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New research explores how cloud-based enterprise resource planning (CERP) systems affect the role performance of public sector management accountants

New research from the Department of Accounting, explores the relationship between new cloud-based technology and the role of management accountants.

New research from the Department of Accounting explores how the implementation of a Cloud-based Enterprise Resource Planning (CERP) system in a public sector organization affects its management accounting function.

Like traditional ERP systems, CERP includes multiple organizational functions such as accounting, procurement, and production; however, the software is no longer stored or developed in-house. Cloud-based computing is proclaimed to be a key digital trend for both private and public sector organizations informing their strategies and changing the way information technology is delivered, deployed, used, maintained, and resourced.

Based on a case study of a large Swedish local government municipality, new research led by Associate Professor Lukas Goretzki, Associate Professor Martin Carlsson-Wall and Professor Kalle Kraus at the Department of Accounting captures the complexity of a CERP system implementation, by unpacking the effects of how cloud-based systems are used in practice and how they are implicated in the performance of management accountants’ role. CERP systems can pose a double-edged sword for public sector management accountants—enabling and constraining their role. Consequently, this research looks at how the CERP system is developed; who “controls” the system, and ultimately decides on the features to include; the ideology embedded in the system; the kinds of expertise inscribed in the system; and how this, in turn, enables or constrains management accountants to mobilize their specific expertise in performing their roles.

The findings suggest an ambivalent role of cloud-based technology in the context of the work of public sector management accountants due to varied experiences amongst central management accountants versus the local management accountants. The CERP system enabled central management accountants to mobilize their specific expertise as it eliminated manual work, increased transparency, and made them feel more comfortable with the numbers. However, the less flexible features of a CERP system provided by external vendors, such as limited customization, posed a challenge for the local management accountants in serving the different needs of a diverse range of managers and business units.

Although both focal groups of analysis belonged to the same occupation, looking at the different attitudes that central and local management accountants developed toward the CERP system, the study found that they framed the role of technology differently. While local management accountants expected a tool that should enable drawing on local expertise to produce tailor-made information for their local units, central management accountants saw the CERP system as a tool that allowed them to consume prefabricated “high-quality” information to assure efficient and risk-free accounting processes throughout the entire organization.

The implications from these findings suggest that cloud technology constitutes a risk if accounting and control processes become unduly inflexible and cumbersome at the local level. Coping with an inflexible cloud-based system may therefore add to the list of challenges that public sector management accountants experience when trying to be(come) business partners.

Access the research article through http://doi.org/10.1111/faam.12300





Martin Carlsson-Wall (martin.carlsson-wall@hhs.se)

Department of Accounting, Stockholm School of Economics


Lukas Goretzki (lukas.goretzki@hhs.se)

Department of Accounting, Stockholm School of Economics


Kalle Kraus (kalle.kraus@hhs.se)

Department of Accounting, Stockholm School of Economics


Dept. of Accounting Accounting Digitalization Technology Research