BONUS | International Management Accounting Day

Happy International Management Accounting Day! Each year, IMA celebrates International Management Accounting Day® on May 6. This global day of recognition commemorates the important role management accountants play within their organizations. Around the world, finance and accounting professionals work to bring insights and help their organizations realize untapped opportunities and operate more effectively. While this work happens every day of the year, on May 6 management accountants are publicly recognized by IMA. Download and listen to hear IMA's President and CEO, Jeff Thomson, discuss the value finance and accounting professionals bring to their organizations in the "race for relevance"!

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Adam: (00:00)
 Welcome back everyone and happy International Management Accounting Day. Each year, IMA celebrates International Management Accounting day on May 6th. This global day of recognition commemorates the important role management accountants play within their organizations. Around the world, finance and accounting professionals work to bring insight and help their organizations realize untapped opportunities and operate more efficiently. While this work happens every day of the year, on May 6th management accountants are publicly recognized by IMA. So to celebrate and support the public recognition, Count Me In has a special bonus episode for you featuring IMA's President and CEO, Jeff Thomson. Jeff spoke with Margaret Michaels, IMA's Manager for Brand Content and Storytelling about the future of finance and accounting. Keep listening to hear them discuss the valuable ongoing efforts of management accountants and the race for relevance in a digital age.

Margaret: (01:03)
Digital transformation enabled by automation, data analytics, artificial intelligence, and other technologies has been the headline story when people talk about the future of finance, but you often bring up the fact that these are really not new technologies. Can you elaborate on that theme and talk a little bit about how the foundational concepts in competing on analytics and other texts laid the groundwork for the transformation we see today?

Jeff: (01:41)
Sure Margaret. Great question and two related, but somewhat different concepts. So these technologies have been around and developing for some time. Artificial intelligence, has been around for some time, blockchain has been around for some time. But what's different is that all industries have been impacted by these technologies and the applications have been exploding. You know blockchain, for example, the use cases for blockchain were just a few several years ago, but now blockchain use cases have absolutely exploded. You know, blockchain was something we've heard about several years ago, primarily in the financial services industry, but now blockchain applications are permeating many, many industries including education, non-for-profits, and when we think about artificial intelligence, it's not just artificial intelligence in certain industries, it's artificial intelligence in many industries and many applications, so the question is our ability to leverage all of these wonderful uses of these technologies. Now, and then when we think about, RPA robotics process automation, robotics process automation has actually been around for nearly a decade. So when we talk about new technologies, the technologies really aren't that new, but it's the application and comprehensiveness of these technologies across industry verticals that are new. Now, moving to your other question competing on analytics, it's actually the book, Competing on Analytics: The New Science of Winning, by Thomas Davenport and Jean Harris. It's actually a book in 2007 that really laid the groundwork for the transformation to data analytics that as you said, we're seeing today. And when you think about it, imagine it was written in 2007 and when you think about the science of winning in the marketplace, what do you think about? You normally think about cool apps, things that consumers see in front of them. Like I said applications, products and services, things you can touch and feel. You don't think about nerdy things like analytics, but if you fast forward today, analytics is the thing we're talking about. Data scientists, data scientists are the number one sought after job because data analytics is how we get to know our consumers and their needs and their wants. They’re how finance team professionals offer insight and foresight to their CEOs, to their boards of directors. So that is the competency and skillset that we as finance team professionals must really aspire to and really accelerate our competencies.
 Margaret: (04:59)
 Great. Now you often say the race for relevance to describe the current iteration of digital transformation in accounting and finance as technology evolves faster than the skills of the people who need to use it. What are the skills finance and accounting professionals need to focus on to keep up and what competencies really stand out to employers in a time when skills are increasingly commoditized?
 Jeff: (05:28)
 Yeah so another great question Margaret you're on a roll today. Yeah, so there's going to be the infamous hard skills and the softer skills, so we are in an absolute environment of disruption. In fact, we often talk about the VUCA world that we're in, and no it's not a Hungarian goulash, it's VUCA volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity, VUCA. And we were actually in that environment before COVID-19 tragically struck the world with non-traditional competition, climate, and I can go on and on. So when I think about behavioral characteristics for finance team professionals and CFOs, I think about agility and I know we're going to be talking about agility perhaps in a bit later. I think about adaptability because if you don't have the ability to deal with new situations, stressful situations, totally unexpected situations that your best planning could not have possibly anticipated then you're not going to be able to adjust and deal with the situation from a risk management perspective or a planning perspective. So agility, adaptability, but also being anticipatory. Having that radar at ability to plan the best you can, so from a behavioral perspective, what I call the three A's; agility, adaptability, anticipatory skills. From a harder skills perspective, and again this is for the finance team, strategic planning, strategic thinking and then of course data analytics, data science, everything data, data transformation, digital transformation. Now I don't want to lose sight of the table stakes because as we thinking about the progressive CFO and the CFO of the future, we have to be clear that there are table stakes. There are things that the CFO team must do with excellence that are expected. Things like risk management, internal controls, an ongoing and continuous commitment to ethics, leadership, executive maturity, executive presence, and the like. So we can't lose sight of what got us there and that's a unwavering and relentless focus on, as I said, ethics, internal controls, accurately and fairly representing the financial condition of the enterprise. And then we can offer that insight and foresight and having, enabling the organization to do great things and create great products and services that will change the world.
 Margaret: (08:38)
 That makes a lot of sense and I'm glad you mentioned agility and resilience because COVID has certainly highlighted the need for leaders to help their people become more agile and resilient. How do you define agility and resilience? How equipped are finance and accounting professionals to deal with uncertainty while continuing to innovate and improve processes?
 Jeff: (09:04)
 So agility is, and again, this is a, perhaps a Thomson un-scientific definition, but maybe those are the best. They're not particularly scientific, but agility in my mind, Margaret is the ability to quickly move employees and resources, human resources, and other types of resources, technology resources into new roles or areas of the organization to support changing business needs. And the quickness is really very important because things could change on a dime or a nickel or a penny as the case may be so ability to quickly move employees and other types of resources and the new roles or areas of the organization as conditions change. Resilience or resiliency is perhaps viewed as the physical, social, emotional, and financial wellbeing of employees. Think of it as the shock absorber weathering the storm, hurricane Sandy and the Northeast is a literal interpretation of weathering the storm. COVID-19 around the world and other examples. And when I think about, going back to agility, you know, there's a kind of a company responsibility and a company opportunity to deal with agility, attracting and attaining diverse employees, creating an inclusive culture, identifying employees with digital skills, career pathing, workforce ability offering, and providing technology and communication tools, remote collaboration, but there's also an employee responsibility to improve agility, building your competencies, building skill sets and strategy and data science and data analytics, so it's a dual responsibility when it comes to agility, both an employer and employee responsibility.
 Margaret: (11:18)
 That makes a lot of sense. And as organizations and economies recover from COVID, what do you think the new normal will look like? And what role will management accountants play in helping their organizations recover?
 Jeff: (11:34)
 Well, I think we as a society, Margaret are playing a role in what the new normal will look like. And look, there's no doubt about it, in some sense, tragically COVID-19 impacted lives and livelihoods, closed down small businesses, 3 million deaths, cases, hospitalizations, but the human spirit is strong we learned so much. We learned so much about ourselves, how to cope, learned about how technology can enable, learn so much about how we could deal with tragedy, how we could educate ourselves and lift the human spirit. And we also learned about the new normal of work. So we educated ourselves in so many ways we became a learning society, a world that is transformed forever. So, the new normal in many ways is a new learning world and certainly we've learned that our profession, for example, is one that is a profession that is stronger in many, many ways. It's more, we've invested in new technologies, we've learned that we don't need to be in the office nine to five, we don't all need to be in the office at the same time. We do need to be in the office some of the time, we do need to build and nurture relationships, but you know what, we can close the books remotely, we can create budgets remotely, we can close the books remotely. And so that mix we'll figure out together. We did invest more than we ever have before in data science, we've invested more than ever before in digital transformation across the value chain. Organizations are investing in new hybrid models in terms of remote work, like two-three-two, two days in the office, three days away from the office or in your home office, and then two days of time with the family or other types of models, investing in all types of technologies that enable the consumer to do great things, investing more in ESG to enable the planet to be greener and cleaner. And so, we've learned an awful lot about society ourselves, and our organization. So that is a really, really good thing and I think the new normal will be better than the old normal.
 Margaret: (14:28)
 I agree. I do look forward to a full economic recovery and seeing everybody prosper after such a difficult year.
 Jeff: (14:38)
 I agree, you know, IMA conducts a quarterly global economic survey, as you know, with ACCA, another prominent global accounting association. We've done it for the better part of 60 years. One of the largest quarterly economic surveys of its kind, and there's nothing but optimism in terms of global economic survey. In fact, by the end of this year, we might return to pre-pandemic conditions. You know, if things go well, it's a bit of a race between vaccinations and the variants. We need to be careful and smart in terms of not, you know, going back to relapses and things like that. But if we're smart and cautious, we might see a nice recovery.
 Closing: (15:34)
 This has been Count Me In, IMA's podcast providing you with the latest perspectives of thought leaders from the accounting and finance profession. If you like what you heard and you'd like to be counted in for more relevant accounting and finance education, visit IMA's website at

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