Take the Guesswork Out of Creating a Development Plan

In my role at IMA©, I oversee the creation of management accounting educational products that help our members expand their professional knowledge and skills. These products include webinars, online self-development courses, and live events such as IMA’s Annual Conference & Expo and Leadership Academy workshops.

Before selecting educational products, it’s important to first take stock of your professional development needs for your current situation as well as your career aspirations, and then put together a plan. If you’re unsure of where to start, here are some ideas.

Take Stock in Your Professional Knowledge and Skills

Young businesswoman thinking and cloud of mind with quiestionsThe first step in creating a professional development plan is to assess your management accounting skills and knowledge. There are various ways to do this. You can ask your colleagues or manager for their perspective, consider feedback received during your performance reviews, talk with a mentor or coach, or do a self-assessment. After obtaining feedback and results, you can then determine which areas for growth you want to focus on when building your development plan.

Plan Your Development

Once you’ve benchmarked your skills and prioritized areas for improvement, you can start building a development plan that is customized to your particular needs. This involves considering the extent of what you need to learn, how much time you have to devote to expanding your skills, and what types of education you find most attractive. Remember to consider various options for development, including self-study online courses and webinars, relevant books and publications by thought leaders, blended learning solutions involving classes and online courseware, live events such as conferences or specific training sessions, networking with others, and on-the-job activities.

After researching the various learning opportunities, select those which you feel best meet your needs and record them on your development plan. Also, determine the date you want to start each of your selections as well as a completion date.

Commit to Your Plan

A critical next step is to “work” your development plan by starting and completing the activities you’ve identified to close your skill gaps. As you progress with your activities, it will also be important to update your development plan with actual results. This will keep you motivated to continue on your professional development path. Then, at certain intervals (such as quarterly, semi-annually, or yearly), you should take stock regarding the broader progress made against areas for improvement to ensure you are successfully closing your skills gap. If diligent about your efforts, you will be proud to see your progress.

Continue Your Professional Development Progress

careerdriverIMA’s CareerDriver ™ career planning tool is designed to help members assess their management accounting competencies and create personalized development plans. Whether you are looking to transition into a new role, strengthen your skills, or discover new professional possibilities, Career Driver has the right personalized approach for you.

Gaining new knowledge and skills is a lifelong adventure as well as critical to professional success in your current and future positions. The personal assessment and development plan process is a continuous discipline in which you will reap many benefits. Enjoy this important professional journey!

Written by Debbie Warner, CPLP



Confronting the Skills Gap – IMA
What’s In Your Leadership ToolboxStrategic Finance

The CMA: A Global Passport

IMA’s CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) certification is in high demand by professionals around the world. More than 3,500 professionals earned the CMA in fiscal year 2015 and more than 15,000 accounting and finance professionals entered


the CMA program. It is a globally recognized certification—a passport—that professionals can take with them from job to job and from country to country. It’s a valued, trusted certification that helps professionals progress in their careers and continue their education throughout their career. Earning the CMA means that you have passed a rigorous test, have met the education and experience requirements, and are committed to continuous learning. When I meet CMAs in my travels, I see two common themes: pride and aspiration.


CMAs take pride in knowing they add value to their company, whether they’re in Dallas, Dubai, or Shanghai and regardless of whether they work for a local company or a global brand. They recognize and embrace the credential’s integrity, rigor, and relevance. Earning the credential proves to employers your competency and expertise in management accounting and builds your personal brand.

I recently spoke about the CMA program at several IMA events in the Middle East. I was excited by the participants’ response and level of interest in the CMA credential. Many participants approached me after the session to learn more about enrolling in the program. This shows how the global recognition of the CMA has grown and continues to grow.


The CMA also helps change the lives of individuals both in terms of their career growth and their financial opportunities. Not only do CMAs earn more annual salary and compensation than their noncertified peers, but they’re also seen as Group of people on a seminar. Focus is on business woman receiving a certificate from a lecturer. [url=http://www.istockphoto.com/search/lightbox/9786622][img]http://dl.dropbox.com/u/40117171/business.jpg[/img][/url] [url=http://www.istockphoto.com/search/lightbox/9786738][img]http://dl.dropbox.com/u/40117171/group.jpg[/img][/url]well-respected business leaders who help shape the management accounting profession through their valuable knowledge and skill set. CMAs work in jobs that are interesting—analytical business partners supporting decisions that help organizations grow.


Professionals in the CMA program aspire to be Corporate Controllers, CFOs, and even CEOs of their companies, and they know that the CMA can advance their career. The CMA program is a career-long journey of continuous education, requiring CMAs to stay current on business trends and best practices in management accounting through earning continuing professional education (CPE) credits. Each year, CMAs are required to earn 30 CPE credits, including two in ethics training, to maintain the credential.

Enrich Your Career

Continuing education is vital for career progression. Therefore, earning specialized credentials, like the CMA, will help you advance your career and achieve your professional goals. Like a passport, the CMA opens up global opportunities, so get out there and expand your horizons.

Written by Dennis Whitney, CMA, CFM, CAE
Follow me on Twitter: @IMA_DWhitney

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Get the Most Out of Your Conference Experience

In the past I’ve talked about how continuing your education by earning certifications and participating in mentoring programs can be beneficial to your career. Another important form of continuing education is attending a professional conference. Conferences should be a fun, engaging experience where you learn new skills and make professional contacts. Here are a few tips for getting the most out of your next professional conference.

Personal Development Plan
Before you go to the conference, spend some time reviewing the program and choosing the sessions you want to attend. Think about this in the context of your career goals. Write down what you want to achieve in the next few years (e.g., job change, promotion, etc.). Then do a self-assessment of your strengths and weaknesses, and choose sessions that will help you address the needs you have identified.

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I’m a huge advocate of lifelong continuing education, and conferences are great learning forums. Conference sessions offer a variety of educational opportunities and, depending on your area of interest, can include discussions of top industry trends, how-to sessions, and motivational presentations. Not only can you learn from leading experts in the field, but you can also get inspired by hearing motivational life stories.

Attending the session is only the first step. What is perhaps even more important is applying what you learned on the job. That is how you reinforce what you’ve learned, improving your skills and helping you be more effective in your job.

There are so many opportunities for networking at conferences. It can be intimidating at first to start a conversation with someone you don’t know, but when you do, you’ll be proud of yourself for stepping out of your comfort zone. You might also make a valuable contact who will help you a great deal in your career, solve a current business problem, or offer career advice.

10458451_10152330358455829_6042484930867715104_nNetworking is also about helping others. Your knowledge and experience is valuable, and sharing it with someone else could help them in their job and perhaps help them advance their career. And you might also make a lifelong friend! Many of the attendees of conferences I attend, including IMA’s Annual Conference & Expo, became friends when they met at the conference. Conferences almost always build in time for social activities that keep it fun.

Many conferences now have mobile apps that allow you to not only plan your session attendance on your mobile device but also connect with other attendees both before and after the event.

Something for Everyone
Conferences are offered in nearly every area of interest. I attend IMA’s Annual Conference & Expo nearly every year and find it to be a great way to stay current in the field of management accounting. Every couple of years, I also attend conferences for testing professionals and association management, since I have to stay current in those fields as well. Attending conferences helps me stay connected with the latest industry trends and techniques and to other professionals in the field.

If you haven’t been to a conference yet, I encourage you do so as soon as you can. When you ask your boss for approval, be prepared. Show him or her which sessions you plan to attend and what skills and resources you intend to bring back to your job. IMA’s Annual Conference & Expo is coming up in June, and we can’t wait!

Written by Dennis Whitney, CMA, CFM, CAE
Follow me on twitter: @IMA_DWhitney

Related Articles:
“6 Secrets to Better Networking at Conferences” – Dave Kerpen, LinkedIn
“4 Reasons Your Employees Should Attend Conferences” – Janine Popick, Inc. Magazine

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
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Shop Small for Big Benefits

Many organizations have long recognized the importance of small businesses and their contributions to the economy. IMA’s Small Business Financial and Regulatory Affairs Committee (SBFRC), for example, advocates for small businesses and financial reporting matters. You can help too by turning to local small businesses for goods and services.

November 29 is a day when you can make a big impact. Yep, it’s Small Business Saturday, a day that promotes shopping at small businesses in local communities and offers a chance for individuals to make a big impact on both the local and global economies in many ways.

Boost Employment RatesSBS - pic
Small Business Saturday was established by American Express in 2010 and was nationally recognized in 2011 because small businesses help lower the unemployment rate—the most important factor to a growing economy.

The Small Business Administration says that 60% to 80% of new jobs in the United States are created by small businesses, and small businesses account for 99.7% of employers. On a smaller scale, they hire locals, which decreases the community’s unemployment rate.

Engage Your Community
Small businesses help support many aspects of individual neighborhoods, including occupying buildings that would otherwise be abandoned and that would foster crime.
In addition, small businesses cater to their customers who might need specialized products. The customer service provided to this niche market builds stronger customer relationships.

You are also more likely to become a frequent shopper at stores that understand your needs and want to help you, unlike some of the chain stores. And the money you spend there goes back to the community. (For example, the business can make a donation to the town, the sales tax goes to local police or municipalities, and they can sponsor town sports teams or events.)

small business open signGrow the Economy
Small businesses are essentially the backbone of the economy. A survey of independently owned retailers by Civil Economics reveals that 52% of small business revenues are recirculated into the economy, whereas chain stores recirculate only 13.6%.

If you’re drawn more to the boutique rather than the big-box store down the street, the products you’re buying are probably Gross Domestic Product (GDP)—domestically grown or made products that aren’t imports. This greatly benefits the national economy.

By supporting your neighborhood “mom and pop” shops, you contribute to the growth of the economy. What can small businesses do to keep you motivated throughout the year to shop small?

Written by Linda Devonish-Mills, CMA, CPA

Related Links

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How CFOs Can Achieve a Vision of Success

In today’s rapidly changing economy, senior leadership teams and CFOs are taking on greater roles in terms of strategy and sustainable growth. We were once considered mere “bean counters,” but now we are becoming “bean sprouters.” And with this added responsibility, we’re expected to get constant “vision checks” to keep an eye on the future.

As a prominent global accounting association, IMA has an obligation to improve the CFO team’s “line of sight” to help preserve and create organizational value. I fell upon an idea by Nancy Axelrod in her book The Governing Board: Key Responsibilities for Association Boards and Board Members, in which she lays out four sights that you should keep in mind to ensure a vision of success. The four sights she described – foresight, insight, hindsight, and oversight – will lead you to a successful vision.lines of sightThe two stages most pertinent to management accountants and financial professionals are insight and foresight, as they are the most forward-looking. With these in mind, CFOs are able to act as trusted business advisors and leaders to help create sustainable growth.


pull_quoteThe foresight stage is where the CFO plays a leading role in anticipating the future, building a curious and adaptable mindset, and helping organizations envision a great future that serves both mission and societal purposes. This could take the form of financial planning and analysis, mergers and acquisition analysis, or risk management during highly competitive times in a turbulent economy.


The insight stage is truly where business partnering begins and business analytics takes over the process, turning information into intelligence and good companies into great ones. This could take the form of predictive analytics, business intelligence, or data mining. Organizational leaders count on their CFO teams to envision the future (foresight) based on a sound analysis of today’s reality (insight).

Make sure to always keep your vision clear and to get it checked by the team regularly. Doing so will give you a clear view of success!

Written by Jeff Thomson, CMA, CAE

Follow me on Twitter @ima_JeffThomson