Project Management: A Core Competency in Managerial Accounting Education: Educators at Villanova University Develop, Introduce, and Assess a New Graduate-Level Module in Project Management

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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Accounting programs have been challenged to create innovative, cross-disciplinary courses/ curricula and to tie such offerings/programs to institutional strategic plans. This article details the development and delivery of a module on project management (PM) for a graduate-level management accounting course.

At a strategic level, we discuss the linkages between the educational objectives of the PM module and both internal (i.e., business school) and external (i.e., practitioner and professional) imperatives. At an operational level, we provide details about the content of the project management module--a module believed to be unique among courses in management accounting. Also included is a discussion of the resources needed to support delivery of the module, as well as a brief discussion of assessment methods associated with the module.

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Steve Albrecht and Bob Sack challenged accounting faculty to develop and deliver innovative, cross-disciplinary courses and course curricula. (1) Further, faculty are being asked to assume a stakeholder-based approach to new course and new program development. (2)

In this article, we will discuss the course-development process and course content of an innovative, cross-disciplinary module on project management (PM) for a graduate-level management accounting course. (3) The process we used consists of three stages: planning, implementation, and assessment. The planning stage involves the specification of stakeholder imperatives from which specific educational objectives for the module were derived. The implementation stage relates to the course content and operational issues we faced in delivering the PM module. Finally, the assessment stage of the course-development process gathers information to motivate continuous course improvement and ensure that the course meets stakeholder expectations.

COURSE/PROGRAM OVERVIEW

The master of accounting and professional consultancy (MAC) program at Villanova University consists of 10 courses (30 credit hours) with a single track: assurance services. The program assumes students have an undergraduate major or minor in accounting and includes courses in finance, information systems, tax planning, negotiation/conflict management, business law, advanced topics in financial reporting/disclosure, assurance and risk management, and advanced topics in management accounting (MAC 8240). MAC 8240 is intended to extend student knowledge of managerial accounting through coverage of three modules: (1) strategic cost management, (2) planning (i.e., project management), and (3) performance assessment.

Module I is designed to expose students to some real-world challenges of implementing activity-based costing (ABC) systems and to enhance their understanding of strategic activity-based management (ABM), that is, how companies can use ABC information to manage their total value chain more effectively. Module II--the PM module--has a twofold objective: to introduce accounting students to the application of PM within an accounting/consultancy context and to expose students to PM software within the context of completing a project plan for a consulting engagement. Module III consists of three components: traditional measures of financial performance (transfer pricing, ROI, limitations of ROI, etc.), the balanced scorecard (BSC), and economic value added (EVA[R]). In all three modules, students complete one major group case/project as well as other lesser requirements. For the PM module, a case analysis and article represent 20% of a student's course grade. The following sections discuss the three-stage development process for the PM module of MAC 8240. (4)

PM MODULE DEVELOPMENT: STAGE I--PLANNING

College of Business Strategic Plan

The strategic plan of the business school at Villanova University specifies the elements of a "learning environment," the overall purpose of which is the creation of "adaptive problem solvers. …