Professionalization in Action: Accountants' Attempt at Building a Network of Support for the Webtrust Seal of Assurance

45 Pages Posted: 9 May 2004

See all articles by Yves Gendron

Yves Gendron

Université Laval

Michael Barrett

University of Cambridge - Judge Business School

Abstract

This paper examines the attempts by the North American Accounting Institutes to develop a new market in e-commerce assurance based on their claims to professional expertise through the WebTrust project. Employing actor-network theory in an in-depth longitudinal field study we investigate how WebTrust was originally developed and promoted as a seal of business-to-consumer assurance, which largely failed to generate support in the marketplace. Proponents were subsequently able to generate more interest in the eyes of managers of online organizations by reshaping WebTrust as a flexible set of principles and criteria for systems advice and business-to-business assurance. Our analysis suggests that attempts to expand the accounting profession's domain of expertise reflect a trial and error process where the outcome achieved may be far from the vision that motivated the Institutes into undertaking the project in the first place. We further show that the initial network of support for such projects can be quite fragile and dynamic as various actors reposition themselves around the shifting meanings attributed to the project.

Keywords: E-commerce, professionalization, new assurance services, expertise claims

JEL Classification: J44, L86, M41, M49, L14

Suggested Citation

Gendron, Yves and Barrett, Michael Ian, Professionalization in Action: Accountants' Attempt at Building a Network of Support for the Webtrust Seal of Assurance. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=544242

Yves Gendron (Contact Author)

Université Laval ( email )

Faculte des sciences de l'administration
2325 rue de la Terrasse, Local 2636
Quebec City, Quebec G1V 0A6
Canada
418-656-2131 ext. 2431 (Phone)
418-656-7746 (Fax)

Michael Ian Barrett

University of Cambridge - Judge Business School ( email )

Trumpington Street
Cambridge, CB2 1AG
United Kingdom
+44 01223 339600 (Phone)
+44 01223 339701 (Fax)

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