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Management Accounting Research

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Text Preview Management Accounting Research 21 (2010) 83–94

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Management Accounting Research
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Knowledge creation for practice in public sector management accounting by consultants and academics: Preliminary findings and directions for future research G. Jan van Helden a,∗, Harrie Aardema b, Henk J. ter Bogt c, Tom L.C.M. Groot d a b c d

University of Groningen, the Netherlands, PO Box 800, 9700 AV Groningen, The Netherlands Open University, Heerlen and consultancy firm BMC, the Netherlands, Valkenburgerweg 177, 6419 AT Heerlen, The Netherlands University of Groningen, the Netherlands, PO Box 800, 9700 AV Groningen, The Netherlands VU University Amsterdam, the Netherlands, De Boelelaan 1105, 1081 HV Amsterdam, The Netherlands

a r t i c l e

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a b s t r a c t
This study is about knowledge creation for practice in public sector management accounting by consultants and academics. It shows that researchers emphasize the importance of practice, but worry about the prospects of a successful cross-fertilization between practice and research, because of the pressure they feel to publish in international research journals. Their contacts with consultants are limited. Consultants have limited access to academic research, because of pressures from their daily work. Knowledge created by consultants is initiated by problems coming from practice; it has to be ready-made for application in practice, and is often a combination of explicit and tacit knowledge. However, our interviews with researchers show a more diffuse picture; the knowledge created by some of them is disciplinary-driven and fundamental, whereas the research of others is more problemdriven and applied. Our study hints at two intermediary groups, i.e. consultant-researchers and consultants working in the expertise centres of their firms, both of which can potentially overcome hindrances in the communication between consultancy and research. © 2010 Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Keywords: Academics Consultants Public sector management accounting

1. Introduction The public sector has been criticized during the last two decades for being insufficiently effective and efficient. New management and accounting techniques have been developed as a response to this criticism. Because marketorientedness is, for instance, considered to be important for improving the functioning of public sector organizations (Walsh, 1995, pp. 251–257; Guthrie et al., 1999, p. 20; Pollitt and Bouckaert, 2000, chapter 4; Groot and Budding, 2004), accurate information about the full costs of services

∗ Corresponding author. E-mail addresses: [email protected] (G.J. van Helden), [email protected] (H. Aardema), [email protected] (H.J. ter Bogt), [email protected] (T.L.C.M. Groot). 1044-5005/$ – see front matter © 2010 Published by Elsevier Ltd. doi:10.1016/j.mar.2010.02.008

is needed and this requires new techniques for output measurement and full costing. This implies that management accounting – together with other disciplines like financial reporting, auditing and management – may be expected to contribute to a better functioning of the public sector. Management accounting is a practice-oriented discipline, dealing with methods that assist managers in planning and controlling their organization (Malmi and Granlund, 2009). What methods work, and what do not work, is a question with a high relevance to practice, because it relates to what is perceived as beneficial to and by the users of management accounting methods. This also holds for questions regarding conditions for the successful implementation of those methods. Developing new techniques or approaches in the field of management accounting, or the adaptation of existing ones, are knowledge creation activities. Organizations


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