As we enter the third decade of the 21st Century management accountants are in the position of rethinking their roles and functions thanks to the technological and economic disruptions that are reshaping the accounting profession.
Technological advances are a large part of 2020 forecasts made by experts in the field of accounting. Technology will continue to bring greater automation to most transactional work. Machine learning and AI will make big data even bigger. The expanded data sets will result in increased analyses that will lead to greater insights for businesses and enterprises.
The rise of Big Data will enable professionals to gather and accumulate information at an unprecedented speed and scale. The challenge for management accountants will be in knowing how to obtain the right data and use it to uncover deeper insights.
Strategy and Decision-Making
Automation is reshaping key areas of the job functions accountants perform today. The question is this. If transactions are being automated what will accountants do instead of tracking and recording? In addition to learning how to master technology and data analytics, management accountants will be increasingly involved in contributing to determining strategy and decision making. Accountants will become partners in business leadership rather than simply corporate bookkeepers.
This transition in role will involve adopting a holistic view of the business. Accountants will need to be focused on the analytics of the data to identify potential risks on the horizon. Global events are driving a need for management accountants becoming decision makers and strategists. Cate Long, CMA, an executive advisor to startups and former VP at a global software firm believes “In 2020, management accountants’ focus should be on risk management for strategic thinking and decision making. With so many global and national uncertainties, such as unresolved trade deals, and our presidential election, advance planning for potential changes is critical.”
The need for financial forecasting will also be an important function as management accountants rise into strategic leadership roles, according to Olya Kovnatska, CMA, financial planning and analysis manager with United Rentals, Inc., the world’s largest equipment rental company: “With current economic uncertainty and market volatility, I believe it’s more important than ever for management accountants to stay ahead of the emerging trends shaping our respective industries and profession as a whole. By shifting focus towards the future instead of the past, modeling various scenarios and financial impacts of the developments we observe in our business and proactively communicating the findings to our stakeholders in a simple and actionable way, we as finance professionals can facilitate more agile decision making and create a competitive advantage for our organizations.”
According to many experts interviewed by Forbes, management accountants in 2020 will need to adapt to the realities of globalization and learn to operate across global borders. Despite negative sentiments of late regarding globalization, businesses continue to grow and operate on a global scale. “As more companies grow and operate across countries, it is essential to have the capability to operate effectively on a global landscape, said Quiros. “This includes understanding critical fiscal and compliance requirements, operating differences and market dynamics, to mention a few.” The regulatory and fiscal complexities of operating globally pose formidable opportunities as well as challenges for the accounting industry as it moves forward into this new decade. The one thing most experts agree on is that the accounting profession’s resiliency and relevancy will be defined and determined by how well they are able to adapt to technology and globalization. Just as companies must continually evolve and transform in order to be competitive and remain relevant, business accountants must do the same in order to earn a seat at the table to remain relevant and add value by providing those deeper insights that will help CEO’s and cross-functional partners to address future challenges and continuing disruptions.
Management accounting is being transformed. It is no longer good enough to be a simple steward of the company books. Now accountants will need to be even more nimble, technically savvy, work in cross-functional teams and have a keen global outlook.