استفاده از سیستم های اطلاعات حسابداری توسط مدیران عملیاتی در یک شرکت پیمان کاری
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||تعداد صفحات مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی|
|9942||2002||26 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید|
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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Management Accounting Research, Volume 13, Issue 3, September 2002, Pages 345–370
This paper describes the results of a case study that investigated the use of accounting information by operations managers in a road building company. There was considerable preplanning before the execution of project activities, but task uncertainty during execution created the need to take corrective action. Information on prices and expected costs was crucial for preplanning purposes. During project execution higher-level managers depended upon accounting information about actual project costs to be able to focus on low performing projects. Lower-level managers observed work on-site and they used information about the prices of various resources. Learning over time happened on the basis of experimenting with practical ideas and building a repertoire of solutions that worked (or did not work). The study suggests that under high task uncertainty in projects, accounting information may not take on the role of a ‘learning machine’ to help managers decide on action, because managers may supply action-centred skills to manage cost. Action-centred cost management strategies for negotiation and improvisation are not informed by accounting information that supports analytical cost management strategies. The study also suggests that direct observation of processes is more informative compared to the representation of these processes through accounting information, if the complexity of these processes is limited (few different input and output resources).
In this paper we discuss the use of management accounting information by the operations management function in a project organization. Understanding how people outside the accounting function use accounting information in their work is important for management accountants. Understanding how operations managers do their work and how accounting fits in, may, however, not be easy. The study is partly motivated by notions of a ‘gap between the traditional finance and operations perspectives’ (Anonymous, 1996) which requires some ‘rethinking about the expected usefulness of accounting information on the operational level’ (Jönssonand Grönlund, 1988). The use of accounting information has been studied in different ways. A major strand of literature has applied the contingency framework to the study of management accounting systems design and performance. These studies have found relationships between contextual variables (such as environmental uncertainty, span of control, task interdependence, and decentralization), the use of management accounting systems, and performance. See, for example, Gordon and Narayanan(1984), Chenhall and Morris (1986), Gul and Chia (1994), Mia and Chenhall (1994) and Chong (1996). These studies use questionnaire data from multiple firms and define the use of management accounting systems by certain information characteristics:breadth of scope, timeliness, levels of aggregation, and integrative nature. Swenson (1995), Foster and Gupta (1994) and Joseph et al. (1996) are examples of questionnaire studies that do not use the contingency framework and that provide insights into the use of accounting information for decision-making by operations management. There is another body of literature on the use of accounting information that is based on case studies. These studies generally are of an exploratory nature. See, for example, McKinnon and Bruns (1992), Scapens et al. (1996), Ahrens (1997), Jönsson and Grönlund (1988), Fry et al. (1995), Mouritsen and Bekke (1999) and Jazayeri and Hopper (1999). The motivation for the present study is that there is not much knowledge of how operations managers, particularly at lower levels, use accounting information(Lukka, 1998). We do not understand very well the usefulness of accounting information on the operational level, and it is challenging to try to improve this (Jönsson and Grönlund, 1988). Operations managers have various concerns, such as quality, safety, efficiency, and completing activities on time. For daily, short-term activities, managers generally use non-financial operating data on units of output,units of input, scrap, quality, order quantities, inventory availability, etc. ‘In 12 varied manufacturing companies, we found no instance of a key daily production indicator being a cost or other financial number’ (McKinnon and Bruns, 1992, p. 42). However, accounting numbers become important as the horizon lengthens. The performance of managers is often measured in financial numbers and managers build a mental model of the financial implications of their actions that are guided by physical counts.Also, a longer horizon is sometimes needed, because of concern with costs rather than simply quantities (e.g. to control budgeted expenses, to identify problems and opportunities for improvement). The study of Jönsson and Grönlund (1988) is a good example here. They describe how operations managers in a production plant used cost data on tools over a longer period to detect problems and to monitor the results of experiments with new tools.Managers are often dissatisfied with the accounting information they receive(McKinnon and Bruns, 1992). The information is often too late, because accounting recognition and measurement criteria delay recognition of events until uncertainties have been resolved. Timely information is important because these managers have a desire to be continuously aware of the status of operations and the possible need for action or redirection of effort because of unexpected events or changes.Other sources provide information sooner. Secondly, reliability is often a problem.They need recently updated information, consistent definitions, and accurate registration. Thirdly, most problems with accounting data relevance centred around the suboptimal categorization of data or the failure of the system to present desire relationships in reports. Aggregation and allocation of costs tend to obscure details that are important to managers. Many of these technical points could probably be solved by better, faster, and more flexible information systems. But faster information per se is not a solution. There is a need to better understand how accounting information has its own function as part of a much larger set of information that managers use.In this study we aim to provide a better understanding of the conditions that influence the usefulness of accounting information systems to operations managers.We study issues close to the shop-floor level of organizations, but not the link between accounting and (operations) strategy.We aim to study the role of accounting information from the perspective of operations managers: their work, how they obtain and use information, part of which is formal, written, or computer information (of which accounting information is again only a part). We want to understand if and how accounting information is integrated in the work of operations managers: does it help to understand the current situation, to prioritise issues, to direct their attention, to identify and analyse problems, to find and evaluate solutions? Or is accounting information placed outside the work of managers, because it is of no concern at all, or because it is something they only look at in the context of how their performance is being measured?We feel that this perspective is most directly related to the work of Jönsson (1996, 1998), Jönsson and Grönlund (1988) and McKinnon and Bruns (1992).We address four questions in the description and discussion of the case study findings: 1.What strategies do managers use to achieve planned financial project results? 2.In what way does accounting information contribute to these strategies? 3.Which factors explain the use of accounting information? 4.What are the implications for the design of accounting information systems? We decided to do a single, in-depth, longitudinal case study because we wanted to obtain a rich description with unexpected examples of the use or non-use of accounting information. The study of McKinnon and Bruns (1992), for example,provided many insights by means of a study investigating each company for about 1 day. However, more in-depth results can only be obtained by spending much more time in a company, and over a longer period. In the terminology of Keating (1995),we aim to do a theory discovery case, which aims ‘to map novel, dynamic, and/or complex phenomena ignored or inadequately explained by existing theories’ (p. 69 The use of case studies in accounting research is discussed by, for example, Ferreira and Merchant (1992), Otley and Berry (1994), Brownell (1995) and Ryan et al. (1992).Our findings confirm and expand the work of Jönsson and Grönlund (1988). Both higher and lower level managers in our study used detailed cost information when acquiring and planning the project to better understand expected project cost, to identify financial risk, and to plan the execution of the project such that cost targets can be met. We found that different management levels required different types of information to manage uncertainty during project execution. Output-oriented information on actual costs versus budgeted cost is crucial to higher-level manager for monitoring projects. Lower-level managers rely on observation of processes and use action-centred skills to manage the economic result of the project. Although these managers have to deal with much uncertainty during project execution, and accounting information may support managers in dealing with uncertainty by taking on the role of a ‘learning machine’ that helps to understand to financial consequences of actions for responding to uncertainty (Chapman, 1997), these managers do not look at accounting numbers to identify or solve problems. The study of Jönsson and Grönlund (1988) focuses on different ways of learning by higherlevel and lower-level managers, and they conclude that output-oriented accounting numbers do not support learning processes of lower-level managers (but such information is appropriate for higher-level managers). We suggest that the type of skills that managers use to manage costs during execution are relevant to explain the role of accounting information. Lower-level managers can directly observe project activities, and they use a few key metrics to monitor projects. When they identify problems, they apply action-centred skills for negotiation and improvisation, using their experience. These action-centred skills are not supported particularly well by accounting information. Accounting information enables more accurate planning (which is going to be changed and renegotiated later) and abstract analysis of data (while foremen are on-site and on the phone finding practical solutions), but this becomes less useful in the context of cost management strategies based on negotiation and improvisation for dealing with uncertainty in projects.The paper is structured as follows.We discuss literature in Section 2 and introduce the research site in Section 3. Section 4 describes cost management of projects in the company studied. The discussion of the case study is in Section 5.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
This paper discusses cost management in projects that are characterized by uncertainty that materializes during execution. In Section 4 we described what strategies managers used to achieve planned financial project results. We will summarize in what way accounting information contributes to these strategies, which was the second central question formulated earlier in Section 1.It was no surprise that higher-level managers used accounting information for cost management as an output measure. They wanted up-to-date information on actual and allowable costs to see which projects needed their attention. They were responsible for many projects and could not observe these on the site. To understand the cause of problems and to take action, higher-level managers would look into the accounting data for a project in more detail, talk with the foreman, and take action to improve the financial result if needed. At first, however, they would ask the foreman to check that data are complete and up-to-date. When, after correcting the data, there was still an unfavourable financial situation they discussed the problems with the foreman and helped in finding practical solutions at the level at which the responsible foreman is not authorized. For example, the MD replaced people on the project and brought in more experience, or he negotiated at a higher management level with the principal. Higher-level managers could help in finding practical solutions as they have considerable experience due to the company’s tradition of promoting from within, and they were often capable of judging and consulting in relation to the everyday problems of foremen.Lower-level managers were also interested in the economic results of their projects.They would carefully review project budgets before execution, negotiate for higher budgets with higher-level managers, plan the execution to achieve the agreed result by selecting appropriate working methods. Prices of resources and the project costbudget were the most important financial information they used. They would determine their expected cost on the basis of the prices of resources selected and they compared this with the allowable cost in the budget. They would also derive milestones that could be verified by observation for the projects, such as: required progress of the work and allowable resources utilized on site. These operational measures were used to monitor project execution. There was one very important type of accounting information that was not used by lower-level managers: actual project costs in comparison with budgeted cost of the work completed (Anthony and Govindarajan, 1998). Providing lower-level managers with this type of information was one of the objectives of the new building place automation (BPA) information system that the company had implemented. The BPA system started about 3 years ago and was first implemented as a pilot, but meanwhile had been expanded to about 200 users (all the business unit’s site foremen and head project foremen). The MD talked about how the new version of the BPA system was supposed to work once it was fully developed:The most valuable thing is that monitoring a project costs much less time and can be done with less delay, because you follow it more tightly. You give the foreman a modern tool, with which they can do their administrative tasks in a minimum of time. You give the foreman the advantage that things can all be done quickly, if they know how the system works. A second advantage is that we draw together all kinds of information that makes it possible for us to follow a project every minute—much faster than before. In the old situation you were 1 month behind. Now it’s possible to monitor every day, if you want The problem is that it is not yet integrated. That’s the disadvantage. Everything has to be repeated manually.They earn a lot of administrative time because they only have to click with the mouse,word-processing is at a minimum. At any moment they can push on the button and theyhave the most recent financial state of all their projects.The BPA system was designed very much in line with results reported by McKinnon and Bruns (1992) who found that ‘useful reports relate directly to actionable managerial tasks of managers receiving them. They contain and highlight information that is necessary for specific operating decisions or for monitoring key success factors. They eliminate uncertainties about status and key results for which the manager is responsible’ (p. 132). The foremen could, to a large extent, determine the structure of the information (level of detail of reporting different types of costs and level of detail of reporting costs of activities). They entered the data into the system, so they would understand the reliability and completeness of the information. They could experiment with different ways of presenting the reports.They could input the actual project progress and the system could then determine the allowable costs.1 Furthermore, the design of the BPA system was consistent with the findings of Jönsson and Grönlund (1988). The system is a good illustration of the way in which information systems for different management levels can be integrated,even though these management levels may need different types of information for cost management purposes (Jönsson and Grönlund, 1988). The new information systems potentially offered lower-level managers information that was tailored to their local needs, while at the same time it was integrated with a managementreporting module of an ERP system for higher-level managers. The new information system was designed to facilitate learning at lower levels, while providing outputoriented information to higher levels. Yet, to both our and the company’s surprise,not many foreman used the new tool to analyse costs.This brings us to the third central question: Which factors explain the use of accounting information?We suggest later that two factors explain much of what took place in this case study and these factors are likely to have more general implications:the informational value of accounting information and the dominance of action centred skills.