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Networks in knowledge-intensive industry: the case of a regional accountants' network

Ruvendra Nandan (Department of Accounting, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia)
Susan Ciccotosto (Department of Accounting and Finance, James Cook University, Cairns, Australia)

Journal of Accounting & Organizational Change

ISSN: 1832-5912

Article publication date: 25 February 2014

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Abstract

Purpose

The paper aims to explore the reasons behind the formation of a regional accountants' network located in North Queensland, Australia, and examine in depth how relationships are constituted and maintained between the network members. The study also looks at the benefits arising from the network, structural constraints and the reasons behind its demise.

Design/methodology/approach

This study adopts a more contemporary theoretical perspective which draws upon the notion of social capital that facilitates networks' capacity and capabilities for creating, sharing and accessing knowledge. This field study considers the specific case of the Cairns Regional Accountants' Forum (CRAF), a network of small and medium sized public accounting firms located far away from the metropolitan centres in Australia. Apart from the relevant archival data, senior partners/principals of 12 accounting firms were interviewed in a semi-structured manner. Three further interviews were held with the non-active members of the CRAF and telephone calls were made to the Regional Tax Practitioner Forum to discuss their involvement with the local accountants.

Findings

Using the framework of social capital within the community of practice, this study has explored the use of informal regional network built by accounting principals for the efficient transfer of and access to knowledge between network members. When the knowledge became freely available, the cost of network building exceeded the benefits of belonging and the network collapsed.

Practical implications

The paper has practical implications for accounting practitioners, particularly in regional/rural settings and for the accounting profession as a whole.

Originality/value

First, very little is known about informal networks in knowledge-intensive firms stretched out in regional/rural settings. Second, the network in this study is different from many networks identified in the literature that have focused on innovation and competitive advantage. Finally, this study adopts a more integrated framework that explores how social capital is constituted and reconstituted in the network interaction process.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The paper has benefited from helpful comments by the participants of the AFAANZ (2009) and Leveraging Potential: Social Inclusion at Work and Play (2011) Conferences held in Adelaide and Prato, respectively. The authors also wish to acknowledge constructive comments and insights from two anonymous reviewers.

Citation

Nandan, R. and Ciccotosto, S. (2014), "Networks in knowledge-intensive industry: the case of a regional accountants' network", Journal of Accounting & Organizational Change, Vol. 10 No. 1, pp. 2-21. https://doi.org/10.1108/JAOC-01-2012-0008

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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