Lights and shadows of IC reporting: the italian case

Chiucchi Maria Serena, Giuliani Marco, Marasca Stefano

In the last two decades, Intellectual Capital (IC) measurement and reporting has been promoted with the idea that it can lead to internal (managerial) and external (disclosure) benefits (Edvinsson, 2013; Edvinsson and Malone, 1997; Guthrie, et al., 2001; Guthrie, et al., 2012; Lev, 2001; Mouritsen, 2006; Mouritsen and Larsen, 2005). These ideas have led to the design of a plethora of IC measurement and reporting methods and tools that nonetheless, are rarely applied in practice (Dumay, 2013; Guthrie, et al., 2012; Marr and Chatzkel, 2004). Indeed, the fact that some IC pioneer companies, like Skandia, have abandoned IC reporting have contributed to raise questions about whether IC was something relevant or just a managerial fashion (Dumay, 2012; Fincham and Roslender, 2003; Mouritsen and Roslender, 2009). Moving from these considerations, some argue that there is the need to understand whether and how measuring IC can help to realize the benefits usually attributed to it and thus, which are the levers and the obstacles that can influence their fate (Catasús, et al., 2007; Catasús and Gröjer, 2006; Chiucchi, 2013b; Chiucchi and Montemari, 2016; Dumay, 2012; Lönnqvist, et al., 2009). The aim of this paper is to analyse the levers and barriers to the adoption and use IC measurements and reports from a longitudinal perspective, i.e. from their introduction up to date, in order to understand what happened in the companies that joined the IC discourse and the reasons why it happened. In order to achieve this aim, a field study (Kaplan, 1986; Roslender and Hart, 2003) involving Italian companies that have measured and reported IC over the last 15 years has been conducted. In comparison to the extant studies, this study is not focused on single or few cases but it offers insights collected from several organisations could permit to have a broader view on levers and obstacles to the development of IC in practice (Chiucchi, 2013b; Giuliani, 2013). In addition, by adopting a longitudinal perspective, from the first implementation up to date, our research does not offer a “snapshot”, i.e. referred to a specific moment, of the practical use of IC measurements and reports (Chaminade and Roberts, 2003), but permits to highlight both levers and obstacles which may arise during different phases of IC frameworks’ implementation and evolution. Thus, this paper contributes to the existing literature answering to the call for IC studies developed adopting a temporal lens (Giuliani, 2009). Finally, the Italian case, which presents some peculiarities if compared, for example, to the Danish one, offers also the possibility to identify different levers/obstacles related to the different genesis of the adoptions of IC reports.

Key-Words: Intellectual capital, intellectual capital reports, levers and barriers, Consultants, Italy