The corporate world is changing, of that there can be no doubt.
We have seen the dramatic effects of globalisation; the proliferation of information and communication technologies; and the dynamics of change on business, governmental and regulatory organisations.
There have, and will continue to be, commensurate shifts in the capabilities underlying organisational success for managing increasingly knowledge-based and intangible resources.
The finance function has been transformed in terms of a value-added management focus, its areas of organisational involvement, and what is expected from it and its leadership. The finance department’s work has been consolidated, refocused, outsourced, and headcounts radically reduced. Collectively, these trends and movements have had, and will continue to have, a profound effect on the accounting profession.
There is a fundamental shift throughout the accounting world – the shift from accounting to management. The development of accounting is at a crossroads.
The label ‘accounting’ has been removed from the brand names of both large and small firms of accountants in public practice, and a similar trend is occurring in the renaming of professional associations of accountants.
CIMA has – and always will be – focused on management. Today, accountants outnumber other professional groupings in top British management.
In the last decade, the CIMA qualification has gained wide recognition as the leading management accounting award. It is renowned for the exhaustive breadth and depth of knowledge coverage and the rigour of an assessment process designed thoroughly to test the professional competence of candidates.
But the most significant indicator of the pedigree of any qualification is the value placed on it by employer organisations. In the Robert Half Salary and Benefits Survey for 2000, CIMA is the professional qualification preferred by 68% of UK employers.
Growth has not, however, been restricted to the UK. Of more than 50,000 members and almost 70,000 registered students, almost a third are located around the world.
CIMA has long allowed student registration outside the UK, and there are examination centres in 80 countries. Strong concentrations of members and students exist in countries long associated with the UK.
Examples are Ireland, Hong Kong Malaysia, South Africa and Sri Lanka, where there are divisional offices and local councils. May 2001 saw more than 35,000 students sit the CIMA examinations in 240 exam centres in 75 countries.
A constant theme for CIMA is to equip its members with the skills that business demands. This business-centred approach means that the examination syllabus has been as challenging as ever this year.
CIMA has been willing to adopt techniques and approaches developed by other disciplines and to move into any area that offers the means of satisfying management priorities. As a result, a series of developments have led to an emphasis on management itself. These include:
– information management has succeeded information technology management, which developed out of computing, which itself originated in data processing
– decision-support models of all kinds started with investment appraisal, which included discounting, probability, and forecasting tools, after beginnings in general management mathematics with an emphasis on techniques such as batch and order quantity
– performance management builds on performance measurement techniques, enhanced by incorporating non-financial measures from early beginnings in financial ratio analysis and variance accounting for control
– financial strategy has built on financial management, which started in treasury management, itself preceded by cash forecasting and working capital control
– organisational and people management topics were taken on
– business strategy, covering all aspects of the business, grew out of largely process-based corporate planning.
Management accounting is continuously evolving, with the emphasis shifting from a cost determination and financial-control focus, to the provision of advice that results in addition or creation of value, to taking part in decision-making and strategy formation.
It may be said that a professional body is defined by its syllabus. For the 2001 syllabus, CIMA engaged the Industrial Society to conduct research, gathering the views of employers, members, students and educators. Their findings supported CIMA’s vision: ‘management accountants must play a wider role in business than ever before, making it necessary to acquire a broader range of management and technical skills.’
It is significant that the tension between conservatism and the need to change is not resolved behind closed doors. CIMA’s obsession with going out to the various customer groups – particularly, the employers of its members and future members – is the key factor in carrying it forward.
The pace of technology is challenging the very core of the finance function.
Accountants must now fulfil diverse expectations and possess a broad cross section of skills. They must understand the business if they are to thrive.
Finance managers, more than any other, know that change is essential for survival.
Irrespective of the success achieved so far, settling for what CIMA had was never an option. It has always been progressive and forward-looking, with a culture that demands the best.
Members will continue to be engaged in a diverse range of roles across all business sectors of the world economy. This versatility is essential, as organisational structures become more flexible and adaptable, while business relationships become more complex, with the growth of international business networks forming key strategic alliances, more joint ventures with partner organisations and increased use of outsourcing and shared service centres.
The CIMA qualification is designed to give chartered management accountants an holistic knowledge of their business’s overall activity in order to work with other managers in running the business and, more importantly, in driving its strategy.
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