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CIMA overhauls syllabus to cope with breakneck change

20th Feb 2019
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CIMA regularly updates its learning resources -- but this time, the body’s chief exec told AccountingWEB, it’s different. They are, Andrew Harding explained,  a herald for an era of accelerated change.

Until now, CIMA -- the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants -- has updated its syllabus on a five yearly cycle. That’s now set to change, with changes being implemented incrementally and more regularly.

The five year cycle has become, according to Harding, inadequate at handling change. “The pace has become so quick,” said Harding. “Stuff that was contemporary five years ago is becoming historic today.”

There are a few overdue changes -- like getting rid of linear programming, which has long been in the syllabus but has become an anachronism. Developed during WW2, Harding recalled studying it in the 1980s. Indeed, the method is also referenced during Ned Beatty’s tub-thumping monologue in the classic 1976 satire Network.

Hardly, then, a relevant skill in 2019. But the changes aren’t just concerned with cleaving vestigial limbs from its syllabus and CPD programmes. It’s refreshing it for the late digital era. “The real changes coming in are around tech,” said Harding. “We’re centering topics like cyber-security, AI and advanced data analytics.”

Familiar topics like risk management will now include a module focussing solely on cyber risks, and there’s a whole new module on the finance team’s role in the digital world.

Harding was, however, eager to stress that the changes aren’t just concerned with training recruits -- but also CPD for existing finance professionals (which is managed by the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants on behalf AICPA and CIMA members). “This is an opportune moment for people who have qualified to take a look at where they are,” Harding said. “Something we’ve done as a result of this, is to give all of our members, wherever they are in the world, access to CPD programmes around what we call the ‘digital mindset’.”

The Digital Mindset CPD course is free through the CGMA Store with a voucher for all members and CIMA qualified students paying their annual subscription by 31 March. Upon successful completion, participants will receive a digital badge.

“In the past, CPD has been incremental. In practice, that’s typified by tax updates. In business, it’ll be legal and regulatory. But it’s now moving from incremental to transformational. Work we had to do in the past is being automated, but we have to learn how to manage the automation and its attached risks.”

Also being updated is CIMA’s CGMA Competency Framework. The body has added the new area of digital skills to the four core existing knowledge areas (technical, business, leadership and people skills). Some digital skills have been tacked onto existing knowledge areas, but the rest have been rolled into the newly minted fifth knowledge area.

“Particularly for senior financial controllers, the competency framework is a great tool for them to pick up and use immediately in the workplace and benchmark their finance skills and define where they should be.”

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