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The Economic Research Institute, Stockholm School of Economics SSE/EFI Working Paper Series in Business Administration

No 2:
The design and use of management accounts in small and medium-sized companies

Christer Johansson and Lars A Samuelson

Abstract: In Sweden several associations have since the 1960s been engaged in supporting the development of better management practices in small and medium-sized companies. One pioneering effort was made by the Swedish Employers’ Confederation in designing a comprehensive self-test material called "Look after your company" (Se om Ditt företag). Based on experiences and surveys from the use of this material it soon became evident that one area in which the practice in companies fell short of what was believed to be an acceptable standard, was in accounting and management control.

The Confederation jointly with the Federation of Swedish Industries therefore initiated a major project in developing standard models in these fields. The major output from this project was a standard chart of accounts, the BAS-chart. The first edition of this chart was issued in 1976 and it soon was commonly used in Sweden, not

only by small and medium-sized companies, but also by large companies. It is still commonly in use as it has been adapted to the new accounting schemes enforced by law (EU-BAS). The BAS-chart has also been adapted for used by public agencies and also translated into several foreign languages.

The BAS-chart initially only covered the financial accounts. But it was also assumed that in order to run the companies efficiently and effectively the managers were also in need of management accounts. In the first publication that included the BAS-chart, some very broad suggestions pertaining to how management accounts could be designed and related to the financial accounts were presented. These suggestions were later on developed into more detailed models (1982) and the use of the models in some cases was shown in another book (1983).

Ever since the publication of these books, more examples of management accounting have, however, been demanded. Due to changes in the organization of the BAS-project, another effort in this field was not undertaken until 1997. The newly established BAS-group then decided that a feasibility study should be made with the purpose to suggest the aims and scope of a major study.

The authors of this paper took on this task. In order to reach our goals we made several investigations:

1.A review of books, research reports and current research mainly published or conducted in Sweden was made

2.the companies used as cases in the 1983 book were revisited and the development of management accounting since the beginning of the 1980s in these companies was described

3.a questionnaire was distributed via Internet and all companies were invited to complete it. In all 338 companies have responded. However, only 242 of the completed forms were considered to be of use.

Keywords: management accounting; standard chart of accounts; BAS-group; (follow links to similar papers)

JEL-Codes: C42; M41; (follow links to similar papers)

49 pages, June 15, 1998

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