Why some accounting innovations fail? A case study of a New Zealand public tertiary education institution
This paper examines why activity-based costing (ABC) and the balanced scorecard, two most significant accounting innovations in recent years, failed to be successfully implemented in a large tertiary education institution in New Zealand. The findings demonstrate that the implementation of both systems presented significant challenges. ABC failed because it was perceived to offer a low relative advantage, was highly complex, its implementation was not trialled, the benefits were not visible, and there was lack of communication, inadequate training and no change agent facilitating adoption. The balanced scorecard failed because the institution was caught in a performance evaluation trap with bureaucratic compliance to government requirements preventing any real improvements, adoption was symbolic to give legitimacy but suffered from a lack of rationale or logic, and there was no real observable influence on performance improvements. The politically imposed measures with an emphasis on financial performance forced the institution to play the numbers game rather than deliver ‘real’ performance.