December 1999


Corporate accountants in leading companies are less bean counters and more business partners and valued team members, according to "Counting More, Counting Less: Transformations in the Management Accounting Profession," a recent study sponsored by the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA). The role of corporate accountants has been changing for some time now, as technology has allowed them to spend less time preparing standard reports and more time on strategic decision making.

"This report reveals dramatic changes occurring in corporate America," says study author and DePaul Professor Gary Siegel. "The occupation is nothing like what it was ten years ago. Management accountants spend the bulk of their time working with others, analyzing and interpreting information."

The study found that the value and image of management accountants within the organization has improved. Respondents increasingly refer to themselves as working "in finance"--as analysts, business partners, and controllers.

Management accountants spend more time and place more emphasis on communicating with other individuals in the company. They are moving away from the centralized accounting department to work alongside the members of the operations department they serve, and more than half now work on cross-functional teams.

Survey respondents reported that their work has become more exciting; however, they are working longer hours. Into the future, management accountants see their roles becoming more visionary and proactive, moving from business partnering to strategic partnering.

The study, a follow-up to the IMA's 1995 "Practice Analysis in Management Accounting," confirms the trends foreseen in that report. It also indicates that the recommendations to accounting educators in that study have been somewhat successful. However, the rapidly evolving role of management accountants means that curricula need to be constantly updated. For corporations, the results of the study can also be applied to recruiting, skills training, and internal assessment functions. *

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