often do you advocate for yourself and work on improving your personal brand? A personal brand is how you portray yourself both online and in person. As with a company brand, your personal brand should be consistent across all channels and should represent who you are.

iStock_000014300896_Small1. Decide what you stand for.
First, determine who you are, what your values are, and how you want to represent yourself. Choose three to five values that guide your moral compass, and design a strategy from there. Personally, I would use “trustworthy,” “committed,” and “respectful” to describe myself.

In my role as staff liaison to IMA’s technical advisory committees, these three values are essential. I conduct myself in a way that committee members have faith in how I communicate and respect their position on technical issues that impact the management accounting profession.

2. Share relevant content often.
Always be careful of what you post on a public social media profile. Delete inappropriate pictures or content on your profile that might discredit you, or make your profile private. Instead, post blogs or articles you wrote or share relevant research in your field. This will show your enthusiasm for knowledge sharing and career development. Creating a posting plan will help you stay organized and ensure you maintain a healthy stream of content.

It’s also important to share content with your coworkers who may have similar interests. This knowledge sharing at work can boost your reputation and can prove your integrity as an expert in your field. In turn, your coworkers might advocate for you as well.

3. Network and get involved with groups that interest you.
Connect with companies and causes you’re interested in to show what you’re passionate about outside of work. Not only will this boost your brand, but connecting with these companies online will give you real-time news updates and research in your news feed. You’ll also stay informed with industry networking events and meetings.

For example, I follow IMA® and Fairleigh Dickinson University, my alma mater, on LinkedIn. It’s a great way to stay connected with my company and what’s going on with other alumni at the University. I use the discussion forums as networking opportunities and as a way to search for in-person events the alumni association holds.

Your Personal Brand at Work
Becoming a self-advocate means you stick to your values. Since mobile apps are so readily available, your digital persona is at your fingertips 24/7. It’s very easy to share information these days. You can use it to your advantage, but don’t lose sight of your values and what you stand for. Being a professional online is just as important as acting professionally in person. As we become more and more tech savvy, don’t forget about the value of in-person connections. These interactions can leave impressions stronger than any digital footprint.

Written by Linda Devonish-Mills, CMA, CPA, CAE

Related Articles:
The Value Of Personal Branding For Small Business – Forbes
5 Steps to Fix Your Personal Brand When Insults Stick – Entrepreneur

Top Technology Trends for Management Accountants

There’s no doubt that technology plays a huge role in business today, including in accounting and finance. New technologies will always emerge, which can make it confusing for businesses to focus on the most relevant ones. Not all technology trends will necessarily apply to management accounting and finance; so it’s necessary to filter through and match solutions to your company’s unique needs.

IMA’s Technology Solutions & Practices (TS&P) Committee recently undertook some research and analysis to gather market literature and insight into a full slate of technology trends in an effort to filter through and find those most meaningful to management accountants. This short list of technology trends will serve as the basis for resources in order to understand these technologies and how they apply to management accountants.  Here are the trends identified by the committee for 2015-2016.

SEO optimization, programming process1.    Business Intelligence and Analytics
With mountains of both structured and unstructured Big Data growing daily, companies must glean meaning from the most relevant data to drive decision making. Powerful cloud-based tools exist to help companies perform advanced analytics (e.g., predictive and prescriptive analytics) to gain intelligence about the business and more insight into where it’s headed.


2.    Data Governance

A sound data governance strategy sets the foundation for a company to ensure its information assets are accessible, usable for analysis, and of the highest quality and reliability. If data can’t be used or trusted, it’s almost worthless to the company. Data governance strategies, which are now growing in practice, help companies define the proper controls and monitoring systems to ensure access, utility, and quality.

3.    Mobile Computing
As smartphones and tablets evolve, so will the environment they occupy. Your office will be virtual – wherever you can connect to the Internet. vector illustration of mobile optimization and analyticsSmartwatches and other wearable gadgets are also catching up in usability and allow for constant connectivity to your work space.

4.    Big Data
With the increase in mobile computing and growth of our digital footprint comes an increase in Big Data. You will need optimal analytics skills and tools to process such data efficiently and effectively to make appropriate business decisions.

5.    Cloud
Today, nearly 50% of U.S. businesses use the cloud. You may already use it in your day-to-day work, but companies that don’t currently use cloud technology will be left behind this year. There are many options to choose from to fit your company’s specific needs.

6.    Internet of Things
The “Internet of Things” (IoT) refers to the connection of more and more devices to the Internet, including household devices like thermostats and TVs and business tools like vehicle fleets. IoT generates both more Big Data (to be filtered through) and intelligence about the business, which helps bring greater efficiency and process improvement, among other benefits, to businesses.

7.    Cyber and Physical Security
The increase in cybercrime over the past few years has proved how important it is to protect your company’s data. Not only will you need to improve your risk assessment and management tools, but you’ll also need to properly secure your physical infrastructure.

8.    Smart Machines and Automation
This year will push smart machines ahead of the curve. With the ability to learn and adapt to their environment, there are no limits to what they can do. Companies should know how to use this ever-evolving artificial intelligence to their advantage.

Which trends are on your company’s radar? Have you had to make any changes to your systems or processes?

Written by Linda Devonish-Mills, CMA, CPA, CAE

Related Articles

Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2015 – Forbes
Digital Darwinism: Thriving in the Face of Technology Change – IMA, ACCA

A CEO’s Reading List

Becoming a CEO isn’t the end of the highway—it just means you’ve made it to the expressway. It’s the beginning of another journey. You count on more people, and more people count on you to make the right decisions and do the right thing. You influence a broader audience and become a primary face of the organization.

With this dynamic role comes more responsibility and challenges, and continuous learning and growth are vital to keep pace. You can get certifications, go to conferences and seminars, or travel the world to meet new people and learn about their best practices. Another way to learn and grow is through reading. These are the most influential books I’ve read that have helped me shape IMA into the organization it is today, one that we are all proud of in terms of its contribution to enrich careers, organizations, and the public interest.

My Top 5 Books

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Trust, Inc. by Barbara Brooks Kimmel taught me how to be a more responsible leader and to lead with integrity and trust as a table stake for performance and culture. The book is full of case studies about what works and what doesn’t. Being transparent is important for a business to succeed. I had the honor of authoring a chapter in this book.

 

 

 

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21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell taught me how to build followership—the great teams and board of directors with whom you work with every day. If you trust, empower, and enrich people, they will follow you, respect you, and trust you in return. And, in effect, they won’t be afraid of expressing their true feelings and opinions, which leads to the next book.

 

 

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Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott talks about having open and honest conversations with active listening skills. A responsible leader listens to his or her team’s opinions, even if they are in disagreement, and opens the lines of communication. The extremes of shy agreement or bullying disagreement just don’t work.

 

 

 

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A Sense of Urgency by John P. Kotter taught me to not rest on my laurels. If you want change to happen, you have to act immediately with a sense of urgency. Be open to change and adapt to the new environment. A CEO must be flexible in a changing world.

 

 

 

The Advantage: WhThe-Advantagey Organization Health Trumps Everything Else in Business by Patrick M. Lencioni emphasizes the importance of a cohesive leadership team and a strong, clear vision of the future. It’s easy and fun to read because Lencioni writes in a narrative format that’s very relatable.

 

 

 

 

Live the Lessons

You would think your summer reading list would end at graduation, but reading is one of the easiest ways to continuously learn. The lessons I’ve learned from these books have helped me on my journey as IMA’s President and CEO. I’ve implemented many of these lessons into IMA’s business culture, and all staff and IMA volunteers live by these standards as it is our duty to our members and the global profession.

Which books are currently on your reading list? What are some lessons you’ve learned through reading?

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

 

 

 

Related Articles:
Read 2014’s Best Business Books In Two Hours – Forbes
If You Want to Be a Big Deal, Never Stop Learning – Entrepreneur