Human cognitive time has become a key asset of the digital economy, yet we lack the means to manage it. In response to that need, we propose a technology to manage cognitive time in economic organizations. This technology is called cognitive time-driven activity-based costing (CTABC), and it extends the established time-driven activity-based costing technology. CTABC accounts for human agents' cognitive time and the fact that cognitive time typically does not equal physical clock time for a given economic activity. CTABC also unearths a hidden lever effect that leads to considerable economic inefficiencies. An illustration of the proposed CTABC shows the limitations of contemporary approaches to cost assessments, which ignore errors caused by workers' cognitive time estimation. This paper contributes to the literature on cost accounting technology and the future of the digital economy. Specifically, it enriches the literature on the problem of the accuracy of employees' time estimates.
“In an information-rich world, the wealth of information means a dearth of something else: a scarcity of whatever it is that information consumes. What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it.”
In today's competitive business environment, cost accounting systems must provide accurate information to managers so that they can make well-grounded decisions without negative impacts on the quality of products and services (Ganorkar et al., 2020; Hardan and Shatnawi, 2013; Zamrud and Abu, 2020). Without accurate cost accounting, managers cannot balance incomes and costs to sustain the endeavors of projects and govern organizations, firms, and even whole economies (Berisha, 2017; Ganorkar et al., 2020; Hardan and Shatnawi, 2013). Cost management is crucial for both for-profit and not-for-profit organizations that aim to be competitive and cost efficient (Hofmann and McSwain, 2013; Stouthuysen et al., 2014; Varila et al., 2007). Although the importance of cost accounting is beyond reasonable doubt, studies have shown that understanding cost structures and dynamics and cost assessments is not a trivial task for accountants and managers (Berisha, 2017; Hardan and Shatnawi, 2013; Uyar and Kuzey, 2016).
Discussion and conclusions
In today's highly competitive environment, there is an urgent need to calculate costs and revenues accurately so that companies can survive and ensure long-term profitability (Berisha, 2017; Ganorkar et al., 2020). Calculating the cost of products and services, however, remains a difficult exercise to ensure that costs do not exceed market prices. The TDABC model was proposed to remove the limitations of traditional costing systems and the ABC model. The distinctive feature of TDABC is that the time of an activity is at the forefront of the assessment of the cost of that activity. However, employees' time estimates are prone to measurement errors in cost assessment (Barros and da Costa Ferreira, 2017; Cardinaels and Labro, 2008; Gervais et al., 2010). They lead to misinformed managerial decision making because TDABC accounts for only one kind of time, namely physical or clock-time, assuming that it is objective. The cognitive science literature shows a significant difference between a worker's cognitive time and physical clock time, understood as the relationship between perceived time and physical time (Block and Eisler, 1999; Levin and Zakay, 1989). In this paper, we propose an updated version of TDABC that accounts for human agents' cognitive time and the fact that cognitive time typically does not equal physical time, hence producing CTD. The CTABC technology proposed in this paper remedies the shortcomings of time assessment using traditional TDABC by accounting for CTD and incorporating it into the TDABC calculations.