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Activity-based techniques and the death of the beancounter

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  • Andrew L. Friedman
  • Stephen R. Lyne

Abstract

In a study of eleven medium and large sized companies we found clear evidence that management accountants were seen by operational managers as 'beancounters'. This term has become common in the literature in recent years and we define a beancounter as, 'an accountant who produces financial information which is regarded as of little use in efficiently running the business and, as a result, its production has become an end in itself.' Furthermore many management accountants recognized this image. All of the companies had attempted to implement activity-based techniques and this process had led to a substantial improvement in the beancounter image. We propose three scenarios for the future of activity-based techniques and the management accountants' image as a beancounter. These are based on our understanding of the history of management accounting and trends that have been visible in recent years. Further we suggest the most likely contingent variables which may lead to one or other of the scenarios becoming reality. Some of the scenarios are more likely to occur in the short or medium term, whereas others are long term possibilities. We conclude with our own view on the likely future for activity-based techniques, suggesting that there is a promising future for these techniques in the medium term.

Suggested Citation

  • Andrew L. Friedman & Stephen R. Lyne, 1997. "Activity-based techniques and the death of the beancounter," European Accounting Review, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 6(1), pages 19-44, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:euract:v:6:y:1997:i:1:p:19-44
    DOI: 10.1080/096381897336854
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1080/096381897336854
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Armstrong, Peter, 1987. "The rise of accounting controls in British capitalist enterprises," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 12(5), pages 415-436, August.
    2. Poul Israelsen, 1994. "ABC and Variability Accounting Differences and potential benefits of integration," European Accounting Review, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 3(1), pages 15-47.
    3. Michel Lebas, 1994. "Managerial accounting in France Overview of past tradition and current practice," European Accounting Review, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 3(3), pages 471-488.
    4. Bougen, Philip D., 1994. "Joking apart: The serious side to the accountant stereotype," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 19(3), pages 319-335, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Sèna John-Ahyee, 2012. "La stabilité des activités des contrôleurs de gestion est-elle paradoxale?," Post-Print hal-00690976, HAL.
    2. Alan Graham & Susan Davey-Evans & Ian Toon, 2012. "The developing role of the financial controller: evidence from the UK," Journal of Applied Accounting Research, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 13(1), pages 71-88, May.
    3. Marc Bollecker, 2009. "Contrôleur de gestion : une fonction en danger ?," Post-Print halshs-00456209, HAL.
    4. Sven Modell, 2002. "Institutional perspectives on cost allocations: integration and extension," European Accounting Review, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 11(4), pages 653-679.
    5. Marc Bollecker, 2007. "Les Publications Europeennes Et Americaines Sur Les Contrôleurs De Gestion : Un Essai De Synthese," Post-Print halshs-00522301, HAL.
    6. Samantha Warren & Lee Parker, 2009. "Bean counters or bright young things?: Towards the visual study of identity construction among professional accountants," Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 6(4), pages 205-223, October.
    7. Janne Järvinen, 2009. "Shifting NPM agendas and management accountants' occupational identities," Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 22(8), pages 1187-1210, October.
    8. Morales, Jérémy & Lambert, Caroline, 2013. "Dirty work and the construction of identity. An ethnographic study of management accounting practices," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 38(3), pages 228-244.
    9. Toomas Haldma & Kertu Laats, 2002. "Influencing Contingencies On Management Accounting Practices In Estonian Manufacturing Companies," University of Tartu - Faculty of Economics and Business Administration Working Paper Series 13, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, University of Tartu (Estonia).
    10. Marie-Andrée Caron & Hugues Boisvert & Alexander Mersereau, 2008. "La Pratique Du Comptable Professionnel En Organisation : Inertie Du Stéréotype Ou Expérimenter L'Incertain?," Post-Print halshs-00522425, HAL.

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