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Advances in information systems and technology

1.0 INTRODUCTION

Advances in information systems and technology (IS/IT) are re1garded as major sources of improvement in the competitive position of firms and industries (Mitropoulos and Tatum, 2000). However, the benefits from technological advances depend on the extent to which these technologies are utilized. Indeed, information is becoming critically important in achieving strategic competitive advantage, particularly in today's competitive environment (Claudia, 2005). This proclamation has led organizations to adopt the most advanced enterprise technology to innovate for a change because organizations that maximize and leverage their information assets have a strategic advantage over their competitors (Claudia, 2005). The ability to speed up making decisions, improving operations performance, managing customer profitability as well as increasing the level of control to management are the core benefits to be considered by decision makers when implementing IT/IS.

The rapid emergence of enterprise systems has made applications such as enterprise resource technology (ERP) to be among the most popular technologies used in the industries. Despite its importance to decision makers and also researchers in discovering how the emergence of enterprise systems contributes to organizational performance, there is uncertainty about IT payoff and accountants' involvement in determining business and information strategy of an organization. The typical judgmental by organizations on investments of IS/IT is always to battle competition by improving productivity, profitability and quality of operations. Hence, to understand the organizations' decisions to innovate always remain as the critical topic of discussion among IS/IT scholars particularly when it relates to the perceptions of accountants as the internal provider of information. Historically, organizational innovations were distinguished process from product innovations (Zmud, 1982; Robey, 1986; Swanson, 1994) and further differentiated between administrative and technological process innovations (Robey, 1986; Swanson 1994).

Accountants play a significant role as the internal provider of information for business operations and for competitive positions in the market. Accountants are also described as the gatekeeper of the financial markets (Wallman, 1995). Without information expertise of accountants, businesses would not be able to evaluate their cost and profit position, gauge product or business unit performance or to plan for future financial success (Brecht and Martin, 1996). Traditionally, accountants were trapped on standard financial reporting or financial-related information and having historical orientation (Mia, 1993) to support management in making decisions. However, as information technologies grow more advanced and competitive pressure for innovation increased, the responsibility of accountants to furnish decision makers with valuable information in making intelligent decision becomes very crucial. Therefore, accountants must quickly response to this evolving information environment to make sure on the efficient business, information strategy and competitive positions in the industry

Most of prior researches have extensively addressed and explained the phenomenon about IS/IT innovation (Rogers, 1983), the perspective of users acceptance of new technology (Davis, 1986) and its impact on organizational competitive advantage (Barney, 1991). Indeed, there are various literatures on IS/IT acceptance among researchers (Gallivan, 2001; Rogers, 2003; Swanson and Ramiller, 2004; Zhu, Kraemer and Xu, 2006) and IT-payoff (Brynjolfsson, 1996; Bharadwaj, Bharadwaj and Konsynski, 2000; Devaraj and Kohli, 2000). However, interdisciplinary research between two different schools of thought that discussed issues on information technology and accounting has been given less attention to date. Hence, this research is intended to discover, understand and explain the basis for enterprise systems innovation and accountants' involvement in determining the information and business strategy of an organization. In this case, a grounded theory approach is adopted with the aim to explore the opportunities for accountants to contribute on enterprise systems innovation that leads to the following research questions:

  1. What drives organizations innovate for the latest technology?
  2. How does it give impact on competitive position of an organization?

2.0 THE EVOLUTIONARY PROCESS OF ENTERPRISE SYSTEMS

The evolution of enterprise systems began in the 1950s as inventory control systems (Yen, Chou and Chang, 2001), where the manufacturing systems' main focus was to handle inventory control in order to replace the traditional inventory concept. Later, bookkeeping, invoicing and reordering have been introduced to support business operations and management (Yen et al., 2001). Material requirement planning (MRP) was then developed in the 1960s with an objective to translate the master production schedule into requirements of raw material planning and procurement. Subsequently, manufacturing resource planning (MRPII) has evolved into a more advanced system with the objective to optimize the production process and distribution management (Yen et al. 2001). It has been extended to include areas such as corporate finance, personnel management, engineering process and business process management.

The robust development of MRP II has encouraged IT experts to develop more advanced technologies such as enterprise resource planning (ERP), supply-chain management (SCM) and customer relationship management (CRM) over some period of time to leverage information about strategic enterprise management, improving operations performance, managing customer profitability, human resource and supply chain information and improving direct/indirect business process (William and William, 2003). These technologies are more sophisticated and efficient in handling multiple business units such as sales and operations planning, inventory/materials management, manufacturing, purchasing, order processing, accounting and finance, human resources, customer relationship management, supply chain management and more. However, due to some limitations particularly in analytical decision-making, these systems could not facilitate the decision support function (Chou et al., 2005).

In the 1990s, much adoption of IS/IT was focused on the enterprise systems. The benefits over decisions to adopt IS/IT are basically on cost reduction, transactional efficiency, internal process management, back and front end process automation and transactional status visibility. As businesses continue to use enterprise systems for a growing number of functions, they face the challenge of processing and analyzing huge amount of data into intelligent decision-making. Although current enterprise systems could integrate business transactions data for organizational planning, essentially, it would not support management particularly on analytical and decision support process. The changing of business requirements, new technologies and the software vendors' development capabilities has enforced the enterprise applications continue to emerge. The emergence of Business Intelligence (BI) tools in the early 2000s, where its main function is to extract valuable information from existing enterprise systems, is anticipated to improve organizational performance and competitive advantage (Davis, 2002) and with its capability in conveying intelligent decisions for decision makers (Buytendijk, 2001; Golfareelli and Cella, 2004). Hence, the relevant and suitability of enterprise systems innovation towards competitive position of a firm remain favourable topics of discussion between scholars as it reflects IT-payoff or return on investment of an organization.

3.0 PRIOR RESEARCH

The literature provides different definitions of innovations: Rogers (1976) defines innovation as an idea, practice or object perceived as new by an individual or other relevant unit of adoption which is communicated through certain channels over time among the members of a social system. Tornatzky and Klein (1982) define it as an idea, practice or material artifact perceived to be new by the relevant unit of adoption. Swanson (1994) defines information system innovation as innovation in the organizational application of digital computer and communications technologies. Swanson (1994) added that organizational innovation refers to the adoption of an idea or behavior that is new to the organization that is adopting it (Daft, 1978). It is further defined as the first or early use of an idea by one set of organizations with similar goals (Becker and Whisler, 1967, quoted by Daft, 1978).

Meanwhile, in the year 2000s scholars have defined information system innovation as: Gordon and Tarafdar (2007) describe that innovation process comprised of three broad stages: initiation, development and implementation (Damanpour, 1991; Utterback, 1971; Zmud, 1982). Initiation involves activities leading to an organization's decision to adopt or attempt to adopt an innovation. Motivation could be poor financial or operational performance (Kanter, 1982; Tushman and O'Reilly, 1997), internal self-criticism combined with a strategic focus on proactive business innovation (Nonaka, 1988; Tushman and Nadler, 1986). Development involves design and development of product and process innovations planned in the initiation stage. This stage has activities such as idea generation and problem solving (Tushman and O'Reilly, 1997), rapid information process and fast decision making (Eisenhardt and Tabrizi, 1995), new information is acquired from competitors (Tushman and O'Reilly, 1997) and customers (Drucker, 1998) and connected with existing knowledge (Galbraith, 1982) to create new product/processes. Implementation involves activities surrounding the adoption and assimilation of innovations designed and developed during the ‘development' stage. Process and product redesign leads to changes in different processes and control systems (Davenport, 1993), effective and reasonably strict control systems are required for efficiently accomplishing the administration and co-ordination activities necessary for implementation of the innovation (Galbraith, 1982).

Innovating with IT, according to Swanson and Ramiller (2004), is a journey that involves four core processes: comprehension, adoption, implementation, and assimilation. First, organizations collect and interpret information from their environments about the existence and basic idea of an IT innovation. Second, this comprehension effort informs organizations' decisions on whether to adopt the innovation, plus the articulation of supporting rationales. Third, where adoption is actually pursued, the innovation is deployed—hardware and software are installed, business processes are changed, users are trained, and so on. Fourth, in due course the innovation becomes assimilated into the routines of organizational work systems. Wang and Ramiller (2009) further define IT innovation as an information technology perceived as new by the adopting organization (Rogers 2003; Swanson 1994). Their perspective on innovation is oriented towards adopters and organizations innovate with IT by applying new IT to their business processes. Therefore, in this research, enterprise systems innovation could be defined as enterprise systems that comprised an integrated planning and resource management system that coordinates information across all enterprise functions (Bendoly et al, 2008) and the capability of the systems to provide valuable information for managements in determining the business and information strategy of an organization.

In recent years, there are a number of researches that examine the organizational adoption of IS/IT, IT payoff and its impact on organizational performance. IT adoption contributes to various competing models that have been tested in several industries (either services or non-services) and are different in terms of methodological approach, conceptual models and constructs, such as a research model on user acceptance of citation database interface (Lin et.al, 2009), mobile wireless (Kim et.al, 2009; Qi et.al, 2009), internet banking (Lee, 2009a), online trading (Lee, 2009b) and more. Indeed, there are various literatures on IT adoption and acceptance among researchers (Gallivan, 2001; Rogers, 2003; Swanson et.al, 2004; Zhu, Kraemer and Xu, 2006, Qi et al, 2009; Kim and Garrison, 2009) and IT-payoff (Brynjolfsson, 1996; Bharadwaj et. al, 2000; Devaraj et. al, 2000). Within this broad area of investigation, there are several streams of research. One stream of research focuses on individual acceptance of technology by using behavioural intention as a dependent variable (e.g Davis et.al, 1989; Bhattacherjee, 2001; Bhacttacherjee and Premkumar, 2004; Zhu et.al, 2006). The other streams have focused on implementation success at the organizational levels (Grover, 1998; Karahanna et.al, 1999) and task technology fit (Goodhue and Thompson, 1995). However, due to the nature of the research designs employed, these streams of research have not attributed the effect of usefulness of information from enterprise systems innovation and its impact on organizational performance.

Furthermore, scholars have documented many studies that examine the relationship between investments in technology and its payoff in terms of enhanced organizational performance (Brynjolfsson and Yang, 1996; Kohli and Devaraj, 2003). There is evidence that there are significant differences among studies in terms of the level of analyses, methodologies employed, variables and contexts examined. Many economic studies (Roach, 1987; Morrision and Berndt, 1991) observed a negative relationship between technology-related variables and performance. At the industry level, the results were mixed with some studies documenting a positive impact of technological investment (Kelley, 1994; Siegel and Griliches, 1992) while other studies by Berdnt and Morrison (1995) and Koski (1999) detect no significant advantage to IT investment. At a more detailed organizational level, Diewert and Smith (1994), Hitt and Brynjolfsson (1995) and Dewan and Min (1997) present results indicating a positive relationship between technology and performance.

In this research, information use is tightly related to the technology that provides access to such information. The limitations of the enterprise systems as well as resource constraints on managerial time devoted to information search such as accessing, understanding, transforming and consolidating the information would give the impact on how effectively information use can be converted into strategic results (Bendoly and Cotteleer, 2008). Indeed, IS/IT research concerned with how to design more useful IS for organization (Legris, Ingham and Collerette, 2003; Elbeltagi, 2005; Jeyaraj, Rottman and Lacity, 2006). However, a useful IS/IT is not one that is simply used by individuals or organizations or the one that possesses specific desirable characteristics (such as output information quality, functionality or interface structure). Rather a useful IS/IT is one which can and does support collective action through the nature of the relationship between technological attributes, individual users and organizationally situated tasks (Diez and McIntosh, 2008).

Consequently, many prior researchers have struggled to show the direct impact of IT with other disciplines such as accounting on organizational performance. However, several recent studies have shown that the fit between accounting and IT has significant impact on performance (Chan et al, 1991; Cragg et al, 2002) where firms that consider their IT strategy with business strategy perform better than those who do not. Raymond et al (1995) found that firms that align their organizational structure and IT structure also perform better than firms that do not. In another study, Bergeron et al. (2001) found that fit between strategic orientation, organizational structure, and strategic IT management had an impact on firm performance. The issues of matching information requirements and enterprise systems capabilities and also the impact of this matching on performance are important questions which are part of a general debate in accounting information system field (e.g. Galbraith, 1973; Tushman and Nadler, 1978; Van de Ven and Drazin, 1985). Accountants are the internal providers of information to decision makers and accountants must adapt to the competitive pressure and increase their ability to leverage information assets in order to contribute for more effectively to managerial decision making. Therefore, as IS/IT grows more advanced, accountants must react quickly to the changes and need to create and apply non-financial information to achieve organizational performance. Hence, this research will discover the impact of usefulness of information through enterprise system innovation and to investigate the accountants' involvement in determining the information strategy of an organization.

4.0 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY

The classification of this research is mainly a grounded theory approach as it seeks to understand and explain social phenomenon related to the involvements of accountants on enterprise system innovations in determining the business and information strategy of an organization. This research is not to predict as used by positivists or just to have a subjective explanation or interpretation, but this research is expected to come out with unique explanations that constitute to the theory building and/or to come out with a variation of existing theories for modification to be able to fit into the context of the phenomenon of interest. In order to discover the ontological and epistemological aspects of the social inquiry, the method used in this research is important to be realized. In this study, the epistemology adopted is interpretivism and the qualitative research methodology is used to generate explanations on the phenomenon under study.

Grounded theory was first developed by Glaser and Strauss (1967) and could be best defined as a qualitative research method that uses a systematic set of procedures to develop and inductively derive grounded theory about a phenomenon (Strauss & Corbin, 1990). In such a way, grounded theory is suggested to be inductive rather than deductive. Basically, the purpose of grounded theory is to organize many ideas from analysis of the data (Strauss, 1967) and to build a theory that is faithful to and justified the area under study (Strauss and Corbin, 1990). The theory developed is not necessarily intended to stand-alone but could be related to existing theories within a field and therefore it will strengthen the current understandings of the phenomena in question. Strauss (1967) summarized grounded theory procedures as the systematic analysis of documents, interview notes or field notes by continually coding and comparing data that produced a well-constructed theory. Hence, Strauss and Corbin (1994) noted that the major difference between this methodology and other approaches to qualitative research was its emphasis upon theory development.

Although the collaboration works between Glaser and Strauss have contributed to the development of grounded theory, they show some differences on the epistemological aspects between them (Glaser, 1978, 1992; Strauss, 1987; Strauss & Corbin, 1990), which have resulted in the ‘Straussian' and ‘Glaserian' models (Stern, 1994). The Glaserian approach on qualitative data analysis was said to have the preconceptions or positive perspective on doing grounded theory while Straussian approach has a realistic epistemology into empirical inquiry through grounded theory. Furthermore, Glaserian beliefs were to be more positivism about the objective and external reality, while Straussian beliefs were based on the assumption of having an unbiased position in collecting data and use certain technical procedures to ensure the participants express their own perception (Glaser, 1992; Strauss & Corbin, 1990). Based on these two beliefs of grounded theory, the author has chosen Straussian approach as the qualitative data analysis method in her research due to the following reasons: i) this research did not use comparative methods in the development and understanding of grounded theory as introduced by Glaser (2001); ii) to construct a theory by looking at the perceptions of the participants, analysis of the data and to understand what they tell or the participants realities; iii) Strauss views on human beings as the active agents in their lives and brought notions for human agency, emergent processes, social and subjective meanings, problem-solving and the open-ended study of action to grounded theory (Charmaz, 2007).

Moreover, qualitative approach adopted in this research also seeks answers to a question, uncovers social behavior, and understands the interaction between organizations and technology that produces findings which are not determined in advance. Qualitative enquiry examines data which are narrative and non-numeric that emphasize on the qualities of entities, on process and meanings that are not experimentally examined or measured in terms of quantity, amount, intensity or frequency (Denzin and Lincoln, 2005). Cassel and Symon (2004) cited that qualitative research is used when researchers would like to understand a circumstance in terms of how and why it occurs. The aim of qualitative methodology is to described and analyze the culture and behavior of humans and their groups from the point of view of those being studied and to collect and analyze data which is uncountable (Cassell and Symon, 2004). In this research, enterprise systems innovation is an emerging issue in the business environment. The unique characteristics of the system, for example, a system for data analysis and reporting that provides managers with better analytical and reporting functions which enable them to make intelligent decisions for strategic positioning should be discovered. In view of the above, interpretive research has gained increasing acceptance in the information technology research (Sahay, 1997; Klein and Myers, 1999) as it focuses on producing an understanding of the context of the information systems and the process whereby the information systems influence and is influenced by the context (Walsham, 1993). Therefore, the rationale for choosing the qualitative methodology and grounded theory approach in this research is again reflected to the purpose of the study.

5.0 DATA AND METHOD

In this research, grounded theory was developed through data obtained from case studies, involving two private sector companies in Klang Valley, Malaysia. The selection of companies were based on recent technologies adopted in the organizations such as SAP systems and these companies were classified as among the active users of the enterprise application systems. The purpose of using case study as a method of data collection is because the researcher would like to achieve deeper understanding on the process within and outside of the context. According to Yin (1994), data collection for case study may come in a variety of sources for examples documents, archival records, interviews, direct observation, participant-observation and physical artefacts and in-depth interviews are the most important source of case study information (Yin, 1994). The strength of an interview is that it focuses directly on the topic to be discovered (i.e the enterprise systems innovation and accountants involvement in determining the business and information strategy of an organization, as opposed to survey method).

Glaser (2001) stated that grounded theory is mainly used for qualitative research. However, when combining methods like grounded theory and case study as data collection method, the utmost care must be exercised to ensure that the norms of case study research do not distort true emergence for theory generation (Glaser, 1998). For example, Yin (1994) stated that theory development prior to the collection of any case study data is an essential step in doing case studies. Based on the statement addressed by Yin (1994), it contravenes from the principle of grounded theory whereby data collection and analysis as a procedure on theory development. Therefore, when combining grounded theory and case study as a way of collecting data, the methodology driving the investigation should be clearly specified.

In view of the above, grounded theory was used as an overall methodology to study data obtained from case studies and to drive data acquisition activities within the case study. Indeed, the reasons for using the grounded theory approach were consistent with the three main reasons suggested by Benbasat (1987) for using a case study strategy in information systems research as follows: i) The research can study information systems in a natural setting, learn the state of the art, and generate theories from practice; ii) The researcher can answer the questions that lead to an understanding of the nature and complexity of the processes taking place; and iii) It is an appropriate way to research a previously little studied area. For these reasons, seeking to generate theory grounded in case study data was a particularly appropriate strategy in this research.

Table 1 provides some detailed information about the cases. The interviews were held with Chief Financial Officer, Chief Technology Officer, Finance Manager, Accountants and Information Technology Officer. Interviewees were selected to ensure both varieties across disciplines and consistency across cases. They were also selected on the basis that each had an important role with respect to enterprise systems innovations and accountants' involvement in making the implementation a success. Meanwhile, the sampling technique used in this research was purposeful sampling. Patton (1990) stated that a qualitative inquiry typically focuses in depth on relatively small samples and uses purposeful sampling, as opposed to quantitative methods that typically depend on larger samples selected randomly. Patton (1990) added that the logic and power of purposeful sampling, is that one can learn a great deal about issues of central importance to the purpose of the research. The unit of analysis in this research is the organizations and holistic (according to Yin 1994, holistic is a single unit of analysis). The selection of organizations as unit of analysis instead of individuals, dyads or groups is to ensure that the answers to research question will be achieved.

In this research, literal replication and multiple cases with holistic design were used to allow for more generalizability and transferability rather than the single case design. The reason of selecting literal replication was due to the researcher's wishes to obtain as much information as possible in investigating the phenomenon of enterprise systems innovations and the accountants' involvement in determining the business and information strategy of an organization until no new information emerges. The appropriate sample size for qualitative research was answered by ‘theoretical saturation' (Glaser & Strauss, 1967; Strauss & Corbin, 1998). Theoretical saturation, according to Glaser & Strauss (1967) and Strauss & Corbin (1998), occurs when no new or relevant data seems to emerge regarding a category where the category is well developed in terms of its properties and dimensions demonstrating variation and the relationships among categories are well established and validated (Strauss & Corbin, 1998).

A schedule of interviewees is provided in Table II. In total, six interviews were undertaken. The interviews lasted about fourty five minutes to an hour on an average. Each interview was preceded by a brief explanation on the purpose of the research and the broad area of interest. The key instruments that were used for collecting evidence were open-ended questions and were asked in a naturalistic manner. These were designed to draw participants' interpretations of their day to day actions as they affected and were affected by their perceptions on enterprise systems innovations and the accountants' involvement in ensuring the business and information strategy of an organization. With the consent from the interviewees, all interviews were tape-recorded. Tape recording helps to prevent the researcher from being too occupied writing notes during the interview so that the researcher could concentrate on the issues discussed (Yin, 1994). Short notes during the interviews were taken and six interviews were transcribed.

Table I: Company Profiles

Location

Industry

No. of Employees

Company A

Putrajaya, WP

Property Developer, Hotel and Tourism

Company B

Kuala Lumpur, WP

Hotel and Tourism

Table II: Interviewee Details

Interviewee

Designation

Company

1.

CFO1

Chief Financial Officer

CA1

2.

CTO1

Chief Technology Officer

CA1

3.

FM1

Finance Manager

CA1

4.

ACC1

Accountant

CB1

5.

ACC2

Accountant

CB1

6.

ITO1

Information Technology Officer

CB1

6.0 DATA ANALYSIS

Using Strauss and Corbin's (1990) approach, data was analyzed through various stages of coding to produce an ordered data set which was integrated into a theory. The process of deriving the categories from the interviews was driven by the criteria of open, axial and selective coding (Strauss and Corbin, 1990). Open coding is the early conceptual names assigned to data fragments (Lockee, 2001) and is the process of selecting and naming categories from the analysis of the data. This initial stage of data acquisition would describe the overall features of the phenomenon under study. In this research, the categories emerged from the open coding of interview were identified mostly through line by line analysis. Variables involved in the phenomenon were then identified, labeled and categorized in an outline form so that the researcher could see and understand the processes. To ensure the internal consistency, the emerging categories were compared between interviewees and notes being taken.

The next step of coding process is axial coding. According to Strauss and Corbin (1990), axial coding is the process that relates the categories to subcategories. In axial coding, data were put together in new ways and this was achieved by utilizing a coding paradigm (i.e. a system of coding that seeks to identify causal relationships between categories). The aim of the coding paradigm is to make explicit connections between categories and sub-categories. This process is often referred to as the ‘paradigm model' and involves explaining and understanding relationships between categories in order to understand the phenomenon to which they relate (Strauss and Corbin, 1990).

The final procedure was the process of selective coding. Selective coding involves the process of selecting and identifying the core category and systematically relating it to other categories from the axial coding process. All other categories derived from the axial coding process must be related in some ways to the core category, directly o indirectly. It involved validating those relationships, filling in, refining and developing those categories. Categories were integrated together and where a grounded theory was arrived at. Finally, there are the action and interaction strategies to manage a phenomenon and to have certain outcomes or consequences.

7.0 RESEARCH FINDINGS

To examine and explain the phenomenon of interest under study is too complex to discuss in detail but a precise one is presented here to address the influential and valuable evidence. As information technology evolved overtime and as the competitive pressures for innovation increase, the thoughts of providing managers with information have become increasingly insufficient for decision needs. As accountants adjust to this evolving information environment, it is essential that they become more involved in applications systems innovation that supports management in making intelligent decision for the organization. The grounded theory analysis identified two interrelated aspects namely to understand the importance of enterprise systems innovation and the accountants' involvement in business and information strategy of an organization.

7.1 Empirical Evidence Gathered in the Field

7.1.1 Enterprise Systems Innovation towards Competitive Environment

Advances in IT/IS are regarded as major sources of improvement in the competitive position of firms and industries (Mitropoulos and Tatum, 2000). The ability to speed up decisionC making, improving operations performance, managing customer profitability as well as increasing the level of control to management are the core benefits to be considered by decision makers in order to innovate for compatible enterprise systems applications. These were how the participants expressed it:

CFO1: “… they track a lot of things.. like retail, tract a lot of things.. when you walk into the complex, its basically track and count how many people come to the complex, they also count what types of retail that sells a lot etc, they also check when is the peak period etc.. how much customer spend for each retail etc (the spending pattern). This things they need a system to do.. different company or industry will have different system la…”

CFO1 added that: “…I think the organizations have to consider the needs… not necessarily on the innovation issue.. I think the needs n costs involve.. if we need the innovated enterprise systems, then we have to take la.. especially for customer needs, value of customer, front end need or back end.. if you have a system that can save your time and cost, better for you to have it.. basically it depends on business needs… and we can't basically follow the trend because it will cost a lot… unless you are in the bussiness of developing the system then it is different… we are only the users of the systems…”

CTO1: “… To give more to our buyer or customer satisfaction, reduce time of complaint, reduce time of rectification, for example, you know that you managed to complete the tasks without even talking…”

“… We have CRM system that we developed on our own.. ICIMS (integrated cost and contract managament systems) is more extensive.. where you can have analysis report from the system and will know which contractor did perform or otherwise.. which customers who have made payment and which have not etc… so integrate a lot.. so when invoices have been prepared, we will be able to know where the invoices are located or sit down.. so to reduce the time of people not responding to their work.. meaning to say, the systems can keep track our work… so they have to meet the time to make more efficient etc…”

“… Furthermore, innovation either high or low from current, it is possible to innovate as it is if we want to tailor to industry. SAP systems is considered as general system where all industries can fit in.. but industry must tailored a bit to match the systems and the industry. If we want to customized, it is very costly…”

ACC1: “… ermmm as a general actually it saves a lot of times.. in the sense like instead we doing manually , we uses the system to generate and to do the work for us.. basically what we need to do is just to punch in the figures and the next minutes just to generate it and from there we can get a lot of sorted out data that we need instead of doing it manually.. and that way will actually save a lot of our time and will be able to achieve our goal.. mission and things like tt… it is very important to have a stable system.. to enlighten.. basically the whole role is to enlighten our job scope so that they can focus to other area…”

However, the benefits from technological advances depend on the extent to which these technologies are utilized and it depends on the needs and requirements of the users.

CTO1: “… let say this enterprise systems, the SAP systems the one that I've mentioned just now is enough for PJH, only that we really don't use it and we did not optimize the SAP system.. because we use it for the sake of daily functions for accounting and procurement or purchasing la.. because in SAP itself has many functions.. you can plan and maintenance and sales and distribution… and I don't think in our industry we gonna use that la.. it means that enterprise systems able to integrate for all la..”

CFO1: “… I think if the innovation can give the management the system that can make an inform decision that enable to enhance the organizational performance… if the innovation do not do that, it will be… or they cannot meet the business needs, so forth and it also depends on the what management wants, if it is not depend on the what mgt want then it will not be useful…”

7.1.2 Enterprise Systems Integration to Smooth Business Operation

The benefits of business information flows automation are the reasons why many companies started out the speculation about the need for integration of the most-computer-based business application. The implementation of this idea is clearly a recognizable trend during early years of the introduction of MRP. The capability of enterprise systems integration in providing analytical information for decision makers is highly required so that organizations are able to maximize and leverage their information assets over their competitors.

CFO1: “… You should have a system that can cater for all la… and fully integrated and the financial information the top mgt can have will be straight away good rather than adhoc information that finance produce ma... some other produces other system and some more the information doesn't jive etc and u have to explain.. if everything is connected then it will be the best la…

“… Diff industry use diff system.. that is why some people can talk that one system can cater for all but basically it's not..

“… I think a lot of companies they don't have.. problem is that they don't have fully integrated enterprise systems maybe because of the business and requirement of business and requirement of the each division or function and that is different requirement so they can't come to a common platform and where u can have same system…”

CTO1: “…Is good, actually is good you know because you must remember that if you have so many systems, no point la.. let say we have accounts, human resource use different system, procurement use different system… so the integration is quite difficult to do it.. like what we have in PJH, we use SAP and IFKAR.. since only one company that have its own system i.e IFKAR, it is easy to settle all the accounting matters in the system.. so the rest we use SAP in the holding company, so it means it is integrated… human resource, payment salary etc… we have 3-way matching so control is there..

FM1: “…Basically, it is not to say recent… I remember we had the finance forum last time.. they said that the report was not friendly for top management to view.. what they did they have actually enhanced it… it is just like innovation… they create new report that links directly to excel.. they integrate not to say we cut or paste, but it integrates.. and they only allows to the top management to view… they just press the button and from the data input that have in the jargon format, it will simplify to the top management especially for CEO... “

ACC1: “…We are actually under HIS (hospitality information system).. like I say front office they have their own module, back end office have their own module, and when it come to other system like purchasing is not link to the revenue side.. so that is why I said it is separated one but it is still under the same company who managed it.. by the end of the month you have to take up the figure, because one side is revenue side and one side is the purchasing one is the cost or expenses side.. so therefore at this moment we don't link up yet, but the whole plan is supposed to link it up.. we don't link up yet and we do manually…”

7.1.3 Propensity of Accountants over Enterprise Systems

Traditionally, accountants rely on standard financial reporting and have a narrow scope in producing report to support management in decision-making process. During that past two decades, the IS/IT has profoundly changed most organizations and their information needs, and therefore the accountants must adjust to these changes promptly. Accountants need to create and apply non-financial information in addition to the financial data that they routinely produce in order to contribute more effectively to managerial decision making. These are the expressions from the participants:

CFO1: “…I think the accountants they mainly can.. they can basically give the input on what the end result should be and the IT experts is suppose to come out with how to process and how to get into that… I think is important for the accountants to get involve…”

CTO1: “…Has too… Accountants should involve in the initial development and the design of the system or process of function... We cannot see the result in short term but we will benefit from it for the long term… and also for our future plan to innovate the system into more decision making kind of reporting, they will know what is the best for the company…”

FM1: “…As accounting issues always change, we must alert to all FRS etc, so there would many changes that is required that reflect the system… so accountant must involve on the enterprise system innovation…”

ACC1: “…She needs too… because at the end of the month if she encounters something does not balance she will definitely will look at us.. she will look for who ever is incharged.. then she will obviously bosses and team leader always bring out the question ‘why u didn't you tell me'.. that is why we make it habit to update her all the way through… whether the system flow smooth, whether the system have problems.. whether it is small or big problem.. we update her… just to avoid from her throwing back the question, ‘why didn't you update'.. and from there she can also assist us to resolve some problems and follow up as well.. so in other way, it is good for us as accountants to get involved…”

7.1.4 Collaboration among IT Experts and Accountants

Accountants are well experienced in the record keeping and data management aspects of order entry, purchasing, inventories, receivables and more. They should be able to improve information availability and smooth the business operations through working together with IT experts to ensure a better manage of data flows between business functions. Since accountants already understand the flow of managerial information needed and indirectly understand some of the information systems, they are well-equipped to contribute to the successful of enterprise systems innovation. This will definitely result in business advantages for their organization.

CFO1: “…I think is very important to work closely or together between these two divisions.. I think IT also not only serve the accounts and finance buat also, sales and makerting, the project management and whatever business that they required etc.. basically IT mainly developing the systems etc.. I think upfront business customer mostly is very important. Sometimes, we are the accountants work within the box n don't think outside the box… this is their world… figure, figure, figure… if no business, the world is nothing…”

CTO1: “…To me is important to collaborate, let say you want to setup a new system, either accounting or else.. if the accountant does not involve, that person will not know… and cannot see the process and flow of information.. so when you cannot see the whole process, you will only get the information and not the flow of information.. you will only get the end result and that end result might be true or might not be true.. so if you know the system well, you can trace directly or you can spot where is the problem… for example ‘this is wrong due to wrongly punch-in the figures or wrongly entered the coding etc…”

“…Accountant that do not use the system at all, he or she will only know that they will get the report... probably difficulty in terms of how they want to judge their people's burden of the job to key-in here and there to produce the report etc, he or she only knows that the report is there.. Second, in accounting it must be properly structured the chart of accounts.. if not, the report will be a mess... if you don't really involve in the process, u cannot see the best to structure your company chart of accounts because your chart of accounts is already mess due to not detail it out correctly.. u will not get good reporting in decision making.. like old-old accountant, they don't really want to get involve and things like that…”

ACC2 and ITO1: “…IT and accounts: Yes, the collaboraion it is very important… in this hotel, accountants must get involve when there is a problem etc... because accountants usually have their knowledge in accounting and they will describe these problems to IT dept to help them rectify the problems.. like what I said just now… IT then will identify the problem and inform our support or developer.. so basically, through this collaboration between accounts dan IT will make the use of the system become better and smooth… so basically accountants' involvement will contribute tu success la… yes, accounts should highly involve to contribute on the success…”

7.1.5 Monopoly and Manipulation over Information

Today, managers rely more on the enterprise application systems to provide them with business data or information needed to make critical decisions. The benefits of business information flows are the core reasons why many companies started out on speculation about the need for integration or innovation of the most enterprise systems in business application. However, manipulation of information is critically required for managers in decision-making. Although advanced technologies are mushrooming, it will never ensure the IT payoff or return on investment unless managers understand the ways in which information is acquired, monopoly and manipulate over the information perfectly. These are the comments from the participants:

CFO1: “…Not so much in the business process itself, the requirement itself from the user what you want to capture, it is more on the business requirement what you want data is for.. then you determine what system you want that enable you to capture the information.. the information to capture must be useful for you to make decision or for you to monitor certain business.. I think it is more on buss requirement...”

“how you analyse the information is also important now for you project for the future.. of course how other people or business partners will react to the future.. it doesn't mean that you have these you will be able to perform well.. it is back to human la.. the person who make that decision.. you can make bad decision too.. I think back to the risk la… I think organization have the people analysing risk of the business.. risk is becoming more important issue.. if it is not old school of thought not only accounts.. risk is becoming the big topic.. if we talk about risk, we have so many risk, credit risk, buss, country risk, currency risk, interest rise… there is wide topis of risk.. if your organization can come out with something that can analyse each of these risk, then it will be very good..

CTO1: “…Actually what ever information you have is useful, even little.. but if that information is not manipulated into the right way, it's useless… u have to manipulate it according to company's requirements lah.. because let say you have database for customers… but if only just as a database and just as reference, it is no use… probably from the customer database u can manipulate from their income let say, or age, what type of houses the customers previously bought… so from there on, u can look at the trend, or even from there on company can predict future products and trend of market…”

ACC1: “…Basically I've seen all the systems generate the same information but it depends on the particular person who is in charge of the particular project… are you picking up the right points presents to the top management and how to fight for it.. so it is very open question.. so I truly think the person that whether you are taking the right report sending the right message across the … did you actually achieve or maybe answered your superior boss or not.. as competition you want to compare, you must know what you are competing... information is there, how do you park your information…

FM1: “…i think is the people… how advanced the technology or systems you have, but the people must be good to manipulate the information…”

ITO1: “…very useful la.. even system that we use right now, if we are good in analyzing the report, what action should we take from the report or information, it will make our company become more successful and become better… the most important… we should know what types of information that we need and action to be taken for this hotel… if that information can generate or how we can manipulate the report, then is good la… it does not mean that we need latest technology in order to be competitive…”

7.1.6 Business and Information Strategy of an Organization

In this research, information use is always interacted with the technology that provides access to such information. Despite all of the benefits promised by the developers, concerns have been raised on low levels of usage for decision support systems (Giupponi et al, 2007) and about the difficulty of determining the benefits against costs (Reeve and Petch, 1999). Having access to huge amount of managerial information such as customers' feedback, resource status, financial information etc would by itself provide a competitive advantage to the organizations.

CFO1: “…Definitely, because who ever can get better information will make more inform decision la.. definitely have the competitive advantage especially when you can get information on competitors.. I think in Malaysia is difficult la most of them don't want to give out the information… i think innovation is one part la because u have the systems but you must feed it with information.. if you don't feed it with information, there would be nothing there… but basically having the system would be easier la…”

“…Managerial information produced is useful information but you must be able to digest it and come out with analyses… in such a way for you to move forward or improved la.. if it is just a data and not well analysed, I think…, thats why sometimes it depends on the users… some people will find it very useful to analyse it and come out with the conclusion that you have or must to move forward etc.. some people take it and use it.. but basically is up to the person .. but it is good to provide data with information… is up to the person who want to analyse n use it…”

CTO1: “…yeahh… definitely because when organizations are at competitive advantage, it means they are leading and if they want to keep them sustainable they must be innovative all the time.. what ever improvement they need to do, they have to do… not only innovative on the product but it has to be innovative in creating in improvement of processes in shortcutting the time etc… proactive in taking the action rather than wait for the later time…”

ACC1: “…yeahh you invest into a system at the end of the day you can generate few times you can make it the revenue and things like that… why not… from business point of view before we decide to buy the system obviously we must know how much we can generate as well.. if this system come into place, can we generate the amount of money that we want.. we are talking about overlapping few times a lot of time from the costs that we are using.. so if it is justified, why not!!

7.2 Formulating a Grounded Theory for Enterprise Systems Innovation and Accountants' Involvement in Determining the Business and Information Strategy of an Organization

The categories that emerged from coding the phenomenon have been transformed into variables and connected to form a grounded theory. The core phenomenon emerged from the data was the monopoly and manipulation over information that commented by the participants. The whole theory is summarized in Figure 1 that explained the propensity of accountants to get involved in enterprise systems innovation in providing useful and valuable information to decision makers. Within this grounded theory, the propensity of accountants, the collaboration between IT experts, enterprise system innovation and integration were all directly linked to one another to show the relationship between the variables. The relationship between variables was described through the flow of the arrows.

Advanced of IS/IT is described as giving a great impact to the usefulness of information to strategic and competitive decisions. Accountants need to use their information expertise to play a larger role in determining the adoption of enterprise application systems that improve the timing, flexibility and relevance of information produced for managerial decision-making. As information advisors to decision makers, accountants need to keep pace with evolving information requirements and use their knowledge to participate in enterprise systems innovation. All the participants interviewed have the same opinion that the accountants must get involve in determining the appropriate enterprise application systems either the system has been adopted or to be adopted. Accountants already contribute to systems by structuring data and defining information measures. They can improve the enterprise systems innovation through a broad understanding of decision requirements, the changing information needs of organizations and as well as the system characteristics.

Traditionally, accountants rely on information from typical financial statements in producing report to support management in decision-making. As the market trends changed and the economic environment growth spectacularly, the accountants must adapt to the rapid changes on enterprise systems as a new economic reality to increase the ability to leverage transaction data for business advantage and also to provide more complex information needs. Accountants need to create and apply non-financial information (other than standard financial reporting) in order to contribute more effectively to managerial decision making. In this case, the collaboration between IT experts and accountants was identified to be crucial and highly required to meet the information demand by decision makers. IT experts are the people that responsible in providing the technical expertise in an organization, while accountants are the people who are responsible in producing, analyzing and communicating information to decision makers. Therefore, to meet the information needs of the future and to keep up with changes that have already occurred in users' needs for business information, accountants must expend their involvement with IT experts beyond the traditional ways of thinking.

Therefore, indirectly, the evolution process certainly reflects organizations to innovate for a change especially in determining the business and information strategy of an organization and the efficient use of information leads to organizational competitive advantage. In this case, enterprise systems innovation and enterprise systems integration were found to be the factors that contribute towards the success of an organization. Information becomes a valuable asset in the organization and is pivotal particularly in improving the timeliness and quality of the input to the decision process. The emergence of enterprise application systems in this case, did contribute the management in making strategic planning, controlling, decision-making and continuous improvement for the future. For example, upgrading were done in Company A quite frequently to ensure smooth business operation and produce information needs to decision makers. The enterprise system adopted by this company is sophisticated and high-end technology.

However, most of the six participants addressed that innovation to enterprise systems would depend on the needs and requirements by decision makers in the organization as it reflects the return on investment. The costs involved, training and the benefits of adoption over the resources produced are among the major factors to be considered when organizations decide to innovate. The participants also addressed that it was not necessarily to adopt the latest technologies available in the market to compete with competitors or to adopt the latest technology based on current market/trend or to follow the competitors' technology without thoroughly analyze the impact on such innovation. The adoption of the latest technology by organizations does not guarantee that they will perform well and be the market leader in the industry. The participants argued that for a better understanding of usefulness of information is equivalent to understand of ways in which the information is acquired, manipulated and used by the individuals and group within the organizations. Manipulation and monopoly over the information was considered as the fundamental influence that leads to the competitive position of an organization. It means that information that is acquired and manipulated perfectly inevitably leads to better business and information strategy of an organization.

8.0 CONCLUSIONS

As has been addressed in the introduction, business information is very crucial in sustaining competitive advantage (Claudia, 2005). Business information and technology become an integral part of organizations decision-making and management processes. Managers rely more on enterprise systems to provide them with the business data needed to make critical decisions (Bendoly et al., 2008). Bendoly et al (2008) stated that different strategies depend on different types of information available from the enterprise system that results in strategic performance along various dimension and strategic performance represents key performance indicators that define the organizations' strategic effectiveness.

As the technology advances, the deployment of information systems and technology in business and government increases rapidly. Therefore, researchers in IS field are concerned on how to design more useful IS for organizations (Legris et al., 2003, Elbeltagi, 2005; Jeyaraj et al, 2006) and with evaluating the impacts of IS on individuals and organizations (Torkzadeh and Doll, 1999; Sodja, 2007). Arguing for a better understanding of use and usefulness of information provided by the system is equivalent to arguing for a better understanding of the ways in which information is acquired, manipulated and used by individuals and groups within organizations (Diez and McIntosh, 2009) and how information provided by the systems leads to organizational competitive advantage.

The grounded theory study provides an in-depth understanding of the way in which enterprise systems innovation directly linked to the business and information strategy of the organization. As the technology grows rapidly, the accountants must adjust to this evolving information environment and involve in enterprise systems innovation as they are the providers of valuable information to decision makers. Enterprise systems innovation affects the usefulness of information to strategic and competitive positions. Accountants need to use their information expertise to play larger role in innovation process that improve the timing, flexibility and relevance of information produced for managerial decision making. As information advisors to decision makers, accountants need to keep pace with evolving information requirements and use their knowledge to participate in innovation process especially on enterprise systems.

This study also provided insights on how organizations can make the most efficient use of the information residing in their systems. The results from this study support the view that enterprise information use would be as important drivers of success in an enterprise systems innovation. No matter how sophisticated the technologies adopted in the organizations, and without accountants having a better understanding on how the information is acquired and manipulated, the innovation is said by itself as not providing a competitive advantage. Hence, measuring the value of information to utilize it to its best strategic advantage has been strongly addressed by Glazer (1993). Glazer (1993) stated that although through the implementation of IT many companies are swimming with information, very few have gained a competitive advantage through their improved data flow. In short, it is not so much on the technology but the information that is delivered is the cause to success.


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