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Business Studies Notes and

Related Essays


 A Level/AS Level/O Level

Your Burning Questions Answered!

Define variance analysis and explain its importance in business decision-making.

Discuss the different types of variances that can occur in a business and provide examples.

Explain the three major components of variance analysis: budgeted costs, actual costs, and flexible budget costs.

Analyze the limitations of variance analysis and discuss how businesses can overcome these limitations.

How can variance analysis be used to improve operational efficiency and profitability within an organization?

Variances: The Difference Between Plans and Reality

What are Variances?

Imagine you're planning a trip to the beach. You budget $100 for food, but you end up spending $120. That extra $20 is a variance, the difference between what you planned and what actually happened.

In business, variances are the same: they show the difference between planned performance (your budget, targets, etc.) and actual performance. They help businesses understand if they are on track to achieve their goals and where improvements need to be made.

1. Types of Variances

There are two main types of variances:

  • Favorable Variances: These occur when actual performance exceeds planned performance. It's like finding a $20 bill while searching for your lost keys - a pleasant surprise!
  • Unfavorable Variances: These occur when actual performance falls short of planned performance. Like forgetting your wallet at home - not what you wanted!

2. Why are Variances Important?

Variances are important because they provide valuable insights that can help businesses make better decisions. Here's how:

  • Identify Problems: Variances can signal problems in operations, like cost overruns or sales falling short of projections.
  • Focus on Solutions: By understanding the reasons behind variances, businesses can focus on addressing the specific issues and making improvements.
  • Improve Efficiency: Variances help businesses identify areas where they are wasting resources or losing money, allowing them to optimize operations and save costs.
  • Make Better Forecasts: By analyzing past variances, businesses can make more accurate predictions for future performance, leading to better decision-making.

3. Examples of Variances in Business

  • Sales Variance: A company planned to sell 10,000 units of a product but only sold 8,000. This is an unfavorable sales variance.
  • Cost Variance: A construction project was budgeted at $1 million but ended up costing $1.2 million. This is an unfavorable cost variance.
  • Material Variance: A manufacturing company planned to use 100 pounds of raw materials per unit but ended up using 110 pounds. This is an unfavorable material variance.
  • Labor Variance: A restaurant budgeted for 10 hours of labor per day but actually used 12 hours. This is an unfavorable labor variance.

4. Analyzing Variances

Understanding the reasons behind variances is crucial. To do this, businesses might ask questions like:

  • What caused the variance? Was it due to unexpected market changes, supply chain issues, staff shortages, or internal inefficiencies?
  • Is the variance significant? Was it a small deviation or a major problem?
  • What steps can be taken to address the variance? Can the issue be fixed internally, or are external factors impacting the outcome?

5. Real-World Examples

  • Amazon's Inventory Variance: Amazon has constantly faced challenges with inventory management. Unfavorable variances in their inventory can lead to lost sales and increased warehousing costs.
  • Tesla's Production Variance: Tesla often deals with production delays and missed deadlines, creating unfavorable production variances.
  • Netflix's Subscription Variance: Netflix has experienced periods of subscriber growth and decline, leading to variances in their revenue projections.


Variances are an essential tool for businesses to monitor their performance and make informed decisions. By understanding the reasons behind variances, businesses can identify areas for improvement and ultimately achieve their goals.

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