حسابداری افتراق یافته : یک مطالعه موردی از تغییر رژیم حسابداری یک شرکت در مالزی
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||تعداد صفحات مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی|
|282||2012||17 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید|
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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Critical Perspectives on Accounting, Volume 23, Issue 6, September 2012, Pages 403–419
Using a case study of accounting regime change in a Malaysian company, this paper analyses how an accounting regime was changed to overcome an instance of decoupling that management of the case company perceived to be problematic and, despite certain technological and managerial improvements, why the accounting regime yet remained decoupled from the control of core operations. Through an eclectic use of ANT, neo-institutionalism and political economy, it demonstrates that accounting remains decoupled from operational processes because of the particular manner in which accounting is constructed and enabled; the ostensive characteristics of accounting objects around which performativity of accounting is defined; and the organisational context, which involves certain ‘political imperfections’ that cannot be narrated within organisational apparatus of modernity. Accounting, being an apparatus of modernity, finds it difficult to codify such ‘imperfections’ and to offer an operational doctrine to govern the real business processes that are embedded within these ‘imperfections’. Hence, it remains decoupled from core operational activities but performs an important role of insulating ‘political imperfections’ with which business operates.
How important accounting is in controlling day-to-day business operations has long been debated. The taken for granted orthodoxy has been that accounting plays a vital role in operational controls. Accounting is presumed to be an objective source of information that corporate managers use in pursuit of economic ends (cf. Bryer, 2006 and Macintosh, 1994). Bryer (2006) argues that “accounting is the most important control system because it provides the investors and managers with objective measures of the generation and realisation of surplus value; … accounting is the totality of the control process because it provides an objective framework within which all other control systems and realities are subsidiary and subservient” (p. 552). While Bryer's argument rests on the potential of accounting to translate capitalist ideologies into a set of operational doctrines at the point of production, the managerial functionality and potential of accounting has been much emphasised in relation to the technological potential of computerised accounting packages for unprecedented levels of organisational integration (Davenport, 1995, Davenport, 1998, Davenport, 2000 and McAdam and Galloway, 2005). Several critical researchers, on the other hand, have different ideas. For Emmanuel et al. (1990, p. 34), for example, accounting is just one technique available to assist organisational control and would be neither the totality of all control systems nor the most important one. Empirical findings on accounting in Less Developed Countries (LDCs) do not support the attribution of a managerial significance to accounting. Instead, it has been understood that accounting does not constitute a dominant form of control and has become marginal, ritualistic, ceremonial and decoupled from operations. For example, Uddin and Hopper's (2001, p. 643) case study demonstrates how “accounting … became marginal, ritualistic, and de-coupled from operations”. Alawattage and Wickramasinghe (2008) argue that the role accounting has assumed within political hegemonies of the LDC is not constitutive of the political hegemony of controlling labour. Hoque and Hopper (1994) convey that accounting is not the dominant form of control in LDCs. Jack and Kholeif (2008) and Kholeif et al. (2007) also observed a similar pattern in ERP1 implementation in Egypt. They demonstrate how ERP implementations failed to achieve their intended integration and control functions (Jack and Kholeif, 2008, p. 43). All these studies, one way or the other, demonstrate that accounting has been decoupled from the operational core of the business. The notion of decoupled accounting is not necessarily an LDC phenomenon. Berry et al.’s (1985) classic case of the British National Coal Board (NCB) provides a clearer point of reference for this paper. Berry et al. (1985) observe how NCB manages its business through a vertically and horizontally decoupled management control system where each part of the organisation maintains its own identity and independence. Intra-organisational relationships between its parts were observed to be relatively infrequent, weak in terms of mutual effects and slow in mutual response (Berry et al., 1985, p. 14). Nonetheless, in contrary to the negativity attributed to decoupling in the above mentioned LDC research, they argue, such a decoupling in control systems would not necessarily be undesirable but it has enabled the NCB to manage varying types and degrees of complexity and uncertainty. Covaleski and Dirsmith's (1983) also make a very similar observation of how budgeting operate as a means of loose/decoupling between external imagery and internal operations and, for them, such a decoupling is forced through budgeting. The notion of decoupling is, perhaps, best spelled out by Meyer and Rowan's classic (1977) – Formal Structure as Myth and Ceremony, where they argue, “to maintain ceremonial conformity, organisations that reflect institutional rules tend to buffer their formal structures from the uncertainties of technical activities by becoming loosely coupled, building gaps between their formal structures and actual work activities” (p. 341). Such a decoupling is necessary, inter alia, for (1) the insulation of the presumed functionalities of the imagery structure from the anomalies of the organisations operational/technical core and (2) the conformance to the formal structure while still preserving the autonomy and the ability of the operational/technical structure to be responsive to a loosely coupled world ( Covaleski and Dirsmith, 1983, Meyer and Rowan, 1977 and Weick, 1976). Accounting research on LDCs ‘observes’ decoupling of accounting but fails to provide theoretical and empirical explanations of why accounting is decoupled from the operational core. This paper takes up that challenge. Using a case study of accounting regime change in a Malaysian company, this paper analyses how accounting regime was changed to overcome an instance of decoupling that management of the case company perceived to be problematic and, despite certain technological and managerial improvements, why the accounting regime yet remained decoupled from the control of core operations. Through an eclectic use of actor-network theory (ANT), neo-institutionalism and political economy, it demonstrates that accounting remains decoupled from operational processes because of (1) the particular manner in which the accounting is constructed and enabled; (2) the ostensive characteristics of accounting objects around which performativity of accounting is defined; and (3) the organisational context, which involves certain ‘political imperfections’ that cannot be narrated within organisational apparatus of modernity. Accounting, being an apparatus of modernity, finds it difficult to codify such ‘imperfections’ and to offer an operational doctrine to govern the real business processes that are embedded within these ‘political imperfections’. Hence, it remains decoupled from core operational activities insulating the ‘political imperfections’ with which business operates. As such, the thrust of the paper, and its primary contribution to the accounting litereture, is an illustrative case study that extends the theorisation of decoupling (cf. Berry et al., 1985, Covaleski and Dirsmith, 1983, Meyer and Rowan, 1977 and Weick, 1976). Moreover, we bring political ideosyncracies of LDCs into our analysis and, hence, contribute to theorising accounting in LDCs. As the case story unfolds around a particular project of SAP implementation, especially in a less resourcefull context, it will also contribute to the stream of accounting research that documents organisational attempts of achieving functionalist aspirations of integration, standardisation, visibility and control at a distance through technological innovations such as ERP/SAP. However, the case presented in this paper involves neither a full blown ERP implementation nor a companywide planning system with any sort of strategic intentions. Instead, the case company launches into a partial adoption of SAP in response to a particular managerial crisis with a “panoptic dream of visibility and action at a distance” (see Dechow and Mouritsen, 2005, p. 729) that company managers attributed to SAP. Hence, in a technical sense, this case would not provide a perfect case of ERP/SAP implementation but offers a rich empirical story of accounting system change. In other words, eventhough the paper's empirical story unfold around a SAP implementation project, its primary focus is not on ERP/SAP implementation but on explaining why and how accounting remains decoupled from operational core. It nevertheless demonstrates the trust that managers place on computerised accounting packages as a mean to enhance visibility and action at a distance, and how such accounting objects (re)define accounting regimes but fail to realise their presummed managerial functionalities of visibility, integration, standardisation and control. The paper is organised as follows. The next section will do a brief reveiw of the current accounting literature on ERP/SAP with an aim to contextualise the paper within the alleged power of ERP/SAP packages to integrate otherwise decoupled organisational systems. This will be followed by research methods, the empirical story of accounting system change and, finally, a theoretical and empirical synthesis of why accounting remains decoupled, with special reference to the ‘political imperfections’ with which the businesses in LDCs often operate.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
For smooth functioning, this shadow system demands a certain degree of operational independence, distance and secrecy from the organisational formalities. So, decoupling it from the politically capitalised and patronised operational core, accounting is attributed an important role of managing the communicative interface between the company and the state camouflaging the ‘imperfections’ with which business operates. So, accounting classification of expenses often become the hiding grounds for various political payments. Accounting is important and performs the function of legitimating the existence of the company as a ‘modern’ institution. As such, accounting becomes the medium through which a modernity is imputed to the corporate entity to legitimise its existence as a limited liability company; a corporate personality that is vital to the interactions with the formal protocols of the political state. SAP never redefined this external communicative role of accounting, but just reinforced and enhanced it. Accounting categories simply provided an ‘official’ space within which ‘political imperfections’ of the business could be camouflaged. In other words, due to the ostensive characteristics of accounting (with or without SAP) that frame performativity of the accounting actor network, this actor-network never had a chance to infiltrate the non-accounting actor-worlds as an operational doctrine. Instead, it has always been confined to a fairly important role: ‘shadowing’ the political and patronage processes behind business's ‘official’ interface. As such, FD's functional expectation of panoptic visibility of branch activities through SAP runs contradiction to an operational necessity of decoupling and camouflaging from ‘official’ communication that accounting would do. Decoupling has always been an operational necessity imposed by the ‘political imperfections’ of the way the Malaysian businesses (like many other LDCs) are supposed to operate and panoptic dreams associated with SAP and other modern accounting packages can hardly be realised within such non-modern conditions