Management Seminars: Mahmoud Ezzamel
Professor Mahmoud Ezzamel (Cardiff Business School)
G.15, 15-19 Tyndalls Park Road
Title: Carving out Imaginative Spaces for Action: Accounting and the Governance of Outsourcing
The paper conceptualizes outsourcing relationships as imaginative spatial configurations that extend organizational boundaries, and it examines how accounting technologies intervene to govern these spaces in order to make organizational action possible. The paper argues that accounting technologies not only populate these spaces with their vocabulary, techniques and new measures but also reconfigure and reshape such spaces. Three examples of outsourcing relationships between a major UK Trust Hospital and private suppliers are examined. In all cases, accounting played key roles by detailing contractual terms, reducing their opacity, and making them operational. Accounting abstracted outsourcing relationships and rendered them amenable to quantification via the use of new measures, valuations, and vocabulary, and reconfigured and shrank the distance between outsourcing and provider organizations by facilitating the planning, coordination, and monitoring of these activities. The paper elucidates how accounting technologies operated as temporal/spatial zoning and ordering devices, thereby helping shape organizational experience of space. However, as an abstract, expert, system accounting did not fully replace presence (face-to-face interactions) with absence, as frequent presence continued to underwrite absence. Moreover, accounting was not taken as ‘an article of faith’ as expert systems are assumed to, rather its calculations were challenged. Finally, accounting was part of a larger ensemble of management technologies that emerged to help render outsourcing spatial relationships governable.