گسترش پژوهش AIS به مسائل مربوط به حسابداری مدیریت و کنترل: یک یادداشت پژوهشی
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||تعداد صفحات مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی|
|10301||2011||17 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید|
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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : International Journal of Accounting Information Systems, Volume 12, Issue 1, March 2011, Pages 3–19
The purpose of this commentary is to initiate discussion on the status of research on the interface between management control, especially management accounting, and information technology, and on how we could proceed to understand this relationship and changes in it. The commentary also points to the need for expanding the sphere of theories and methodologies applied in the accounting information systems field, if we want to explain and understand the complex and mutually constitutive nature of the relationship, especially how new technologies are actually designed and adapted to work in practice. The mainstream tradition tends to largely ignore the design and implementation processes and especially the struggles therein.
Many authors have pointed out how diverse accounting information systems (AIS) research has been and obviously continues to be (see Vaassen and Hunton, 2009, for a concise review). One striking observation in this regard is that AIS research has largely ignored the production of information for management control (MC) and partly decision making. This appears obscure as production of managerially relevant information is considered to be one of the core functions of corporate information systems (IS). Further, Sutton (2006) points out that the relationship between information technology (IT) and management accounting (MA) appears to be the most complex, penetrating and unpredictable in the field of accounting information systems.1 Drawing on these insights, it can be argued that studying the interfaces between modern IT and management control is important in its own right for several reasons. If knowledge is power (Markus and Pfeffer, 1983) and modern IT, especially in terms of integrated IS, creates new knowledge, the importance appears obvious. In addition, there is probably no doubt any longer that IT, while still being fragile, produces transfers in management control. Finally, modern IT seems to propose integration all the time, even if it silences the fact that this may never realize totally. However, we have limited understanding of the forms, functions and outcomes of integration. Therefore, it is increasingly important to examine these issues, as they form the core in the whole field of modern management control. In this spirit, this commentary subscribes to the conclusion of Dechow and Mouritsen (2005, p.691) that “…control cannot be studied apart from technology and context because one will never get to understand the underlying ‘infrastructure’ — the meeting point of many technologies and many types of control” (see also Lowe, 2004). This research note draws on an extensive literature review of major accounting, AIS and IS journals.2 The analysis also facilitates several other sources of information. These include data collected for the author's earlier studies on IT and accounting and experiences gained in various expert projects. Dozens of discussions with specialists operating in the field, such as software consultants (e.g. from leading Enterprise Resource Planning Systems/ERPS, and other software vendors), and various technology users, such as CFOs, CIOs, controllers, production managers and logistics managers, have further clarified the picture of the developments in the area. Written material (incl. more than one hundred software product descriptions) and contacts obtained in in-house training, supervision of other empirical studies, and executive seminars have benefited the formation of a comprehensive picture of the issues dealt with in the following.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
In the following, an attempt is made to draw some general conclusions — even some normative ones. First, it can be suggested that accounting researchers should incorporate IT much more thoroughly in studies of substantive accounting developments, as IT today plays practically always an important role therein (cf. Efendi et al., 2006 and Rom and Rohde, 2007). Too often, it seems, accounting researchers take IT for granted; it only has a supporting, addendum role. At the same time, they fail to acknowledge the complex relation between accounting, control and IT, which is not to be assumed, but to be unveiled in empirical research (Dechow et al., 2007a). Based on the review and empirical observations, this note is inclined to underline the argument by Dechow and Mouritsen (2005) that control cannot be studied apart from technology (and context). We need to understand IT developments much better because increasingly managers face the issue of how to manage technology, which conditions management control systems (Dechow et al., 2007b). The configuration choices made in IT implementation are powerful in what they enable and what they make impossible: system configuration defines certain aspects of management control, even though the organizational actors may not be aware of this (Dechow and Mouritsen, 2005). Therefore, it is suggested that accounting researchers should ask in field and survey research a wide number of questions related to the implementation and use of IT, as it may have considerable consequences regarding accounting and control practice. In sum, we appear to have very limited research knowledge on the content and control implications of the modern IT, with or without ERPS. On the other hand, we may conclude that AIS research should focus more on substantive accounting issues. This suggestion underlines concerns expressed by Sutton, 2005, Sutton, 2006 and Arnold, 2006. It seems that the AIS research community should develop a wider understanding of accounting research and practice before launching research in the accounting — IT interface. In addition, co-operation between the sub-disciplines should be considerably enhanced to better integrate technological and accounting knowledge. However, this note disagrees with the idea that making task commonalities the common core of future research would be the solution to problems with possible duplication of research efforts, as suggested by Mauldin and Ruchala (1999). Overall, the present note thus also gives reason to be concerned about the current state of at least some of the AIS research (cf. Rose and Kræmmergaard, 2006) that based on the analysis seems many times to be problematic with regard to research objectives. Naturally, these objectives reflect the underlying scientific values that many times may be directed towards overly technical approaches to system implementation. This may have led to relevance and validity problems, especially from the perspective of substantive accounting issues and contemporary everyday life of accounting personnel. In sum, it seems there is also room for new developments regarding AIS design models, especially from the managerial reporting perspective. Further, regarding advanced management reporting for decision making and control, software vendors seem to promise solutions for all possible problems in management work; the benefits of adopting modern IT are presented as unproblematic. They also promise more than just technical help. They argue to even change the culture of the customer and improve performance, simply by system implementation. This is naturally questionable in light of academic studies, but is also an issue of future research; what kind of benefits may at best flow from these projects and do they actually change the content (in addition to the form) of managerial reporting and the underlying analytics. It appears that while there is potential for studying business intelligence solutions in general and their implications for decision making and control, our current understanding of these developments in the accounting academia is very limited. In general, more attention should be devoted to management accounting and control, in specific terms, to how IT intertwines – and with what kind of consequences – with the implementation of new cost management or performance measurement systems, such as Balanced Scorecards, considered as core control systems when new strategies are implemented. An important point also is that such systems never operate in isolation (Malmi and Brown, 2008). Therefore, the intertwining of information technology with management control should also be analyzed from a wider perspective; how IT relates to the whole MCS package of an organization and how it may influence both formal and informal ways of controlling. It also seems that accounting (including AIS) researchers should in general pay more attention to the developments in the field (while insightful contributions no doubt also exist). It is the potential of ASP-technology to transform accounting processes, the need for controllers to implement package software, or the various modes in which people fix problems in integrated system architectures that constitute current practice. Of course, several valid methods can be employed in this journey (Arnold, 2006 and Dillard, 2008). As the recent contributions by Scapens and Jazayeri, 2003, Cuganesan and Lee, 2006, Dechow and Mouritsen, 2005, Quattrone and Hopper, 2001, Quattrone and Hopper, 2005, Quattrone and Hopper, 2006 and Hyvönen et al., 2008 have shown, cross-sectional research methods are often poor in capturing the change and flexibility of organizational control practices. Institutional and actor-network approaches accompanied by case-based methods can reach beyond more or less simple assumptions of cause and effect and thus sharply contrast with functionalist theories of management control. A further conclusion is that even if we in places can agree on the appropriateness of study objectives, certain problems arise with the theory base exclusively leaning on contingency theory, agency theory and transaction cost economics. While providing some valuable insights into the area, they seem to push research into questions and problems that are many times far from the everyday practice of accountants and other producers and users of especially non-standardized accounting information. Much of AIS research is empty with regard to power and politics aspects, mediating and moderating performance and other effects flowing from the use of accounting information systems. This follows from the theoretical premises, which necessitate, in terms of empirical examination, certain simplifications to quantitatively measure phenomena. Such aggregated measurements can hardly capture the multifaceted organizational life anywhere near to a comprehensive picture. On the other hand, cross-sectional studies may be useful in establishing a wider picture of current practices and trends of development. Such research may either test some of the propositions put forward in qualitative research, supplement them, or provide an opening for further (more in-depth) examination in new research areas. Reflecting on Luft and Shields (2003), it seems that, depending on the situation, both moderating and mediating roles should be considered for IT when used as an independent variable in models explaining causes and effects of management accounting (cf. Rom and Rohde, 2007). As such, modern IT has not been included in such models often, contrary to modern production technology, for instance. This seems obscure, considering the important role IT plays in the process of producing and delivering managerially useful information to decision-makers. The directionality of explanatory models is an issue of future research to consider more thoroughly as well. IT seems seldom to be affected by management accounting developments or organizational transformations: for example, implementation of ERPS has forced organizations to adapt to the configurational structure of the specific IT. Furthermore, management accounting systems are in these environments rather built on the conditions of the enterprise-wide system, i.e. according to the implementation methodologies introduced by implementation consultants, and assumptions on what is available, than autonomously by selecting best-of-the-breed solutions for the different functions of accounting and control systems. On the other hand, we may conclude that people are skilful in repairing the shortcomings of enterprise-wide systems by locally employing additional technologies (Dechow and Mouritsen, 2005). Therefore, it remains an open question to what extent and in what sense we might argue that accounting and control practice may also affect IT. Finally, it is also important to carefully map the levels where IT has implications for accounting and control, as there may be great variation regarding different organizational (e.g. Quattrone and Hopper, 2005) and even beyond-organization (Frances and Garnsey, 1996) levels. Similarly, the effects of adopting modern IT could be observed at the short, medium and long term. Whilst certain effects are observable immediately, others may take effect only after years of experienced use and system development (Granlund and Malmi, 2002). One important issue to consider in future research endeavors is also the technology itself that we study; what will actually change and how as technologies regenerate. It is a fact that IT changes constantly, even if not radically all the time. Current technologies regarding corporate computing and ERPS technology seem to be going through major changes in the future as major software vendors have started to implement the Service Oriented Architecture technology. While this may change many things with regard to technical integration and information system design, it does not water down the general lessons learned in earlier research that will not change with technological developments. For example, there will always be a need to model business processes, on which basis IT will be configured, even if according to its own, in-built implementation methodology (Dechow et al., 2007a and Dechow et al., 2007b). The technology itself and its configurations are important to study also because they mediate and change vocabularies. For example, a cost or profit center may have a different meaning in an ERPS and in everyday language. It has not been studied how these changes in the nature and quality of such crucial concepts of responsibility accounting have affected management control. In conclusion, the interface of management control and modern IT is still an underdeveloped area both empirically and theoretically. However, especially the studies that have extended the traditional approaches towards social and behavioral approaches have developed important new learning points. Some of them have embarked on nuanced appreciation of the place of IT and are thus moving our understanding of the relationships between advanced IT and management control ahead. Especially, they have shown that such relationships are complex and may have unexpected directions; there are often various interests involved and thus certain goal ambiguity, which again may bring along notable confusion in terms of political struggles over organizational power. However, the studies carried out so far have only opened the discussion and there is a great need for new participants in this debate. Indeed, researchers should increasingly follow the speedy development of IT and investigate the potential and realized changes it may cause for accounting and control practice. This is increasingly important, as the accounting and management profession must deal with a host of complex issues that did not even exist in the past (Hunton, 2002 and Granlund and Mouritsen, 2003). Developments in IT will most probably affect many aspects of business and accounting practice in the future and thereby offer new and exciting research opportunities.