Bromwich & Bhimani wrote a interesting short book in 2010 called “Management Accounting – retrospect and prospect” (see cimapublishing.com). In the book, they give a number of examples from modern business that makes us think about management accounting techniques. For example, what exactly does a company like Facebook or LinkedIn actually do? Do they offer products, services or what? Changing technologies, business markets and new ways of making/delivering products often causes changes to management accounting. For example recently I read that amazon.com now sells more e-books than paper books. Taking this e-book example, it is easy to visualise a shift in product costs. Arguably, an e-book has almost no variable costs. Instead the vast majority of costs are probably fixed – costs of running a data centre for example. This new way of doing business changes the information management accountants need and how that same information is collated and analysed. I have no idea what publishers or distributors like amazon.com do in their management accounting functions, but it is not too hard to think about how basic techniques like breakeven (CVP) analysis would change due to the changing cost structure.
As a management accountant, I’m always interested in what products cost to make. In today’s global manufacturing economy, it’s even more interesting as product components are sources from all over the world. Time [May 16, 2011] provides a great example, the iPhone. According to the article, the total cost of the iPhone 5 is $179. Of this amount, $61 goes to Japanese suppliers, $11 to US suppliers, $30 to Germany, $23 to South Korea, $7 to China [where the phone is assembled], and $48 goes to other unknown sources. Given that the selling price is around $500, this means that the loins share of the added value in an iPhone about, or $321, stays within the US company. I have to say I was surprised that China contributed so little to the final value.