Dedicated to empowering accounting and finance professionals through learning and development, the Institute of Management Accountants’ (IMA) strategy to create education that is in sync with the needs of its growing worldwide network of nearly 65,000 professionals lies tactically in their hands.
Vice President of Professional Development Tina Turner, who is responsible for forwarding IMA’s goal through the development of professional education programs, tools and other resources, said the professionals are in the driver’s seat.
“The entire field of management accounting is, frankly, not well-defined,” Turner said. “It’s defined as cost accounting, which is no longer the way management accountants function in organizations today — it’s no longer applicable. In many cases, the new definition is still very nebulous and varies in terms of who you are speaking to. But we are reforming that definition with the learning and development we provide.”
Tuner said the certified management accountant (CMA) serves as the foundation for that reformation.
“It forms the foundational body of knowledge for management accounting,” she said. “In recent years, we had the certification benchmarked, and it definitely came out as the gold standard in terms of setting the bar as to what constitutes management accounting. In fact, no other accounting and finance credential lends itself more directly to today’s complex and changing business environment.”
To ensure IMA’s certification, however, as well as other learning and development offerings and resources, align to the needs of professionals and the field as a whole, Turner said the professional development group works in tandem with the organization’s Foundation of Applied Research and Certification group, as well as more than 200 chapters worldwide.
“We have created a very strong interconnection between the Foundation for Applied Research, professional development and certification group, so it all links together seamlessly,” she said. “We rather treat it as a series of centric circles where the certification, CMA, is the foundation or body of knowledge that forms the basis of management accountant learning.”
The Foundation for Applied Research includes leading academics and practitioners who look beyond the horizon of management accounting, Turner said.
“They are looking at what’s new, what’s coming up, what the changes in the bodies of knowledge are, what’s evolving, etc. Then we look at how these new and emerging concepts are turned into possible learning initiatives,” she said.
Turner employs a “rapid prototyping” technique while developing and launching fresh education initiatives to ensure the professional development offerings are on par with professionals’ needs.
“We employ a ‘rapid prototyping’ approach, bringing theory together as quickly as we can,” she said. “So rather than spending six months or a year designing a more complex program and then launching it to market and seeing what people think of it, we’ll start to work with a chapter, for example, and we’ll work with them to start delivering what we’re working on. We improve the program as we go so that as we circle out the launch to larger audiences, it’s already gone through a cycle of adapting and improving based on feedback.
“We treat everything as a process — everything that we do, develop and deliver is constantly going through a cycle of improvements so data can be used real-time in what we are doing. If it is something as actionable as data from a webinar, we use that data when we start to see clear trends. We can use that data to add information around the webinar so that when it becomes a recorded event and is posted, if there was something that was lacking in terms of information, we can include references to articles in our Strategic Finance magazine, white papers, etc., and build it in right away to get the added benefit of that data and improvements.”
In addition to the “rapid prototyping” technique, Turner employs metrics to measure the success of IMA’s professional development offerings. The purpose of these metrics is not to simply gauge participation rates and satisfaction but how the education offerings help participants contribute to the overall goals and performance of their organizations.
“In the instance of answering this question, ‘Was this worthwhile learning?’ in regard to individuals, we are interested in understanding how they have used this learning to do what they need to do on the job better or differently and how they have been able to use the learning to advance their careers. When we are dealing with corporate clients, learning for 200-plus people, then we want to know how this learning initiative helps them achieve the goals they set out for the program and their business,” Turner said.
In the case of working with corporate clients, she said learning partnerships aren’t a one-time event — they are continual, which means the assessments are, as well.
“When we’re working with companies, we have an assessment process we perform from the very beginning where we map out the business goals, competency gaps and more,” Turner said. “We pay attention to how well we hit the mark in closing those gaps, as well as driving the performance of the organization through the learning and development program. There are a couple of key milestones after training in my mind: 30 days and 90 days. However, there’s an ongoing communication and ongoing examination of businesses’ challenges, professionals’ challenges and how we can help them address those on an ongoing basis.
“Goals have really become the key metric in our minds. If somebody likes the learning or is happy with the learning — not to diminish that — is less relevant than, ‘Did it help them accomplish what they needed to accomplish?’”
– Cari McLean, firstname.lastname@example.org