Accountants are a vital but sometimes misunderstood role in any organization. Far from being a stereotypical killjoy over numbers and budgets, accountants are surprisingly crucial to other departments. So much so that, believe it or not, an accountant can be a project manager’s best ally.
Project managers may be part of the marketing, creative services, information technology, or other departments. Their job is to organize, guide, and—as the title implies—manage a project from start to finish, ensuring that timelines, milestones, and budgets are met. Which is where accounting comes in.
Accountants can help project managers with so much more than just budget, however. With the added power of insight from ERP accounting software, project managers and accountants can become unlikely but powerful allies to build organizational efficiency.
Accountants Know How It's Done
Accountants have a special knack for understanding the workflow within an organization. This is likely due to having a finger on the pulse of where the money flows in and out. The accounting team is often the organizational expert on who does what, when, and how.
That information is essential for project managers struggling to align processes and people with project goals and milestones. Accountants understand the risks, controls, and other details that can help projects move smoothly through the organization. They know how work gets done internally and can guide project managers around any potential pitfalls and obstacles.
Project Management Methodology
However, accountants who wish to add value to the project management team need to learn the project management language. There’s a specific methodology unique to project management that has proven successful.
Projects are mapped with a specific workflow in mind. There is a beginning, middle or milestones to reach, and a stated goal which marks the end. The overall project map can be called a charter or project plan. Already used to managing risk, accountants can add value to the creation of a project plan or charter by assessing and identifying potential risks for the project manager.
The biggest help that you, as an accountant, can give the project manager is being objective while reviewing the project map or charter. The objective viewpoint of a managerial accountant can help correct any faulty assumptions and keep projects on track.
Accounting Participates from the Start
Any accountants that should be connected to a project should participate in project plans from the start. Don’t wait until the project is near completion and the project manager needs help finding additional funds to finish it. You can add the greatest value to a project near kickoff, as well as in the middle when the project may need changes or additions. Instead of coming in at the last minute to help with final budgeting, work alongside the team from the start to guide and advise on process and budgets.
Tips to Manage Project Risks
Accountants are risk managers. Add your greatest strength to the project management process by:
- Helping the project manager at the beginning of a project.
- Staying involved with the project. Attend meetings of the project team and review any documents, emails, or other materials promptly.
- Asking questions like an auditor. Key stakeholders in project meetings can help identify the most important project milestones to focus on.
- Being aware of workload dips and spikes and accommodate the crunch periods with additional help.
- Identifying project scope creep, or when the work moves outside of the intended project. Gently guide it back into scope with the help of the project manager.
By asking the right questions and using your talents and strengths as a managerial accountant, you can become a valuable ally and asset to the project management team in your organization.
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