Preparing for the future

Andrew Harding, FCMA, CGMA

We are at the end of 2019 — a year when we looked back to 1919 to learn from the past 100 years of CIMA and management accounting's history and looked forward to preparing our members for the future.

Technology is a key driver to that future. The skills required by businesses today are evolving at an accelerating pace — we need to know more about AI, automation, blockchain, cybersecurity, and much more. That's on top of the traditional "core" management accounting skills.

Technology is making us more connected and is also enabling us to do more complex things. In this shift, it is critical that businesses have high-quality strategic thinking and decision-making capabilities if they are to be among the most successful sustainable organisations of the future.

Traditionally, businesses have focused on the issues close to certainty — what the Stacey Matrix, devised by professor Ralph Stacey, describes as the rational zone. Today, increasingly, decisions in this area are delegated to automation and AI, with humans — augmented by technology — working in the complex zone where issues are far from agreement and certainty. Dealing with complexity requires greater problem-solving and strategic thinking capabilities.

To focus more on strategic tasks, we need to change our approach. Creativity — connecting and synthesising seemingly disparate fields for a creative outcome — becomes increasingly important.

Businesses also want to see their ROI on training. That's why our revised CGMA Competency Framework and the 2019 CIMA Professional Qualification Syllabus were developed from extensive conversations with employers as a part of our Future of Finance research. That has been described as a "game changer", and I believe it is just that.

For decades, the professional accounting qualification marked the entrance to our professional lives. Taken together with CPD or CPE, it was enough to sustain a lifelong career. However, as we move into the next decade and beyond, we will need to challenge, rethink, and then develop this model.

The professional qualification is described by IFAC as "initial" professional development which forms the base for "continuing" professional development as careers progress. Shaping both these elements is a crucial part of our work at the Association.

Today, we are building on our Future of Finance research to ensure we future-proof management accounting for the next generation of members and businesses. We are developing our own thinking on areas such as resilience, new business partnering models, intangibles, and nonfinancial reporting. The Future of Finance research is also a springboard to research with external partners. Together with Maastricht University in the Netherlands, Essec Business School in France, and Australia's Monash University working with Germany's WHU—Otto Beisheim School of Management, we are researching aspects of digital strategy implementation, management accountants' role in digital transformation, and predictive analytics.

This work is important for the future of the profession. It will ultimately help ensure that future management accountants are equipped for long-lasting and successful careers. To make that future, we need to influence and create impact. We need to learn, unlearn, and relearn. And we need to be storytellers, not scorekeepers.

Andrew Harding, FCMA, CGMA, is chief executive—Management Accounting, at the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants.