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ERP systems and management accounting change: opportunities or impacts? A research note

Scapens, Robert W. and Jazayeri, Mostafa (2003) ERP systems and management accounting change: opportunities or impacts? A research note. European accounting review, 12 (1). pp. 201-233. ISSN 0963-8180

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Abstract

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, such as SAP, have become widely used in recent years, especially in large companies. Although a considerable amount has been written about them in the professional accounting and computing literature, somewhat surprisingly comparatively little attention has been given to them in accounting research journals. However, the field studies which are beginning to appear suggest that ERP systems are having only a relatively moderate impact on the character of management accounting and the work of management accountants. However, it is argued in this paper that as such studies adopt a relatively 'static' approach, they do not explore the processes of management accounting change or study how opportunities are opened up by the implementation of ERP systems. The paper reports a longitudinal case study of the implementation of SAP in the European division of a large US multinational, in which management accounting change is viewed as an evolutionary process. In this case, although there were no fundamental changes in the nature of the management accounting information used following the implementation of SAP, there were changes in the role of management accountants - in particular: (i) the elimination of routine jobs; (ii) line managers with accounting knowledge; (iii) more forward-looking information; and (iv) a wider role for the management accountants. However, it is not claimed that SAP was the driver of these changes; rather it is argued that the characteristics of SAP (specifically, its integration, standardization, routinization and centralization) opened up certain opportunities and facilitated changes which were already taking place within the company. The paper ends with a call for further longitudinal case studies of the implementation of ERP systems to study how these characteristics facilitate and reinforce processes of management accounting change in other companies.

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