Strategic Management Accounting and Information Technology

The mentioned literature has essentially academic roots and does not consider actual implementations of the SMA systems. This means that on the one hand the researchers did not consider the implementation aspects and, on the other hand, they do not assess the potential related to information technology.

As regards the first aspect, we must note that to implement SMA systems is extremely expensive. In fact, it is not sufficient to adopt an online transaction processing (OLTP) system, but you also need to implement an online analytical

Strategic management accounting

Fig. 1 Strategic management accounting: traditional architecture

processing (OLAP) system. Traditional SMA architecture is based on a three-layer structure (see Fig. 1).

The first tier is a database server that is a relational database system, and it is devoted to data warehouse (DW) support. The second tier is an OLAP server that is typically implemented using either (1) a relational OLAP (ROLAP) model, that is, an extended relational DBMS that maps operations on multidimensional data to standard relational operations, or (2) a multidimensional OLAP (MOLAP) model

[17] . The third tier is a front-end client layer, which contains query and reporting tools, analysis tools and/or data mining tools to support the end users.

This architecture has been developed in the last years and is quite functional, but it is heavy and expensive. The major drawbacks are related not only to the sophistication of the scheme itself but also to complexity and cost of the required equipment, both hardware and software. Even relatively small projects, such as pilot projects, may often result to be difficult to implement, expensive and prone to failures. However, it should be stressed that a robust IT architecture is the only one capable to collect and process information necessary for the implementation of an SMA. In fact, neither an OLTP system nor an OLAP system can support by themselves the needs of a SMA system.

Recent studies suggest that it is possible to delete a level, i.e. you can use three- tier architecture taking advantage of IMT (in-memory technology)-based software

[18] (Fig. 2).

IMT boosts the software of the end users and thus enables them to create their own hypercubes directly in seconds with intuitive and easy-to-use tools. In this way, IT professionals can focus on pure data issues, and end users can “play” alone with the cleaned and corrected data sets following their thoughts and intuitions.

Strategic management accounting

Fig. 2 Strategic management accounting: IMT-based architecture

The second aspect is even more intriguing: is it possible to envisage new perspectives in SMA systems arising from the potential offered by current computer technology? SMA theory is based on the evaluation of static indexes. Computers are used as calculators even if employed in complex models. Instead, in many cases it would be useful to adopt models that describe a process, rather than a static situation. In this case we can take full advantage of both the calculation power of the computers and their ability to handle large volumes of data.

We will present a case to prove this assertion, that is, a case in which it was built a model that describes a process. This system is then employed to perform simulations.

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