News from the Richard C. Adkerson School of Accountancy
Research Spotlight: Brad Lang
The accounting profession is a dynamic one, and understanding emerging areas and behaviors is necessary to developing best practices. ASAC faculty member Dr. Brad Lang is delving into the evolving area of data analytics and some of the effects it entails.
“My research interests lie at the intersection of information technology with judgment and decision-making, generally in the area of managerial accounting,” comments Lang, an Assistant Professor and ASAC’s Linda Garrett Fellow. “Currently, I’m investigating behavioral implications regarding the implementation of data analytics across the field of accounting, from a slightly critical perspective.”
Lang, who joined the Adkerson School of Accountancy in 2016, became interested in the topic when he perceived that many in the accounting profession see the implementation and integration of data analytics into the field as a panacea.
“I contend that, while important, data analytics is not a fix-all and that the profession’s greatest asset is its human capital,” he states. “Instead of focusing on developing a system in which decision making is completely automated, we may be better served by focusing on how analytics can complement and support improved human decision making.”
For one of his current projects, he and ASAC Director Dr. Shawn Mauldin interviewed 27 upper-level professionals from various sized accounting firms as well as industry to understand how data analytics is deployed throughout the field. They looked at data analytics’ current use, any barriers or constraints to implementation and perceptions on its future.
“We’ve shown that analytics are currently not as widespread as many would think, which is especially true as firm size decreases, and there are many constraints to implementation,” he notes of their findings so far.
Lang is also examining the ways in which decision making is influenced by characteristics of business analytics, with the idea that more complex business analytics, which should better support decisions, may actually lead to lower reliance and lower quality decisions because the user does not understand the analytic. He is carrying out a series of experiments that identify this issue then propose interventions that management can introduce to mitigate this negative effect.
The insights Lang gains from his research carry over into the classroom. In his graduate level managerial accounting course, he and his students discuss data analytics at a conceptual level and whether it is a major disrupter or simply another tool for accountants. For his undergraduate cost accounting class, he is developing involved Excel homework projects that introduce advanced data analytic processes employed in accounting.
Lang is helping to produce future accountants who are adept at employing the most current tools in the workplace and who will be equipped to think critically as new ones materialize in the future. By doing so, and by shedding light on topics that affect today’s workplace, he provides a true service to the accounting profession.