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Title: An insider research into the changing role of the management accountant during organisational change
Author: Gibbs, B. T.
Awarding Body: Liverpool John Moores University
Current Institution: Liverpool John Moores University
Date of Award: 2017
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This research explores the perceptions of management accountants and their work community within a UK university, during a departmental restructure, when new roles and responsibilities emerged. Current literature on the role of management accountants suggests a lack of understanding as to how their role has developed over the years, with research being fragmented and rarely undertaken from the perspective of the service users, or the role holders. Research has predominantly concentrated on organisational aspects of change in management accounting, there being a dearth of research on the effect that role change has on the management accountant’s perception of their role, identity and associated power within the organisation. In addition, there is lack of field-based research and of practitioner research that is undertaken by qualified management accountants working in situ. A qualitative approach was adopted, wherein the author acted as an insider researcher. As an employee and qualified management accountant, the researcher was part of the community being investigated, which enabled observing-participant techniques to be used. Formal data generation spanned a two-year period, wherein semi-structured interviews were undertaken with nineteen key actors, including the accountants and those they served. Throughout, a research diary was maintained to record observations from meetings, face-to-face encounters, and the verbal and written communications associated with the accountant’s role. Cultural Historical Activity Theory was adopted as a lens with which to explore the perceived changes in perceptions that occurred between the management accountants and their wider organisational community. A thematic analysis of the data revealed three key themes: role, identity and power relations. On further analysis, inconsistent actor reports were apparent which referred to the decentralisation process and the change element of the managing accountants’ role. The resultant tensions and contradictions were analysed in detail as activity developed and altered over time. The effectiveness of the finance business partner model was seen to be flawed. In addition, the perceptions management accountants held of their role, identity and power within the university were impacted on negatively. Overall, analysis provided a rich picture that detailed the experiences of the difficulties and ambiguities brought about by change in the management accountants’ role. In investigating professional accountant practice in situ this study makes a strong contribution to the limited research that addresses the changing perceptions and roles of management accountants in the public sector. The insights further contribute to the literature of management accounting activity, in making a theoretical contribution to knowledge in the field of change, with specific reference to power relations, resistance to change, identity and role perception. With respect to the future, as the finance business partner role has become established in recent years, there is a need for a wider understanding of the transition in the management accountants’ role, as a finance business partner and further research is recommended both in the public and private sector.
Supervisor: Lawless, A. ; Kok, S. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: HD28 Management. Industrial Management ; HF5601 Accounting