This is the opening post in what we hope to be a sequence of comments from interested researchers. The comment rules are:
- 750 words maximum
- 5 references maximum
- Write you name and institution at the top of your comment.
- Final comment date February 24th, 2013.
The comments will be collated and submitted to the 2013 ENROAC conference as a paper. The theme of the conference is “ICT and management accounting change”. A maximum of 15 comments will be submitted, based on a first come first served basis.
Click the “leave a comment” link below to leave you comment. You comment can include your own views and/or relate to previous comments – once you stick to the general theme of technology and management accounting change and support your comments with some reference to the academic literature.
Martin Quinn, Dublin City University Business School.
In 2008, Ahrens et al published a polyphonic debate on the future of interpretive research. In a similar vein, I share some thoughts here which I hope will yield some comment. The thoughts are based on a combination of my experience and my own research on management accounting change and technology.
I like to study change in management accounting, and one of my favourite areas is the effect of technology on the work of management accountants, i.e., their roles and the tasks the actually do. I also am a big fan if interpretive research, as this allows me to really get to the bottom of understanding change. Studying routines in management accounting is my mainstay nowadays, often presenting many a theoretical challenge.
Combining my interest in change and technology is great. However, some questions and thoughts have come to mind in recent times, which I will briefly recount here. In a commentary to a special issue of Qualitative Research in Accounting and Management Scapens (2012) noted how, as researchers, we may need to consider other ways to disseminate our research. He is not suggesting our research be solely aimed at practitioners, nor can we abandon our normal research outlets such as academic journals our conferences. However, Scapens’ (2012) comments made me think about how we research and disseminate our research on how technology affects management accounting.
My thoughts reflect the rapid pace of technological change compared to the ‘speed’ of our traditional research dissemination methods. We all probably accept that we as researchers are behind practice to a degree – for example, we might find topics of interest to research based on material from the practitioner magazines. As a slightly younger academic, I found this very apparent during my doctoral studies when I noticed that many articles on ERP were published within 2-3 years of the Y2K issue – that is, a few years after the Y2K hype had hit the (practitioner) media and many firms replaced their systems with ERP software. The Y2K issue is more than a decade ago, and the pace of technological change since then has been (and will continue to be) astounding. If we reflect on the time when Y2K was an issue, the technology we now take from granted from companies like Apple and Google did not exist yet.
So what does this mean for researchers like myself that cross the management accounting and technology divide. Put simply, in my view technology moves so fast that we need another way to disseminate our research which is faster and might stimulate interesting debate and arguments before the technology changes and the research becomes dated. How do we do this? This I hope others will comment on. My initial thoughts are less theory and more facts in our research. Hambrick (2007) recounts how facts eventually build theory, and if we avoid reporting facts until we have theories, then we may be losing out on stimulating debates or miss fruitful avenues of research. Of course there is a place for theory bound academic journals, and for practitioner journals too, but is there middle ground where we can disseminate interesting facts about technology and management accounting change? Scapens (2012) seems to hint there is, and this series of blog comments might one such place. As we disclose and share facts, we might actually keep up with the pace of technological change and how it affects management accounting, while at the same time, engage in very fruitful research.
I’ll finish with a fact I recently noted while doing some survey research with accountants. A substantial number of respondents (40%) noted that managers use tablets and smartphones to obtain information for decision-making. Surely this fact raises many interesting research questions?
Ahrens, T., Becker, A., Burns, J., Chapman, C., Granlund, M., Habersam, M., Hansen, A., Khalifa, R., Malmi, T., Mennicken, A., Johns, A., Panozzo, F., Piber, M., Quattrone, P. & Scheytt, T. 2008, “The future of interpretive accounting research – a polyphonic debate”, Critical Perspectives on Accounting, vol. 19, no. 6, pp. 840-866.
Hamrick, D, 2007, “The field of management’s devotion to theory: too much of a good thing”, Academy of Management Journal, vol. 50, no. 6, pp. 1346-1352.
Scapens, R. 2012, “How important is practice-relevant management accounting research?”, Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, vol. 9, no. 3.