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March 4, 2024

Understanding Budget vs. Actuals (BvA): Navigating Your Financial Landscape

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When it comes to our physical health, we’re constantly monitoring our vitals to pick up anything that might indicate a serious underlying issue and to stay on track with our fitness goals. When it comes to the financial health of our organization, the very same principle is applied.

The financial equivalent of regular physical checkups and constant fitness monitoring is Budget vs. Actuals (BvA). With BvA analysis, you are able to know exactly where you stand financially versus where you should be, what you’re spending on, and leveraging this analysis to surface any issues before they become critical.

The key is to extract the maximum value from your BvA analysis.

Read on to discover strategies for conducting effective BvA analysis, along with real-world case studies and actionable advice to ensure optimal financial health.

BvA Analysis: A Primer

Before we get started, a quick refresh on what we’re referring to when we talk about BvA analysis.

BvA analysis is a tool for finance leaders to assess the financial health and operational efficiency of their organizations.

This comparative analysis helps in identifying the discrepancies between budgeted figures and actual financial outcomes over a specific period. Financial experts can make informed decisions, adjust strategies, and improve future budgeting processes for better financial management and forecasting accuracy by delving into the reasons behind these variances.

What is the process for conducting this analysis? For most organizations, the following procedures are followed:

  1. Data collection and integration: The first step involves collecting budgeted and actual financial data from all relevant sources.
  2. Variance analysis: Financial analysts calculate variances between budgeted and actual figures for each line item. This involves both quantitative calculations to identify the magnitude of variances and qualitative analysis to understand the reasons behind these discrepancies.
  3. Categorization of variances: Variances are categorized as favorable or unfavorable. A favorable variance occurs when actual revenues are higher than budgeted or when actual expenses are lower than budgeted. Conversely, an unfavorable variance indicates lower-than-expected revenues or higher-than-expected expenses.
  4. Investigation and root cause analysis: Significant variances are investigated to determine their root causes. This may involve discussions with department heads, reviewing financial policies, and analyzing external factors. The goal is to discern whether variances are due to internal performance issues, external market conditions, or errors in the budgeting process itself.
  5. Reporting and communication: Findings from the BvA analysis are compiled into detailed reports, which are then communicated to senior management, stakeholders, and relevant departments.
  6. Adjustment and action planning: Based on the insights gained from the BvA analysis, finance leaders may need to adjust current financial strategies, revise forecasts, or implement corrective actions to address performance issues or capitalize on opportunities.
  7. Continuous monitoring and review: Successful organizations establish regular intervals for conducting BvA analyses (monthly, quarterly, etc.) to ensure ongoing oversight and the ability to respond dynamically to financial variances.

The level of structure might differ from entity to entity, but these elements are certainly reflective of best practices when it comes to a disciplined, comprehensive approach.

Importance of BvA Analysis in Financial Management

BvA Analysis is critical to effective financial management for three main reasons:

Enhanced strategic decision-making

BvA Analysis provides a clear, empirical basis for understanding financial performance. Financial managers and CFOs can pinpoint areas of concern, adjust strategies proactively, and make informed decisions that align with the organization's long-term goals by identifying variances between expected and actual figures.

Improved financial control

Regularly conducting BvA Analysis ensures a culture of accountability and discipline throughout the organization. It enables managers to monitor departmental spending against the budget, ensuring resources are used efficiently and objectives are met. By holding individuals and departments accountable for their financial performance, organizations can better control costs, optimize resource allocation, and prevent financial mismanagement.

Forward-looking insights

Beyond its role in assessing past performance, BvA Analysis is instrumental in forecasting and preparing for the future. Analyzing trends in variances helps organizations anticipate potential financial challenges and opportunities, allowing them to adjust their forecasts and budgets in a timely manner – giving them the ability to quickly respond to market changes and providing a competitive edge.

Helping businesses stay on track with their financial goals

It’s now much easier to see how BvA analysis assists businesses in staying on track with their financial goals and identifying areas for improvement.

A great example from McKinsey illustrates this: a bank was analyzing excessive expenditures linked to an executive transfer program for overseas assignments.

Initially, short-term lucrative packages were offered to motivate relocation, necessary for skill transfer. However, many executives chose to extend their assignments, incurring unforeseen costs in compliance areas like immigration and tax.

By transitioning to longer initial contracts, the bank reduced these repetitive compliance expenses. What’s more, the longer-term stability was more valued by the executives than the short-term benefits, leading to cost savings.

This example highlights the effectiveness of BvA analysis in enhancing organizational efficiency and effectiveness and showcases its pivotal role in strategic financial management.

Summary: Get BvA Working For You

We started by comparing physical health and fitness to financial “fitness.” To be successful in your ongoing BvA efforts, you need a tool that will provide ongoing monitoring, including important alerts, as well as periodic check-ins allowing deep dives and surfacing actionable insights.

PayEm provides the answer. The PayEm solution offers everything you need to track budgets and spending, anticipate spending before it happens, enforce policies, empower employees, streamline approvals, increase transparency and control, and much more – all in a simple, beautiful interface.

Most crucially, it enables finance teams to get real business benefits and tangible ROI from their BvA process.

Far from being a burdensome task that “has to be done” – or worse, that’s constantly pushed off – Budget vs. Actuals analysis is a powerful tool in creating a more efficient business.

The additional benefits are compelling, including enhanced visibility and control, and increased employee accountability, buy-in and engagement, to name just a few.

To access the benefits of modern BvA analysis, get in touch with the PayEm team today.

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Understanding Budget vs. Actuals (BvA): Navigating Your Financial Landscape