Traditionally, management accountants had focused on accounting, recording, and reporting. To sustain in their organizations, management accountants should develop wide range of skills. It is known that management accountants become knowledgeable about trends of business and finance, prepare to face new task and willing to acquire the necessary knowledge and skills to function as full-fledged business partners.
According to IMA survey, management accountants were asked to define their position in an organization. Thirty nine per cent said that they work in Finance, thirty three per cent said Accounting and twenty eight per cent said something else (David Forsaith, 2004) . Management accountants have long played multiple roles variably described as scorekeeping, attention-directing, and problem-solving roles (Caroline Lambert, 2009). Management accountants are facing a drastic change in almost all parts of their professional work environment. In addition to this, management accountants are being offered to become business partners. (Debra Kerby, 2012)
I. The changing role of management accountants.
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The role of management accounting can be described as provision of information designed to enhance the ability of management and other people within the organization. They play an important role in three main areas: planning, decision making and controlling. Management accountants must develop a thorough understanding of all aspects of a business, apply analytical skills to the detection of trends and the development of forecasts, provide insightful advice to top management, and serve as change agents.
Decision making and planning are two area that management accountant has important role to manage. They support company in formulation and implementation of strategy. Moreover, they also provide information about the estimation of cost's output. In the late of 1990s, management accountant concerned more about decision making and planning. But until 2007 to now, the balance of three areas has been re-established. They focus on both of areas including stewardship and strategy development. The reason for this changing can be defined by some important points.
Firstly, the two accounting scandal are Enron and WorldCom. All of these mistakes were made by poor controlling of management accounting. In these scandals, based on the accounting loopholes, poor financing report, CFO (chief financial officer) and other executive accountant hided billions of debt from failed in deals and projects in the report to board of director and audit.
Secondly, the introduction of International financial report standard (IFRS) and Enterprise resource planning (ERP). This is an important point of changing role of management accounting. When the new technologies, new accounting systems becomes increasing day by day and helpful for accounting, the management accounting can be use this to innovate the collection, measurement, analysis and communication of information within the organization. Through these systems, the management accounting easily to provide the information to help manage resources, planning and controlling.
The influence of IT is in today's world is unavoidable, as it will result in competitive advantage and success in business. Application of IT in management accounting has been increasing, as organizations found out the benefits, which helps the organisation to achieve success. The management accounting professional bodies including Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) and The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) has stressed on IT and predicted that IT has got the good future to provide information to management for better decision making. (M. Krishna Moorthy, 2012)
According to Joan Luft, a professor of accounting and information systems at Michigan State University said at this in her lectures when she was a visiting professor for CIMA's in 2006. "She contended that tomorrow's management accountant needed to be less of an "enabler", because that role served to "stoke the fires of over-optimism". Luft argued that the role should instead be that of a corporate brake, which called for accountants to be neutral and pessimistic. (Gudrun Baldvinsdottir).
According to Sarah Williams, operations director at FSS said "Management accountants have become increasingly high profile; a management team requires all the critical details to make decision. In fact, global organizations are giving more importance on internal transfer, offering top performing individuals opportunities to relocate, particularly to the US and Asia. It's widely recognized as a core retention tool. (CIMA, 2010)
II Skills and knowledge that is critical to the success of a management accounting professional
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1. Analytical knowledge
Management accountants are required to widen their knowledge related to financial and non-financial information. They must recognize different types of costs with different purposes in industry. For example, direct materials, direct labours, manufactured overhead costs. According to Yazdifar and Tsamenyi analytical skill is expected to be the most important skill in the future (Hassan Yazdifar, 2005) .
Individuals with a high level of analytical skills are able to look beyond numbers to determine causes of events and prediction of trends (Carly Moulang, 2010) . In other words, they are more skilled compared to other people. This will help them to build confidence in their own skills. They can to do their tasks and make decisions without anyone's help and these conditions will facilitate empowerment (Carly Moulang, 2010) .
Management Accountants with high level analytical skills are likely to be more involved in the process of creating strategies. These analytical skills will also help the strategy implementation process. The Management Accountant's has the ability to predict trends and take potential crisis into account, and to focus more on aspects that are important in the successful implementation of strategy (Alexander, 1985) . The analytical skill of Management Accountant plays an important role in providing management with important information for strategic management which will help them for making critical decisions (Carly Moulang, 2010) . This is because Management Accountant with a high level of analytical skills would able to think beyond data to determine cause of events and provide important information regarding the external environment. Analytically-oriented techniques have been used to lead a successful creativity generation.
2. Strategic thinking:
Strategic decisions are broadâ€‘based, qualitative type of decisions which include or reflect goals and objectives. Strategic thinking plays an important role in the management of company. Management accountants have to set goals and objectives for company in a competitive environment. They are required to overlook or predict useful information related to competitive advantage resources for company to get more profits in the future. For example, give some strategies about cost, prices in comparison with competitors. Good strategic decisions make company successful and strong in long term. The Management Accountant should closely be involved in decision support and providing expert advice throughout the business, on both corporate level management and finance department, Management Accountant's decisionâ€‘making is highly subjective. Whether a decision is good or bad depends on the goals and objectives of management of the company. For example, management accountant must decide strategic objectives such as the company's product line, Volume of products, risk factors, and profit margin, quality of product.
3. IT system knowledge
In modern world computer knowledge is must for every person. IT has become a backbone for most of the business. According to Siegel and Sorensen (1999:15), "The pace of change in technology is becoming much faster and accounting and finance people are very heavy users of technology, more so than a lot of other functions". According to US study, computer skills were the most important skill that management accountants had learned in the past five years. In addition to, they should have attention to details about data modelling, making forecasts and projections, developing assumptions and criteria, analysing processes, being adaptable and not resistant to change, being strategic and forward looking. Management accountants must have good computer skills which will help them using decision making tools.
4. Communication skills
According to an Institute of Management Accountants' (IMA) study in the USA reported that the most valued skills for entry level accountants were communication, teamwork, analysis, accounting, and a thorough understanding of business function(Parker, 2002) . Communication skills are skills which help management accountants convey information to users, opinions from managers, shareholders through formal and informal settings. Especially, writing and listening skills are more important to accountants. They need to use simple language to explain many academic words related to management and financial accounting to non-accountants. In addition, good listening is considerably required to management accountants because many ideas from co-workers or outside company help managers making good decisions. Management Accountants with high level of communication skills can easily able to understand and manage relevant strategic information (Sathe, 1983) due to this management accountants will have more confidence and be motivated as they are contributing to the strategic decisions. A high level of communication skills may provide an individual with good access to information and exchanges of ideas, leading to creative endeavours. When communication skills are low then these qualities will be lower and access to information will be less, potentially stifling creativity (Tan, 1998).
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5. Managerial skill
Robert Katz identifies three types of skills that are essential for a successful management process: technical, conceptual and human or interpersonal managerial skills. Decision making is one of critical functions in management accounting. Management must make different decisions on marketing, production, and finance. A primary objective of decisionâ€‘making is to achieve maximum use of the business's capital or its resources. Good decisions require relevant information and special analysis of data. An understanding of financial statements is critical to the ability of management to make decisions effectively. Furthermore, management accountants should always work with co-workers so teamwork skill is also important in a successful company. Management need to recognize the ability of each member so they can allocate works on members' skills effectively. Working in a team requires them listen and respect opinions from other members properly as well as fairness in sharing works and ideas. Management Accountants should co-ordinate with other departments.
IT system knowledge
Assessment of group members' skills and knowledge
Members have evaluated themselves with the rate as 1 is very strong and 5 are very poor for each person strong and weak skills in management accounting. These rated skills are shown as below table:
Particularly, Vishal has highest rate in analytical and communication skills while he is not good at management skill. Mai has almost the five skills average rate as mark 3, only IT system knowledge has the highest mark among five mentioned above skills. Next, Hong is the person who evaluated that her best skill is managerial skills while communication skill is not good as other three skills. Finally, Linh evaluated herself that she has good analytical knowledge and strategic thinking ability while other three skills are less than these two skills. Skills required from management accountants are divided two parts including technical and soft skills. In technical skills, Vishal is good at analysing the data, numbers from financial statements but he has not enough experiences to set goals or strategies from the results of report. In the other hand, Linh has the ability of recognizing and giving strategies better than Vishal. In soft skills, Hong is good at decision making but her weakness is the ability of communicating with other people while Vishal's strength is good communication with others and net-working. In addition, Mai's skills have the same rate so she needs to improve all skills better. Overall, each person has strong expertise in different areas, which could improve other person disadvantages in order to do good job as a team. For instance, Vishal has good communication talent, which Hong is not good. However, Vishal is not good at managerial skills which other three persons has greater score in. likewise we can help each other to improve our weak areas or for instance Hong can join classes for improving the communication. This is possible if she a strong determination in her. She can interact with friends in spite of making mistakes she can learn. The more mistakes she make she can improve the skill. Even if we have good analytical skill we have to improve it and gain more knowledge on it by solving more number related questions and practise more and more. All the team members will join advanced level classes for improving computer skills. Each member can improve our strategic skills by solving case studies and have in-depth understanding about the SWOT analysis, core competes, PEST, Porter's diamond porter five forces and various other models. In addition, the university is a place where can support team members in strengthening the critical skills and knowledge. Many clubs and outside activities help members connect with a lot of people and widen more knowledge related to our studies and our life. The ability of communicating with other people and working as a team will be improved by participating in any clubs such as accounting club, volunteer club, drama club, book bite club, table tennis club, etc. Furthermore, student research activities can help team members gain more analytical skill, strategic skill, etc. University brings more advantages to students who need to improve all skills for future successful career
In today's generation management accountants are giving more importance on strategy and decision-making roles, rather than the more on traditional areas of costing and financial analysis. The one traditional area still the highest on the list of important areas for management accounting. Now is the time to begin preparing for an exciting and rapidly evolving management accounting career. The era calls for professionals with an appropriate balance between technical skills and breadth of knowledge. This balanced preparation can be accomplished only through a carefully structured educational program and continuing professional development. Those who are prepared to meet the challenges of a management accounting career will be valued members of their organizations.