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Accounting logics as a challenge for ERP system implementation: a field study of SAP

Rafael Heinzelmann (School of Business and Law, University of Agder, Kristiansand, Norway)

Journal of Accounting & Organizational Change

ISSN: 1832-5912

Article publication date: 5 June 2017




This paper aims to investigate the accounting logic inscribed in the SAP enterprise resource planning (ERP) system and how this accounting logic becomes effective in organizations. The authors draw on the notion of accounting logics by mobilizing the institutional logics literature (Thornton et al., 2012). Accordingly, accounting logics are conceptualized as crucial underlying design principles consisting of a system of beliefs, assumptions and ideas how accounting systems should be designed.


The authors adopt a qualitative case study approach conducted in a manufacturing company, hereafter called Wood Plc. The primary data source is qualitative research interviews. Secondary data, such as internal documents, were collected to increase validity and reliability through data triangulation (Ahrens and Chapman, 2006; Scapens, 2004).


The paper demonstrates how a particular accounting logic – the Germanic accounting logic – gets diffused throughout the organization by the means of the SAP ERP system, and creates challenges for management accounting practices in local entities. The contribution of the paper is to show that ERP systems can foster the diffusion of a specific accounting logic, which is inherently linked to the SAP system, and which enables a specific version of accounting to work in an organization.

Research limitations/implications

This paper could be viewed as an extreme case of a German organization using the SAP ERP system with its Germanic accounting logic inscribed to make a German accounting logic work in the entire organization. Consequently, further research could unpack the relationship between accounting logics, ERP systems, accounting systems and their use by studying not only different empirical settings with respect to the organizational context but also the ERP software used by organizations.

Practical implications

This paper aims to raise the awareness of practitioners of the conceptual underpinnings inscribed in the SAP accounting modules while at the same time pinpointing the potential challenges of implementation generated by the accounting logics.


The paper complements existing studies on accounting and ERP systems by bringing the accounting logic inscribed in the SAP ERP system to the fore. More precisely, this paper shows that in the wake of SAP ERP implementation, the organization studied spread its assumptions and beliefs on accounting, which are manifested in the Germanic accounting logic inscribed in the SAP ERP system, in the organization. This invoked particular challenges in non-Germanic subsidiaries in making accounting work.



First of all, the author thanks Zahirul Hoque (the editor) and the two anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments. Second, the author would like to thank the organization Wood Plc., including the various managers, accountants, etc., who made this piece of work possible. Third, the author would like to thank the participants of the following workshops: the LSE AC 500 2012, the research seminars at the University of Innsbruck, the IPA Cardiff 2012, the EAA Conference 2013, the IPA Stockholm 2015 and the Beyond Budgeting Workshop 2015. Special thanks go to Albrecht Becker and Martin Messner, who provided very useful feedback on earlier drafts of the paper. The author also acknowledges funding from the Austrian National Bank (Project No. 12,446) and the FOCUS/Beyond Budgeting Program at the NHH Norwegian School of Economics.


Heinzelmann, R. (2017), "Accounting logics as a challenge for ERP system implementation: a field study of SAP", Journal of Accounting & Organizational Change, Vol. 13 No. 2, pp. 162-187.



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Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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