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Utilizing management accounting information for decision-making: Limitations stemming from the process structure and the actors involved

Natalia Saukkonen (Cost Management Center, Tampereen Teknillinen yliopisto, Tampere, Finland)
Teemu Laine (Cost Management Center, Tampere University of Technology, Tampere, Finland)
Petri Suomala (Cost Management Center, Tampere University of Technology, Tampere, Finland)

Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management

ISSN: 1176-6093

Article publication date: 29 May 2018

Issue publication date: 15 June 2018

2497

Abstract

Purpose

To be utilized effectively in decision-making processes, management accounting (MA) information should fit the business context and at the same time reflect the roles, responsibilities and values of the actors taking part in the decision-making. This study aims to investigate the limitations for MA information utilization in decision-making. In particular, this study explores limitations stemming from the decision-making process structure and the involvement of several managerial actors.

Design/methodology/approach

An exploratory case study of an energy company and its customer company illustrates the current challenges in providing and integrating MA information into decision-making. The analysis is focused on the analytical and actor-based features of the decision-making and thus the limitations for MA information utilization. As a part of the broader research process, the researchers facilitated a meeting in the customer company, where the actors relevant to investment decisions discussed the current limitations in utilizing MA information.

Findings

Analytical and actor-based features may take different forms in the decision-making. Some relevant MA information may not be included in an organization’s decision-making process structure that allows merely conventional, yet analytical, decision alternatives. At the same time, certain actors’ viewpoints (such as sustainability metrics) can be excluded from the process without considering the logic behind the exclusion. This case study identifies the following limitations, largely related to insufficient actor-based features in the decision-making: managers may lack expertise in the use of MA tools, managerial interaction may lack reflection on taken-for-granted assumptions, different managers may appreciate different scope, content and timing of MA information and the process structure can ignore the required managerial viewpoints.

Research limitations/implications

This study demonstrates that both the decision-making process structure and the needs of the several actors involved may lead to limitations for MA information utilization. Although many limitations stemmed from the insufficient actor-based orientation in the case study, introducing new MA analyses and extending the validity of analytical approaches may also help overcome some of the limitations. Further research should address possibilities to integrate different actors’ viewpoints with MA information already in the decision-making process structure, find ways to introduce MA information on unconventional decision alternatives and enable reflection among and about relevant actors with respect to decision-making. These means could lead to more effective utilization of MA information for decision-making and, consequently, economically viable decisions.

Originality/value

This study addresses the limitations in MA information utilization by combining the viewpoints of analytical decision-making processes and reflective actors, and thus unveils possibilities for enhancing MA practice.

Keywords

Citation

Saukkonen, N., Laine, T. and Suomala, P. (2018), "Utilizing management accounting information for decision-making: Limitations stemming from the process structure and the actors involved", Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, Vol. 15 No. 2, pp. 181-205. https://doi.org/10.1108/QRAM-01-2017-0007

Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited

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