A Reality Check for Management Accounting

35 Pages Posted: 4 Jan 2008

Date Written: January 3, 2008


This paper examines the impact of financial accounting and ERP system with barcodes on management accounting signs. Latour's (2005) agency-network theory is used with a 1914 to 2005 longitudinal study of the management accounting signs and their referents at a single company, the Hudson's Bay Company. The findings are that financial accounting had a significant impact on the use of management accounting signs by adding abstraction and uncertainty, enabling the entire process to be managed. ERP systems with barcodes allow management accounting to be more precise and more effective. Financial accounting is being replaced by ERP systems with barcodes as the basis of management accounting. The findings contribute a solution to the sign-referent issue by identifying the realities of the referents, social or physical, for the management accounting signs, and revealing that the referents have three dimensions - aggregation, temporality, and uncertainty - that affect the relationship between referents and signs. The findings also allow for the conceptualized of signs and management accounting programs and for proposing hypotheses as to their effectiveness.

Keywords: management accounting, signs, referents, accounting history, barcodes, Hudson's Bay Company

JEL Classification: M41, M46

Suggested Citation

Spraakman, Gary, A Reality Check for Management Accounting (January 3, 2008). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1080433 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1080433

Gary Spraakman (Contact Author)

York University ( email )

Room 282 Atkinson Building
York University
Toronto, Ontario M3J 1P3
416 736 2100,22155 (Phone)
416 736 5963 (Fax)

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