Management Control in the Digital Age

BUS472 Management Control in the Digital Age

Autumn 2023

Spring 2024
  • Topics

    The course focus on changes in accounting and management control when new digital technologies are introduced. In the introduction we start with a wider view on the relationship between accounting and digitalization. We can see a third wave of technological advancements, which is often referred to as digitalization. In this part we are interested in how accounting scholars understand the benefits and challenges of digitalization. We will focus on what is new with digitalization this time compared to previous waves of technology. What will happen with the boundaries of accounting departments, what will happened with power balances when introducing big data analytics and what will happened with knowledge when using algorithms for producing information for decision making?

    • The course consists of an introduction and four parts, each representing an important stream of research in management accounting and digitalization. In addition, we have an introduction and summary part.

    Part 1: Digital platforms - how to govern them?

    We want to know more about how global digital platforms functions from an accounting perspective. Beyond a very small number of exploratory studies of accounting practices underpinning these digital platform organizations, little is known about their governance and management control. In this part we will examine resent research to learn more about the platform owner’s governance and control issues with respect to hosts. For example get insights into how accounting systems are mobilized in digital platforms to facilitate their governance through mechanisms of surveillance, monitoring control over digital users worldwide.

    Part 2: Knowledge is power but what is knowledge in a big data setting?

    The proposition is that big data technology will be able to collect large amounts of high quality data, with high velocity in a variety of ways. This data will, as a result, help organizations to produce knowledge that is essential for the organization’s success. Consequently, one of the alluring characteristics of big data is that it is described as a technology that produces objective knowledge for decision-making. During this part we will examine the links between data collection and knowledge production in a digitalization setting. The ambition of this part of the course is to problematize this link and to analyze the ways in which knowledge emanating from big data technologies differs or resembles earlier type of information for management decisions.

    Part 3: Will digitalization change the controller role and identity?

    Following from part 1 and 2 the controller role and identity also changes. In this part we are interested in how ideas about efficiency and productivity of accounting work are implicated in the construction of accountants ‘occupational identities. Extant studies have described how the controller try to become the business partner and the "truth teller". Drawing on these ideas, we examine how accountants construct their occupational identity and go about establishing aspired identities. We also go into the challenges related to this, such as actors´ feelings of insecurity or the judgement and potential rejections of others.

    Part 4: How produce information for managerial decision making in a big data context?

    In part four, we turn the production and consumption of information in a big data context. The question in focus during this part is: how is information produced and consumed in a big data context? Bearing in mind that when applying big data technologies to collect data, the ambition is to not discriminate between types of data, data should be readily available. There is plentiful of information to use, the issue at stake is to analyze in what ways managers use (and do not use) the information produced by a big data technology.

  • Learning outcome

    Upon successful completion of the course the student


    • Will have developed an understanding of the concepts and theories which management accounting is based on and how it relates to the new digitalization literature.
    • Can demonstrate knowledge of the most recent research in the field of management accounting/control and digitalization.
    • Will be able to understand change of control systems when new technologies are being introduced and how that influence management control practices, controller work and managerial decision making.
    • Will have a frame of reference that is useful for writing the master thesis in management accounting and control.


    • Can critically analyze the links between data collection and knowledge production in a digitalization setting.
    • Can understand and reflect on how global digital platforms functions from an accounting perspective.
    • Can reflect on the issues related to being a controller trying to become the business partner and the "truth teller" in a digitalized settings.
    • Can understand how accounting information is produced and consumed in a big data context.


    • Can critically evaluate research in management control.
    • Can communicate with specialists in both academia and practice about complex issues related to accounting, control and digitalization.

  • Teaching

    The course starts with an overview over the course. This is followed by four current themes in the management control literature. Each theme consists of three parts. First, a short lecture, then literature discussions, and finally a case discussion/or guest lecture. The course ends with a summary lecture.

  • Compulsory Activity

    Four written group assignments - one from each theme.

  • Assessment

    Individual home exam, 4 hours

  • Literature

    The literature is mainly based on research articles.


ECTS Credits
Teaching language

Spring, will be offered spring 2023.

Course responsible

Katarina Kaarbøe, Department of Accounting, Auditing and Law

Tomi Rajala, Department of Accounting, Auditing and Law

Bino Catasus, Department of Accounting, Auditing and Law