Management accounting as constructing and opposing customer focus : three case studies on management accounting and customer relations
Abstract: This thesis is on the relation between management accounting and customer focus and relates to discussions about how internal managing processes in organizations are interrelated with interorganizational relations, specifically constructions of customers. Both a normative and a descriptive perspective on the relation are taken within the different parts of the thesis, which consists of a licentiate thesis, three articles and a synthesizing text. The purpose is to understand the interaction between management accounting and customer focus on operative levels in industrial organizations, where focus on customer has a central place. The results are also discussed with respect to its possible importance in the development of managing processes of organizations. The thesis is based on three cases, which have been studied with mainly a qualitative approach.In the licentiate thesis, traditional accounting models, originally developed to provide information for analyzing products, are revisited under the assumption that customers and products are equally interesting to analyze. The three articles explore the role of management accounting in interpreting customers and the interface to customers. In the first article, strong customer accountability is found to override the intentions from managers, as communicated through the accounting system. Arguments of how management accounting can be perceived as inaccurate then have a central place in motivating how customers are prioritized in a way not favored by managers. Furthermore, in the second article, customers are experienced as both catalysts and frustrators to change processes and changes in management accounting are found in eo-development with the different customer relations and how different customers prefer to communicate. The third article explores how coordination mechanisms operate in relation to each other in coordination of customer-supplier relationships. A strong market mechanism creates space for bureaucratic control and use of management accounting. However, the use of bureaucratic control in turn relies on social coordination between actors in order to function.These four parts are revisited and related to each other in a synthesizing part of the thesis. The relation between management accounting and customer focus is approached in two ways. Management accounting may construct customer focus, making it impossible to distinguish between the two. However, another interpretation of the relation is management accounting and customer focus as opposing logics, where management accounting represents hierarchical influence, homogeneous control processes and cost efficient operations, and customer focus represents customer influence, control processes adapted to the customer and customized operations.
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