The role of functional specialists in shaping controls within supply networks

Suresh Cuganesan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to investigate how accounting and supply function specialists shape controls in collaborative supply networks (CSNs) and how both might co-evolve. Design/methodology/approach – This paper is a case study of an Australian metal manufacturer (“SteelBiz”) and its CSN is conducted. Findings – The paper finds changes in both trust vis-à-vis formal controls and in intra-organisational supply-accounting relations occurred in a mutually constitutive manner. At SteelBiz, a shift to formal controls occurred due to the efforts of the accounting function in contesting organisational visibility. Overall, both intra- and inter-organisational relations were found to co-evolve. Research limitations/implications – The limitations of the paper include: an empirical examination of buyer organisations only; a focus on intra-organisational issues between functional specialists to the relative exclusion of both more “macro” trends and inter-personal relationships; and the limited generalisability associated with the methodology chosen. Future research should consider both buyer and supplier organisations and whether the “disciplinary alignments” observed here are reflective of more enduring patterns. Originality/value – The contributions of this paper are two-fold. First, the paper attempts to fill a gap in the literature pertaining to how intra-organisational relations might influence network controls. Furthermore, the few studies that do exist describe the “intra-inter” dynamic as uni-directional only, whereas this paper reveals how both mutually constitute the other. Second, complexities into the trust-formal control relationship are revealed while it is proposed that as CSN relations develop, process-based mechanisms become more important than other relationship-sustaining devices, with the trust-formal control dynamic dependent on ongoing negotiation and information as mobilised by intra-organisational participants.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)465-492
Number of pages28
JournalAccounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2006


  • Accounting
  • Australia
  • Control networks
  • Functional specialisation
  • Metalworking industry
  • Supplier relations


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