Managerial Accounting

Managerial accounting refers to the internal use of accounting statements by managers in planning and directing the organization’s activities. Perhaps management’s greatest single concern is cash flow, the movement of money through an organization over a daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly basis. Obviously, for any business to succeed, it needs to generate enough cash to pay its bills as they fall due. However, it is not at all unusual for highly successful and rapidly growing companies to struggle to make payments to employees, suppliers, and lenders because of an adequate cash flow. One common reason for a so-called “cash crunch” or short fall is poor managerial planning.

Managerial accounting is the backbone of an organization’s budget, an internal financial plan that forecasts expenses and income over a set period of time. It is not unusual for an organization to prepare separate daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly budgets. Think of a budget as a financial map, showing how the company expects to move from Point A to Point B over a specific period of time. While most companies prepare master budgets for the entire firm, many also prepare budgets for smaller segments of the organization such as divisions, departments, product lines, or projects. “Top-down” master budgets begin at the top and filter down to the individual department level, while “bottom-up” budgets start at the departments or project level and are combined at the chief executive’s office. Generally, the larger and more rapidly growing an organization, the greater will be the likelihood that it will build its master budget from the ground up.

Regardless of focus, the major value of a budget lies in its breakdown of cash inflows and outflows. Expected operating expenses (cash outflows such as wages, materials costs, and taxes) and operating revenues (cash inflows in the form of payments from customers and stock sales) over a set period of time are carefully forecast and subsequently compared with actual results. Deviations between the two serve as a “trip wire” or “feedback loop” to launch more detailed financial analysis in an effort to pinpoint trouble spots and opportunities.

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