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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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

 

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The Importance of Integrity in a Certification Program

At IMA, we’re dedicated to quality and providing the most prestigious management accounting certification in the world: the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant). For more than 40 years, we have been building a professional certification program that is a true reflection of the management accounting profession. And over the years, the standard for earning the CMA has remained high.

I attribute this continuous high standard and respected reputation to the integrity of the CMA exam. An exam has integrity if it’s both valid and reliable, which in turn leads to consistent outcomes. When professionals pass an exam—and earn a certification—that has integrity, they have more confidence in their day-to-day work, and employers identify them as experts in the field.

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THE CMA’S INTEGRITY…

To earn the CMA, professionals need to pass the challenging two-part exam, fulfill an educational requirement, and meet an experience requirement. In addition, CMAs commit to the ethical standards in the IMA Statement of Ethical Professional Practice and an annual continuing education requirement.

To ensure the CMA validates competence in the in-demand skills needed by management accountants, we regularly update the questions and the content specification outline to reflect the most current knowledge and skill requirements.

These high standards advance the management accounting profession and the careers of those working in the field. A certification with high standards of integrity and trust is a signal to employers that you’ve taken and passed a rigorous exam and sets you apart from your peers.

 

…INCREASES YOUR COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE

comp_advantThroughout the years, we’ve ensured an unwavering attention to integrity by using robust processes to ensure the questions on the CMA exam are psychometrically reliable, ensuring strong internal controls at testing centers, and committing to continuous improvement.

In addition, we haven’t grandfathered anyone into the CMA program, meaning that every professional holding the CMA has taken an exam, and no one has earned our designation by simply writing a check.

Adding those three letters to the end of your name shows employers that you have taken a rigorous, relevant, and trusted exam and have the skills necessary to drive business performance. Employers see you as a trusted business partner.

 

…IMPROVES YOUR CAREER

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Investing in your career really pays off. Not only do CMAs earn an average of 61% more in total annual compensation than their noncertified peers, but they also enjoy faster advancement opportunities and employer recognition.

When you start searching for a credential with integrity, make sure you choose the right one for you and your career. Earning a certification with integrity gives you the confidence you need to take your career to the next level. And since the CMA is a global certification, you can take it with you wherever you go.

Nearly 50,000 of your peers in more than 100 countries have earned their CMA. We’re confident that those who have passed the exam have demonstrated competence in the management accounting and financial management skills necessary to perform at a consistently high level.

Written by Dennis Whitney, CMA

 

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Mining for Gold; Good Data for Good Business Decisions

Good Data for Good Business DecisionsI often hear people complain that they are “drowning in data but starving for information.” It’s a common problem for both businesses and individuals— and a topic I discussed with IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants) President and CEO Jeff Thomson in a recent interview.

In fact, according to technology research firm IDC, the amount of data in the world is said to double every two years! Defined as a collection of data sets so large and complex that it becomes difficult to process, Big Data presents challenges to organizations seeking to harness it.

You may be wondering how your organization can make the most of Big Data for effective business decisions. I recommend, instead, shifting the discussion from “Big Data” to “Big Value.” Several kinds of tools have been heralded as solutions for harnessing data to make faster, smarter decisions, but what are the differences, and how are they best used?

A Shift in the Conversation

As IMA’s executive-in-residence, I examine business trends and assist with research, and I’d like to offer some clarity on these tools. In the past, business intelligence (BI) software tools have been offered as the solution for leveraging Big Data, but an emerging term, business analytics (BA), is gaining popularity and causing some confusion.

Business intelligence answers basic questions. It summarizes historical data, typically in table reports and graphs, so that businesses can answer questions. But reports don’t simplify data or explain its value; they simply package up the data so it can be consumed.

Business analytics, on the other hand, creates questions. It produces new information. Finally, there’s the concept of predictive analytics, a subset of business analytics. It can display the possibility (and ideally the probability) of outcomes based on the assumptions of variables. In other words, predictive analytics leverages data to drive better and faster decisions, thereby improving an organization’s performance.

Making Sound Decisions

In business and in life, it’s important to use data to make well-informed decisions. There is always risk when decisions are made based on intuition, gut feel, or flawed and misleading data.

In business, it’s important to identify the decisions that matter most to your organization. By understanding the type of decision needed, it becomes easy to determine what type of analysis to use to reach your goal.

Business analytics is the next wave for organizations to successfully compete and make the best use of their resources and assets. The ultimate business strategy, in the long run, may be to foster analytical expertise among an organization’s staff.

What tips do you have to leverage good data in order to make sound decisions?

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Guest blogger Gary Cokins, CPIM, is president of Analytics-Based Performance Management LLC and IMA’s executive-in-residence.

 

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My First 100 Hours as CEO

jenga_croppedAbrupt changes happen overnight…

It was April 18, 2008, my birthday. I was on vacation with my family when my phone rang. It was IMA’s Board of Directors, asking me to take on the title of acting president and CEO, an “overnight promotion” of sorts. 

And what a challenge it was. I was faced with restructuring the organization’s management and its strategy in order to remain competitive in a changing market.

Nothing quite prepared me for the task: not any advanced degree or my leadership experience as CFO at a major telecommunications company.

The first 100 hours would include the decisions that defined me as a leader.

Make Each Hour Count

Establish expectations and confidence.
First I had everyone (stakeholders and employees) look me in the eyes and not only agree that there was a need for change, but that they believed in the transformation.

With the understanding that this entire process was being watched and critiqued, I tried to be genuine, transparent, and authentic. It was essential for building trust.

Choose your priorities.
I couldn’t lose focus on the things that mattered most: cash and culture.

You can’t move forward as a company until you are in a healthy financial position. In order to put IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants) on this track, I needed to eliminate excess spending. Things like renting plants and having a caretaker for them were no longer part of IMA’s agenda. So I bought the Senior Leadership Team plastic watering cans from Wal-Mart.

Neither cash nor culture can change overnight, but it was important that people started to see progress. Actions tell a story.

Create a “We will…” list.
I knew that to do my job, and to do it well, it required courage, conviction, and laser-like focus in achieving results. A “We will…” list communicates your non-negotiables with a set of actions that the entire staff is committed to achieve, not just consider. My list became the common thread that united our organization – they weren’t empty promises or feel good statements. We were defining our culture minute by minute, hour by hour.

Decide who will have a seat at your table.
Keep company culture and values in the front of your mind, now and always. The first item I crossed off my list was choosing my leadership team (who would “sit at my table”). This team should have skills and values consistent with the future direction of the organization, as well as the ability to tackle unexpected challenges.

No one plans for the unexpected. But with transparency, conviction of purpose, and reciprocal trust, difficult circumstances can become opportunities for organizational growth.

That birthday five years ago is one I’ll never forget. I was given an invaluable gift. I began my journey as a leader overnight with the support of the people around me. Together we created an environment, strong enough to give us a visible future again.

Until next time…
Jeff Thomson, CMA, CAE

Follow me on Twitter @ima_JeffThomson