Improve Your Technology Skills: It's Always a Good Idea to Track Technology Trends and Pick Up New Strategies for Management Accounting

By Brands, Kristine | Strategic Finance, August 2017 | Go to article overview

Improve Your Technology Skills: It's Always a Good Idea to Track Technology Trends and Pick Up New Strategies for Management Accounting


Brands, Kristine, Strategic Finance


Helen Brand, chief executive of ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants), says, "Understandably, digital skills are now essential and will only grow in importance in the coming decade. As new and upcoming technologies arrive thick and fast, a digital focus is no longer a luxury-it's a necessity." This isn't new advice for management accountants, as we watch organizations increasingly rely on technology to facilitate accounting and business functions. But it's frustrating to be reminded about the importance of developing technology skills without a clear picture about the skills we need to learn, let alone how to learn them. The right technologylearning strategies for management accountants help prepare us for the rise of the digital focus on information processing.

ANALYZE DATA AND CREATE DATA VISUALIZATIONS

With the exponential growth of accounting and business information and data generated by organizations, management accountants need to learn how to manage and analyze data and present it clearly and concisely. While you may be using spreadsheet programs to do this, you need to adopt data analytics tools that protect the integrity of the data by standardizing and automating its collection, calculations, and presentation. Tools like Tableau (wwwtableau.com) are easy to use, dramatically faster, and increase productivity through automatic data feeds and processing. To replace a spreadsheet model, a regional healthcare system in Florida implemented a Tableau-based data analytics applica tion to analyze profitability by product lines to answer the CEO's questions after the monthly close. The spreadsheet model took the CFO 30 hours to prepare; the Tableau model took seconds. Tableau presents the results as a visualization in graph or chart form that allows data drilldown to further analyze results. Management accountants who master data analytics tools will be in high demand in their organizations. Tableau's instructional tutorials are outstanding.

VALUE YOUR MANAGEMENT ACCOUNTING AND BUSINESS KNOWLEDGE

Technology tools that are implemented without an understanding of an organization's management accounting and business processes probably aren't sustainable. Management accountants should be part of the team that identifies, evaluates, and implements technology tools. Organizations can throw technical resources at business issues and projects, but without people who understand the details of how the organization ticks and the implications to its processes, the system may not work as intended. Management accountants can play a vital role collaborating with technical personnel to educate them about management accounting and business issues. Management accountants' participation adds true value to their organizations because their knowledge is priceless.

BUSINESS PROCESS IMPROVEMENT AND AUTOMATION

How often have you been working on a transaction and can see how it could be improved? Business process improvement and efficiency can be achieved through automation. ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems automatically route processes and can also be configured to ensure compliance with internal controls and approval levels. Management accountants have an opportunity to evaluate existing business processes and add new ones to improve efficiency. For example, manual travel and expense reporting systems are inefficient, are susceptible to lost documentation, and are ideal candidates for automation. Many ERP systems include canned features like these, or you can research add-on programs. Process automation doesn't have to involve sophisticated processes; every organization can start with the low-hanging fruit. …

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