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Redefining Professional Identities: Identity Work of Professional Accountants in the Presence of ICTs in Sri Lanka


Changes in professional identities with moving into new types of roles or engaging in new tasks may strive to alter the direction of a profession at large. Comparatively little attention has been devoted to the professional identities of accountants in the Sri Lankan context, to the construal of their professional identities in the face of changes accompanying the widespread use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). Thus, the purpose of this paper is to present the findings of an empirical study on how the professional identities being redefined by accounting professionals in Sri Lanka in the presence of ICTs. The paper elaborates on the less studied phenomenon as ICTs facilitate the world of work by creating interfaces for workers to act, though on some occasions it does present certain challenges. A qualitative research approach was adopted to carry out an interpretive and naturalistic exploration. Participants were selected based on the purposive judgmental sampling technique, to cover different aspects of the profession from the time of introduction of ICTs to the Sri Lankan context, to the present day. Data was gathered through semi-structured, in-depth interviews and subsequently, the transcribed interviews were thematically analysed. Findings of the study explains how the professional accountant’s job role and accounts departments’ structures changed with the advent of ICTs. Five types of identity work which accounting professionals use to redefine their professional identities in the presence of ICTs, were identified as resistance to change, acquiring new skills and facilitating new skills, occupying different spaces, legitimising knowledge, and finding alternative avenues. Accordingly, the paper presents the views of the participants on the future trends in the accounting profession in Sri Lanka while drawing implications for the policy decisions of academics and other professional bodies. Thus, the paper highlights professional accountants’ identity work which contributes to the redefinition of professional identities in the face of inevitable changes occurring in the world of work.

Keywords: Accounting professionals, Identity work, ICTs, Redefining identities