Monitor and control budgets
PO 14 links to Paper F2, Management Accounting, Paper F5, Performance Management, and Paper P5, Advanced Performance Management
Once budgets have been implemented, they need to be monitored and controlled. Accounting teams analyse and interpret financial data to help organisations and departments identify how closely performance is aligned to budgets over a defined period.
This amounts to much more than simply whether sales are down or up – monitoring and controlling includes the regular examination of costs, cash, working capital and assets. As an accountant, you will be charged with responsibility for chasing the information needed to identify variances between budgeted and actual figures, tracking relevant trends and communicating your findings to senior management or department heads.
In order to do this, you will need to have systems in place to record figures on a timely basis and allow meaningful comparison against budgets as swiftly and accurately as possible (especially where managers in the field rely on them for driving individual and team performance, or for focusing sales activity). Where variations arise, you will need to find the right questions to ask in order to explain and make any relevant recommendations for actions arising from them. And it is crucial that your findings are presented to management in a way that is easy to understand, particularly by those who are not used to financial terminology. That means ‘translating’ accounting-speak for end users in plain language that leaves no doubt as to what is being communicated.
Your work will assist with ongoing resource allocation and overall financial performance, as the organisation makes any necessary operational changes arising from reported variances or from indications that sales forecasts are being met or exceeded.
Examples of relevant activities include:
- preparing regular variance analysis reports, clearly demonstrating significant differences or trends requiring closer examination or which may cause alarm
- giving explanations and making recommendations based on variance analysis, including further data collection or research into company or industry-related factors
- incorporating significant variances in future budget planning.
The next step is to answer the challenge questions for this objective:
- Describe your role in monitoring and controlling budgets.
- How do you plan frequency and method of monitoring? What factors, such as accepted business cycles or the ease with which information can be initially gathered, are taken into consideration?
- Who is involved and to what extend must you obtain ‘buy-in’ to the monitoring process in order for it to be successful?
- How have those budgets affected your day-to-day role?
- Consider how information you collate for budgetary purpose might inform your other responsibilities within the team.
- In what ways does budget activity (preparation, actions from variations, amendments) change the time you can give other responsibilities? What adjustments do you have to make and how does this radiate out to include your day-to-day interaction with others?
- With some examples, how have you used these budgets to help others within your organisation?
- It might be that you alerted management in a particular region to adverse sales figures that bucked a wider trend – and which led to identifying deficiencies in local management or poor recording of data that could be corrected, or even financial wrongdoing.
- Perhaps your monitoring work revealed aspects of outstanding operational performance that led to successful sales techniques or cost-saving drives being adopted throughout the company.