Magazine article CMA - the Management Accounting Magazine

Using Surveys to Rate Management Accounting

Magazine article CMA - the Management Accounting Magazine

Using Surveys to Rate Management Accounting

Article excerpt

An effective way of finding out how well your management accounting function is serving its clients is to survey them directly.

Last month's column focused on the public sector management accountant's challenge in knowing how well the functional organizations we lead are performing. Two ingredients proposed in that column were: a set of standards for judging the management accounting function, and the use of continuous monitoring through various techniques. This month's column describes a second dimension of monitoring--the use of client surveys.

Surveys have become the mainstay of political scientists and market researchers. Relatively easy to prepare and inexpensive to administer, they provide access to the opinions and attitudes of clients on a confidential basis.

Survey results provide feedback for immediate action, serve as a benchmark for subsequent surveys measuring progress, and generally provide a substance-based focal point for dialogue and team building within the management accounting function. When independent organizations are used to administer the surveys and interpret the results, a considerable degree of objectivity can be assured.

Public sector management accounting is typically described in terms of its service and control dimensions.

The service considerations to be addressed are much like those for any other customer-focused organization. For example, the Office of the Comptroller General of Canada has developed the following Statement of Working Principles:

"Members of the financial community share with program managers the goal of providing quality government services to the public. The financial community is committed to contributing to the achievement of departmental objectives under PS2000 while ensuring that stewardship responsibilities are also met. To succeed we must:

"Be knowledgeable and proactive by knowing and understanding our department's business and being proactive in offering our expertise and assistance.

"Educate those we work with so that they know how administration works, what the constraints on administrative action are, how it is controlled, who is responsible for what, and what remedies are available to challenge administrative decisions.

"Meet expectations of those we work with effectively, fairly and quickly by responding to their particular situations within the limits and objectives set by government policy and statute.

"Encourage participation in the design of processes and recognize that people appreciate being consulted and asked to participate. …

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