Glossary of Business & Finance

[A]

ABC Model

A representation of resource costs during a time period that are consumed through activities and traced to products, services, and customers or to any other object that creates a demand for the activity to be performed.

ABC System

A system that maintains financial and operating data on an organization's resources, activities, drivers, objects and measures. ABC models are created and maintained within this system.

Activity

Work performed by people, equipment, technologies or facilities. Activities are usually described by the “action-verb-adjective-noun” grammar convention. Activities may occur in a linked sequence and activity-to-activity assignments may exist.

Activity Analysis

The process of identifying and cataloging activities for detailed understanding and documentation of their characteristics. An activity analysis is accomplished by means of interviews, group sessions, questionnaires, observations, and reviews of physical records of work.

Activity-Based Budgeting (ABB)

An approach to budgeting where a company uses an understanding of its activities and driver relationships to quantitatively estimate workload and resource requirements as part of an ongoing business plan. Budgets show the types, number of and cost of resources that activities are expected to consume, based on forecasted workloads. The budget is part of an organization's activity-based planning process and can be used in evaluating its success in setting and pursuing strategic goals. (See Activity-Based Planning .)

Activity-Based Costing (ABC)

A methodology that measures the cost and performance of cost objects, activities and resources. Cost objects consume activities and activities consume resources. Resource costs are assigned to activities based on their use of those resources, and activity costs are reassigned to cost objects (outputs) based on the cost objects' proportional use of those activities. Activity-based costing incorporates causal relationships between cost objects and activities and between activities and resources.

Activity-Based Management (ABM)

A discipline focusing on the management of activities within business processes as the route to continuously improve both the value received by customers and the profit earned in providing that value. ABM uses activity-based cost information and performance measurements to influence management action. (See Activity-Based Costing .)

Activity-Based Planning (ABP)

Activity-based planning (ABP) is an ongoing process to determine activity and resource requirements (both financial and operational) based on the ongoing demand of products or services by specific customer needs. Resource requirements are compared to resources available and capacity issues are identified and managed. Activity-based budgeting (ABB) is based on the outputs of activity-based planning. (See Activity-Based Budgeting .)

Activity Dictionary

A listing and description of activities that provides a common/standard definition of activities across the organization. An activity dictionary can include information about an activity and/or its relationships, such as activity description, business process, function source, whether value-added, inputs, outputs, supplier, customer, output measures, cost drivers, attributes, tasks, and other information as desired to describe the activity.

Activity Driver

The best single quantitative measure of the frequency and intensity of the demands placed on an activity by cost objects or other activities. It is used to assign activity costs to cost objects or to other activities.

Activity Level

A description of how elastic or sensitive an activity is to changes in the volume, diversity, or complexity of a cost object or another activity. Product-related activity levels may include unit, batch, and product levels. Customer-related activity levels may include customer, market, channel, and project levels.

Allocation

A distribution of costs using calculations that may be unrelated to physical observations or direct or repeatable cause-and-effect relationships. Because of the arbitrary nature of allocations, costs based on cost causal assignment are viewed as more relevant for management decision-making. (Contrast with Tracing and Assignment.)

Assignment

A distribution of costs using causal relationships. Because cost causal relationships are viewed as more relevant for management decision-making, assignment of costs is generally preferable to allocation techniques. (Synonymous with Tracing . Contrast with Allocation .)

Attributes

A label used to provide additional classification or information about a resource, activity, or cost object. Used for focusing attention and may be subjective. Examples are a characteristic, a score or grade of product or activity, or groupings of these items, and performance measures.

[B]

Best Practices

A methodology that identifies the measurement or performance by which other similar items will be judged. This methodology is used to establish performance standards and to aid in identifying opportunities to increase effectiveness and efficiency. Best practices methodology may be applied with respect to resources, activities, cost object, or processes.

Bill of Activities

A listing of activities required by a product, service, process output or other cost object. Bill of activity attributes could include volume and or cost of each activity in the listing.

Bill of Resources

A listing of resources required by an activity. Resource attributes could include cost and volumes.

[C]

Capacity

The physical facilities, personnel and process available to meet the product or service needs of customers. Capacity generally refers to the maximum output or producing ability of a machine, a person, a process, a factory, a product, or a service. (See Capacity Management .)

Capacity Management

The domain of cost management that is grounded in the concept that capacity should be understood, defined, and measured for each level in the organization to include market segments, products, processes, activities, and resources. In each of these applications, capacity is defined in a hierarchy of idle, non-productive, and productive views.

Constraint

A bottleneck, obstacle or planned control that limits throughput or the utilization of capacity.

Cost Center

A sub-unit in an organization that is responsible for costs.

Cost Driver

Any situation or event that causes a change in the consumption of a resource, or influences quality or cycle time. An activity may have multiple cost drivers. Cost drivers do not necessarily need to be quantified; however, they strongly influence the selection and magnitude of resource drivers and activity drivers.

Cost Driver Analysis

The examination, quantification, and explanation of the effects of cost drivers. The results are often used for continuous improvement programs to reduce throughput times, improve quality, and reduce cost.

Cost Element

The lowest level component of a resource, activity, or cost object.

Cost Management

The management and control of activities and drivers to calculate accurate product and service costs, improve business processes, eliminate waste, influence cost drivers, and plan operations. The resulting information will have utility in setting and evaluating an organization's strategies.

Cost Object

Any product, service, customer, contract, project, process or other work unit for which a separate cost measurement is desired.

Cost Object Driver

The best single quantitative measure of the frequency and intensity of demands placed on a cost object by other cost objects.

Cost Pool

A logical grouping of Resources or Activities aggregated to simplify the assignment of resources to activities or activities to cost objects. Elements within a group may be aggregated or disaggregated depending on the informational and accuracy requirements of the use of the data. A modifier may be appended to further describe the group of costs, i.e. Activity Cost Pool.

Cross-Subsidy

The inequitable assignment of costs to cost objects, which leads to over costing or under costing them relative to the amount of activities and resources actually consumed. This may result in poor management decisions that are inconsistent with the economic goals of the organization.

[D]

Direct Cost

A cost that can be directly traced to a cost object since a direct or repeatable cause-and-effect relationship exists. A direct cost uses a direct assignment or cost causal relationship to transfer costs. (See also Indirect Cost, Tracing.)

[E]

Enterprise-Wide ABM

A management information system that uses activity-based information to facilitate decision making across an organization.

[H]

Hierarchy of Cost Assignability

An approach to group activity costs at the level of an organization where they are incurred, or can be directly related to. Examples are the level where individual units are identified (unit-level), where batches of units are organized or processed (batch-level), where a process is operated or supported (process-level), or where costs cannot be objectively assigned to lower level activities or processes (facility-level). This approach is used to better understand the nature of the costs, including the level in the organization at which they are incurred, the level to which they can be initially assigned (attached) and the degree to which they are assignable to other activity and/or cost object levels, i.e. activity or cost object cost, or sustaining costs.

[I]

Indirect Cost

A resource or activity cost that cannot be directly traced to a final cost object since no direct or repeatable cause-and-effect relationship exists. An indirect cost uses an assignment or allocation to transfer cost. (See Direct Cost , Support Costs .)

[L]

Life Cycle Cost

A product's life cycle is the period that starts with the initial product conceptualization and ends with the withdrawal of the product from the marketplace and final disposition. A product life cycle is characterized by certain defined stages, including research, development, introduction, maturity, decline, and abandonment. Life cycle cost is the accumulated costs incurred by a product during these stages.

[P]

Pareto Analysis

An analysis that compares cumulative percentages of the rank ordering of costs, cost drivers, profits or other attributes to determine whether a minority of elements have a disproportionate impact. For example, identifying that 20 percent of a set of independent variables is responsible for 80 percent of the effect.

Performance Measure

Indicators of the work performed and the results achieved in an activity, process, or organizational unit. Performance measures are both non-financial and financial. Performance measures enable periodic comparisons and benchmarking.

Process

A series of time-based activities that are linked to complete a specific output.

Profitability Analysis

The analysis of profit derived from cost objects with the view to improve or optimize profitability. Multiple views may be analyzed, such as market segment, customer, distribution channel, product families, products, technologies, platforms, regions, manufacturing capacity, etc.

[R]

Resource Driver

The best single quantitative measure of the frequency and intensity of demands placed on a resource by other resources, activities, or cost objects. It is used to assign resource costs to activities, and cost objects, or to other resources.

Resources

Economic elements applied or used in the performance of activities or to directly support cost objects. They include people, materials, supplies, equipment, technologies and facilities. (See Resource Driver , Capacity .)

[S]

Support Costs

Costs of activities not directly associated with producing or delivering products or services. Examples are the costs of information systems, process engineering and purchasing. (See Indirect Cost .)

Surrogate [item] Driver

A substitute for the ideal driver, but is closely correlated to the ideal driver, where [item] is Resource, Activity, Cost Object. A surrogate driver is used to significantly reduce the cost of measurement while not significantly reducing accuracy. For example, the number of production runs is not descriptive of the material disbursing activity, but the number of production runs may be used as an activity driver if material disbursements correlate well with the number of production runs.

Sustaining Activity

An activity that benefits an organizational unit as a whole, but not any specific cost object.

[T]

Target Costing

A target cost is calculated by subtracting a desired profit margin from an estimated or a market-based price to arrive at a desired production, engineering, or marketing cost. This may not be the initial production cost, but one expected to be achieved during the mature production stage. Target costing is a method used in the analysis of product design that involves estimating a target cost and then designing the product/service to meet that cost. (See Value Analysis .)

Tasks

The breakdown of the work in an activity into smaller elements.

Tracing

The practice of relating resources, activities and cost objects using the drivers underlying their cost causal relationships. The purpose of tracing is to observe and understand how costs are arising in the normal course of business operations. (Synonymous with Assignment . Contrast with Allocation .)

[U]

Unit Cost

The cost associated with a single unit of measure underlying a resource, activity, product or service. It is calculated by dividing the total cost by the measured volume. Unit cost measurement must be used with caution as it may not always be practical or relevant in all aspects of cost management.

Unit of Driver Measure

The common denominator between groupings of similar activities. Example: 20 hours of process time is performed in an activity center. This time equates to a number of common activities varying in process time duration. The unit of measure is a standard measure of time such as a minute or an hour.

[V]

Value-Adding/Non-Value-Adding

Assessing the relative value of activities according to how they contribute to customer value or to meeting an organization's needs. The degree of contribution reflects the influence of an activity's cost driver(s).

Value Analysis

A method to determine how features of a product or service relate to cost, functionality, appeal and utility to a customer (i.e., engineering value analysis). (See Target Costing .)

Value Chain Analysis

A method to identify all the elements in the linkage of activities a firm relies on to secure the necessary materials and services, starting from their point of origin, to manufacture, and to distribute their products and services to an end user