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The influence of management accountants on managerial decisions

Hans ten Rouwelaar (Center for Accounting, Auditing & Control, Nyenrode Business Universiteit, Breukelen, The Netherlands)
Jan Bots (Center for Accounting, Auditing & Control, Nyenrode Business Universiteit, Breukelen, The Netherlands)
Ivo De Loo (Department of Accounting, Aston Business School, Aston University, Birmingham, UK)

Journal of Applied Accounting Research

ISSN: 0967-5426

Article publication date: 12 November 2018

2138

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to investigate which factors stimulate or hinder the influence management accountants operating at the business unit (BU) level have on the decisions taken by their BU manager(s).

Design/methodology/approach

The authors collected data from 119 management accountants in 77 Dutch, multi-divisional organizations, using surveys.

Findings

The study shows that influence on managerial decisions can have two forms: influence on strategic decisions, and influence on operating decisions. Influence on strategic decisions is positively related to the degree of decentralization of an organization. It also depends on whether a management accountant is more extravert and emotionally stable. There is a negative relationship between influence on operational decisions and management accountants’ agreeableness. Not being sufficiently critical may well diminish their influence on operational affairs.

Research limitations/implications

The authors put the view that management accountants at the BU level can partially affect their own role. This may also be expected by their managers. There are more opportunities for management accountants to influence strategic decisions than operational decisions. This study, however, is limited to Dutch, multi-divisional organizations. The management accountants who completed the survey also belong to the personal networks of master degree students who assisted in the data collection process, so that the sample used is not random. Data collected in another country, or in smaller companies could yield different results.

Practical implications

Knowing more about the complex relationship between BU management accountants’ personality traits and their degree of influence on managerial decisions allows organizations to make better-informed choices about who to appoint in such a role.

Originality/value

This study distinguishes between management accountants’ influence on strategic decisions and influence on operational decisions. At the BU level, these are two distinct concepts. This reinforces findings from earlier studies conducted at the corporate level. In addition, it turns out that specific personality traits of management accountants, at the BU level, affect the influence they can exert on both strategic and operational decisions taken by their manager(s).

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Frank Verbeeten for his help with the design of the questionnaire in 2005. The authors would also like to thank the two anonymous referees, the editor, and also Jan Bouwens, Hilco van Elten, Anne-Marie Kruis, Roland Speklé, Frank Verbeeten and Sally Widener for their helpful comments and useful suggestions on previous versions of this paper.

Citation

ten Rouwelaar, H., Bots, J. and De Loo, I. (2018), "The influence of management accountants on managerial decisions", Journal of Applied Accounting Research, Vol. 19 No. 4, pp. 442-464. https://doi.org/10.1108/JAAR-10-2016-0101

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited

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