Advance and Be Recognised: The Job Title `Management Accountant' Has Become Increasingly Unfashionable-One Telltale Sign That This Branch of the Profession Is in a State of Flux. Lee Parker Calls on Managmenet Accountants to Leave Their Back-Room Support Role Behind and Take on the Mantle of Strategic Business Partner, or Risk Becoming a Dying Breed. (Management Accounting the Future)

By Parker, Lee | Financial Management (UK), April 2002 | Go to article overview

Advance and Be Recognised: The Job Title `Management Accountant' Has Become Increasingly Unfashionable-One Telltale Sign That This Branch of the Profession Is in a State of Flux. Lee Parker Calls on Managmenet Accountants to Leave Their Back-Room Support Role Behind and Take on the Mantle of Strategic Business Partner, or Risk Becoming a Dying Breed. (Management Accounting the Future)


Parker, Lee, Financial Management (UK)


The job title `management accountant' has become increasingly unfashionable --one telltale sign that this branch of the profession is in a state of flux. Lee Parker calls on management accountants to leave their back-room support role behind and take on the mantle of strategic business partner, of risk becoming a dying breed

It is a truism to say that the role and profile of management accounting is changing. It was ever thus--the evidence of change stretches right back to the industrial revolution. In the modern era, management accounting has laboured in the shadow of financial reporting, auditing and taxation. As the poor cousin to these other activities it has invariably been relegated to the role of organisational cost-keeping or the unremittingly dull number-crunching course oil budgeting. But changes in today's working environment represent new opportunities that, if not seized, pose a serious threat to this branch of accountancy.

Historical studies of the industrial revolution reveal evidence of entrepreneurs' cost management practices in the mining, iron and textiles industries. These included expense control, responsibility management, product costing, overhead allocation, cost comparisons, budgets, forecasts and inventory control. A full range of data types, media and management planning and control functions made direct inputs into their strategic decision-making processes. The managers of the time often demonstrated quite sophisticated understanding and applications of the relationship between strategy, control and cost management.

Modern trends towards employing a broader range of skills, using both financial and operational performance indicators, taking decision-making roles in cross-functional teams and integrating operational and strategic control therefore represent a continuation of what was already happening in the 18th century.

The findings of studies undertaken by accounting associations worldwide generally agree that the main forces now influencing the profession are:

* internationalisation and globalisation;

* the rise of non-accounting competitors and alliances;

* the knowledge-based economy;

* information technology;

* the increasing sophistication of consumers;

* the call for broader accountability;

* changing work patterns and altitudes.

Internationalisation and globalisation are rendering the location of businesses increasingly irrelevant and are transforming management and accounting into multi-disciplinary professions. The market power of non-accounting competitors and alliances is growing; professional accounting associations are promoting general business qualifications or MBAs; and some accounting practices are presenting themselves as multi-disciplinary business advisers.

Accountants of the bean-counting variety no longer hold the role of information gatekeeper in organisations. Business success is increasingly measured in financial and non-financial terms that are more easily available to managers and clients. Technological developments are taking the skill out of routine account and budget preparation tasks, freeing accountants from data preparation and number-crunching for more advanced work on diagnostic, advisory, decision-making and control--or speeding them towards redundancy.

Consumers of accounting services, like organisational managers, now demand fewer traditional accounting, auditing and tax services than they used to. Organisations in all sectors are being called upon to be more accountable and transparent. These demands include environmental and consumer protection, equal opportunities and equity of access to privatised government services.

CIMA's 1998 membership and employer survey in the UK found that, while technical accounting skills were still valued, these functions were being increasingly automated or delegated. Of higher priority were accountants' abilities to design information systems, advise on operational decisions, manage people and develop strategic financial plans. …

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Advance and Be Recognised: The Job Title `Management Accountant' Has Become Increasingly Unfashionable-One Telltale Sign That This Branch of the Profession Is in a State of Flux. Lee Parker Calls on Managmenet Accountants to Leave Their Back-Room Support Role Behind and Take on the Mantle of Strategic Business Partner, or Risk Becoming a Dying Breed. (Management Accounting the Future)
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