The roles and qualities of management accountants in organizations – evidence from the field

Zaneta Pietrzak, Tomasz Wnuk-Pel

Abstract


Purpose. The main purpose of the research is to analyse the role and qualities of management accountants in Polish companies. In particular the paper intends to address three research questions: 1) how management accountants work is organized? 2) which tasks of management accountants are the most important and which factors influence their formation? 3) which qualities of management accountants in the field of knowledge, skills and personality traits are the most important?

Methodology. Survey method has been selected for the research. The questionnaire used had three parts: company description, the organization of management accounting in the organizations and management accountants characteristics. The survey was based on 208 questionnaires.

Results. The study has shown that the most important tasks performed by the management accountants are budgeting and cost control (4.33 on a five-point scale) and performance measurement (4.26). According to the respondents on the formation of these tasks, the greatest impact have: a) external factors such as orientation to the customers' needs and increasing competition as well as b) internal factors: recommendations from the company headquarters and implementation of IT system. Respondents also pointed to a number of important features which must distinguish management accountants in terms of a) knowledge (the most important of them are: understanding the business processes and the use of IT tools – respectively, 86.06% and 82.21% of the respondents pointed them as important or very important), b) skills (analytical thinking – 96.63%, interpretation of financial and non-financial data – 93.27%), and c) the personality characteristics (the ability to work under pressure – 86.54%, adapt to change – 87.02%).

The theoretical contribution. From the theoretical point of view, the research allows for a comparison of changing role of management accountants in Polish companies with the results of numerous studies in this area (e.g. Kaplan 1995c; Cooper 1996a; Bhimani i Keshtvarz 1999; Burns i Scapens 2000; Drury, Tyles, 2000; Pierce, O’Dea, 2000; Scapens et al., 2003; Brewer 2008) and also research carried out in Poland (e.g. Sobańska, Wnuk, 2000b; Szychta 2005; Zarzycka 2012).

Practical implications (if applicable). From a practical point of view, the research could raise managers’ awareness about the role of management accountants in the organization and the importance of their tasks. The results of conducted study may help practitioners to identify requirements placed before them, assess their significance and in the longer term to indicate areas which require improvement.

Keywords: management accountants, controllers, management accounting, Poland, survey.

Paper type: Research paper.


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