Rethinking ‘Simplified’ Bookkeeping: A Case Study of the Shared Services Centre
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Reason for embargo
I wish to place an embargo on my thesis to be made universally accessible via ORE, the online institutional repository, for a standard period of 18 months because I wish to publish papers using material that is substantially drawn from my thesis.
It is more than a decade that the way of organising the bookkeeping function through the shared services model has been widely adopted by organisations. Large multinational companies usually offshore bookkeeping activities to shared services centres (SSCs), established in cheaper locations. However, a phenomenon of SSC bookkeeping is relatively a black-box in academia. Academic literature on bookkeeping practices in recent times, as well as bookkeepers involved, is scarce. In particular, there is a widely held view that activities constituted by this supporting function in this age of advanced computerisation are ‘simplified’ and ‘low-skilled’. Therefore, this thesis explores this relatively-neglected (but important) area in accountancy, with the purpose to enhance understanding of the extent of simplification and deskilling of SSC bookkeeping. By conducting an interpretivist case-study of a SSC in South East Asia, owned by a large European airline, a new perspective on bookkeeping practices is offered. The thesis, theoretically informed by an ‘institutional’ lens of Burns and Scapens (2000), supplemented with a view of new institutional sociology, argues that SSC bookkeeping is not a low-skilled and simple practice, and that there is an incongruence between the widely held perception of simplified bookkeeping and the actual complex nature of (in particular, SSC) bookkeeping practices. Also, this thesis illuminates that the beancounter image does not capture characteristics of bookkeepers in the SSC who are shaped to be mindful, active, adaptive, and socialised. Furthermore, the case study enables us to see the way the bookkeeping function can play an active and influential role, when being a ‘core’ function in the SSC. Indeed, knowledge created by this thesis is original and interesting, since it challenges the widely held perception. Moreover, grounded on the empirical evidence, contributions to Burns and Scapens (2000) and organisational routines research are proposed.
PhD in Accountancy