Information technology is significantly changing the operating practices of an increasing number of companies globally. These developments have important implications for the accounting profession and in particular accounting practices in the twenty-first century. This study examines the development of enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems as a means of illustrating how changes in information technology allows all systems in a company to be linked to manage operations holistically. The study investigates the change in accounting systems using a sample of Australian companies with emphasis on the adoption of ERP systems including the potential impact of ERP on capital budgeting processes. The results show that ERP systems are changing management accounting practices, although at this stage, the impact on capital budgeting techniques appears to be limited. The findings contribute to the emerging body of literature on the development of ERP systems and its impact on management accounting teaching and research. Key words: Management accounting, capital budgeting, enterprise resource planning systems, information technology.
  1. Introduction During the past decade an increasing number of companies have been impacted by information technology in terms of computerized transaction processing and electronic telecommunications such as that done with the Internet, intranet, and extranet. For competitive reasons, companies have had to change from manual and then mainframe systems to what has been called enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. An ERP system has a common database or data warehouse that links together all systems in all parts of a company including, for example, capital budgeting with financial, control, manufacturing, sales, fixed assets, inventory, human resources modules, etc. An ERP system, by linking all systems through a data warehouse, allows a company to manage its operations holistically. A second impact of ERP systems has been a general shift to manage at the activity level rather than at the more abstract level of financial transactions. This means that management accounting, with its focus on activities, can be most effective when it is used with ERP systems to incorporate the activity level for costing and performance measurement. To be effective an ERP system will contain an extensive chart of accounts or codes for activities such as accurate recording and tracking of activities, revenues and costs. The coding incorporates stable entities of a business, such as divisions, plants, stores, and warehouses. At a detailed level there are codes for functions such as finance, production, sales, marketing, and materials management. There are also the traditional financial account codes such as assets, liabilities, revenues, and expenses, and the central ERP feature of coding processes, activities, and sub-activities. There must be consistent coding among all parts of a company in order for them to relate to one another.
As the ERP system incorporates activities in terms of quantities of resources, including labour, a record of resource use is maintained. Therefore, performance can be measured in physical terms and compared to standards, which allows for the calculation of variances. This performance measurement at the activity level serves as a feedback system on efficiency and effectiveness. The confusion from abstract monetary measures is erased, and what is actually happening with the conversion of resources into goods and services can be seen. ERP systems have the potential to change management ccounting systems with more detailed, more integrated, and faster produced information. To date the research on the impact of ERP systems on management accounting can best be described as preliminary. It has involved case studies of one or two companies at a time and some field studies. The findings from these studies have been largely anecdotal. Also, some have been deductive in that arguments based on ERP attributes have been made on how management accounting should be affected. For instance, in a field study, Cook et al. (20
  00) described activity-based capital budgeting at a division of a US telecommunications company. The findings from Cook et al.’s field work suggests that ERP systems can increase the effectiveness of capital budgeting by anchoring financial numbers to activities rather than stopping at monetary measures with pre-ERP practices. The goal of this paper is to investigate the change in accounting systems using asample of Australian companies with emphasis on the adoption of ERP systems including the potential impact of ERP on capital budgeting processes. Prior research in the Australian environment has indicated that the economic/institutional setting is significantly different from the US and European environments as Australian companies are smaller, with fewer multinational subsidiaries and more homogenous management background in terms of culture and educational background (Matolcsy et al., 20
  05). Given these differences in the Australian environment Matolcsy et al claim that the benefits of ERP systems are likely to be more pronounced and measurable, at least in the short run in Australia. The significance of the study is its contribution to the emerging body of literature on the development of ERP systems and has the potential to provide useful contrast and/or confirmation of the limited research from mainly US based studies. Furthermore this study contributes to the body of knowledge of the impact of ERP on management accounting teaching and research using a broadly based sample of corporations in an Australian setting. In ascertaining the impact of information technology on management accounting, this paper will have the following additional sections. The second section contains a literature review of the impact of information technology on management accounting. With the literature review, the third section develops the research method and determines the sample used to ascertain the impact of ERP systems on management accounting practices of Australian companies. The fourth section will contain the findings, while the
fifth and sixth will be the discussion and conclusion, respectively. Recommendations for future research will be included in the conclusion.
  2. Literature Review
  2.1 The integration of ERP systems into management accounting Expectations for ERP systems to change management accounting were introduced by Kaplan and Cooper (1998, pp. 11-
  24), especially with the fourth of their four-stage model for cost and performance measurement systems. When a company had first stage systems, those systems were basically inadequate for all purposes, even for financial reporting. When they make improvements, the first stage companies tend to add financial systems to meet regulatory requirements. As a result, they evolve into second stage systems where financial reporting systems dominate; these companies are financial reporting driven. The companies with third stage systems have customized, managerially relevant cost management, financial reporting, and performance measurement systems, however, these systems are standalone. ERP systems only occur with the fourth stage systems where the ERP systems integrate cost management, financial reporting, and performance measurement (Kaplan and Cooper, 1998, p. 2
  99). An ERP system has a common data structure that permits data to be entered and accessed from anywhere in the world (Kaplan and Cooper, 1998, p. 2
  75). An activity-based costing system is an integral part of an ERP system, and thus managers have information about present and future activities at operational levels when making decisions (Kaplan and Cooper, 1998, pp. 275-277, 2
  85). With activity-based information, monetary distortions can be reduced. Feedback with activity information improves learning. Thus, in managing at the activity level, costing, budgeting, performance measurement, bonuses, resource spending, forecasting, budgeting, production, etc. can beimproved in terms of efficiency and effectiveness. An ERP system will allow the company to obtain cost and performance information more frequently, even daily, rather than waiting a month (Kaplan and Cooper, 1998, p. 2
  79). Kaplan and Cooper (1998, pp. 301-3
  06) state that the integration with ERP systems allow all managerial processes, including budgeting, what-if analysis, and transfer pricing to be also based on activities rather than only dollars. Activity-based budgeting gives companies the opportunity to authorize and control resources based on accurate demand information. Accuracy increases because activity-based budgeting is based on facts, and less upon power, influence, and negotiating ability. Furthermore, the activity-level focus of budgeting leads to more accuracy in forecasting the demands for all direct and, especially indirect activities. At the same time as Kaplan and Cooper’s (19
  98) important book, Davenport (1998, p. 1
  22) wrote “the business world’s embrace of enterprise systems may in fact be
the most important development in the corporate use of information technology in the 1990s.” Davenport (1998, p. 1
  27) expected companies to change with the implementation of ERP systems: In addition to having important strategic implications, enterprise systems also have a direct, and often paradoxical, impact on a company’s organization and culture. On the one hand, by providing universal, real-time access to operating and financial data, the systems allow companies to streamline their management structures, creating flatter, more flexible, and more democratic organizations. On the other hand, they also involve the centralization of control over information and the standardization of processes, which are qualities more consistent with hierarchical, command-and-control organizations with uniform cultures. The paradox with ERP systems ? streamlined, flatter, and more flexible and democratic (i.e., more control at the frontline) and centralization of control over information and the standardization of processes (i.e., more control at the centre) -- makes Davenport (1998, p. 1
  31) ask how will ERP systems affect companies? Another equally relevant question would be, how will ERP systems affect management accounting? Taken together, Kaplan and Cooper (19
  98) and Davenport (19
  98) suggest that ERP systems will change companies, but these researchers do not specify the nature of these changes. They certainly do not explicitly specify how ERP systems will impact on management accounting. Nevertheless, it is possible to infer that changes will occur to management accounting from the integration among cost management, financial reporting, performance measurement, and all other systems. Thus, it is not surprising that there has been some exploratory research prompted by Kaplan and Cooper (19
  98) and Davenport (19
  98) on the impact of ERP systems on management accounting. application of ERP systems ? capital budgeting. (和前面是一句吗?) As previously outlined, a field study conducted by Cook et al. (20
  00), described the operation of activity-based capital budgeting as a division of a US telecommunications company. In their study Cook et al. found that the activity information was linked to the financial accounting system, thus behaving like an ERP system for the purpose of capital budgeting. This approach went beyond the traditional capital budgeting by linking the traditional incremental monetary revenues and costs with underlying activities. The authors concluded that by separately identifying the level of revenues and costs associated with process activities, the uncertainty with such activities and related revenues and costs can be closely examined. They added that this activity-level capital budgeting gives managers far more information and understanding than possible from the traditional financial simulation of aggregated income-statement approach. Their arguments were convincing but could not be verified.
Hope and Fraser (2001; 20
  03) disclosed that some companies have ceased traditional budgeting processes. Four reasons have been put forward by Hope and Fraser (20
  01) as to why existing budgeting processes are failing: - few companies are satisfied with their budgeting processes - far too much time is spent on budgeting and too little time is spent on strategy - Financial capital is now a small part of market value - Budgeting is expensive and adds little value either to the company or its users (Hope and Fraser, 2001, pp. 7-
  8). They claimed that hierarchical companies have devolved to networks, where the planning capacity and control inherent in budgeting can be accomplished by other means (Hope and Fraser, 2003, p. 1
  08). ERP systems, which they label enterprise-wide information systems, are important for eliminating budgeting, particularly when accompanied by the balanced scorecard, shareholder value models such as EVA, activity-based costing and management, rolling forecasts, and benchmarking (Hope and Fraser, 2001, pp. 5-
  6). Some of the companies identified by Hope and Fraser (20
  03) -- for example, the Scandinavian bank, Svenska Handelsbanken, -- abandoned budgeting before ERP systems. This suggests that, for those companies, ERP systems would not have been essential for effectiveness without budgeting. Perhaps, ERP systems will allow contemporary companies, with ERP system, to be effective without budgeting. The impact
 

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