Management accounting is the study and practice of using accounting information to make strong business decisions. It's an essential part of the overall study of finance. It is not the same as financial accounting, which is concerned with the preparation and analysis of financial statements. It's a core course in almost all accounting and business programs.
Management accounting plays an important role in determining the changes an organization implements and the decisions it makes. If a company has large cash reserves, it can invest in additional market research. However, if its profitability is being hindered by high debt repayment costs, management accounting may provide answers to guide an organization's decision making. Research could look at the impact of organizational change on accounting practices, or the interaction between management accounting techniques and functional strategies, such as total quality management and lean inventory production.
Although most organizations have finance departments that perform management accounting functions, they use the information in different ways depending on the organizational culture. If an organization has an entrepreneurial or creative culture, management may decide not to take a decision in line with what a management accountant would show through his analysis, but instead do something completely different. You could look at the characteristics of companies that are completely reliant on management accounting for their decision making, and compare them to more risk-taking organizations.
Different industries are subject to different inputs, outputs and operations. Some have high levels of cash outflow and need to spend significant sums on purchasing raw materials and finished goods (e.g., retail stores), while others need to invest in research and development for a long period of time before they see any sales (e.g., pharmaceutical companies). Service firms, such as cleaning companies or small consultancies, normally don't have significant cash outflows. This means that organizations in different industries can work to different performance levels. Looking at a range of industries, you could investigate the ways that different organizations manage their cash flow through management accounting practices.
Research could look at the ways in which management accounting has changed over time. New techniques and regulations are always being developed, so you can make comparisons and investigate the changing role and use of management accounting in the organizational context.
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