What is a cost-benefit analysis, how is it used, what are its advantages and disadvantages? (2023)

What is a cost benefit analysis?

A cost-benefit analysis is a systematic process that companies use to analyze which decisions to make and which not to make. The cost-benefit analyst adds up the potential rewards expected from a situation or action, and then subtracts the total costs involved in taking that action. Some consultantsAnalystAlso create models to assign a dollar value to intangibles, e.g. B. the benefits and costs associated with living in a particular city.

the central theses

  • A cost-benefit analysis is the process used to measure the benefit of a decision or action minus the costs associated with taking that action.
  • A cost-benefit analysis includes measurable financial indicators, such as B. Earned income or saved costs as a result of the decision to carry out a project.
  • A cost-benefit analysis can also include intangible benefits and costs or implications of a decision, such as: B. Employee morale and customer satisfaction.
  • A more complex cost-benefit analysis can include sensitivity analysis, cash flow discounting, and what-if scenario analysis for multiple options.
  • Other things being equal, an analysis that yields more benefits than costs is generally a cheap project for the company.


Cost-Benefit Analysis (CBA)

Understand cost benefit analysis

Before building a new facility or undertaking a new project, prudent managers conduct a cost-benefit analysis to assess all the potential costs and revenues that a company could generate from the project. The result of the analysis determines whether the project is financially feasible or whether the company should undertake another project.

In many models, a cost-benefit analysis is also taken into accountOpportunity costsin the decision-making process. Opportunity cost is alternative benefits that could have been gained by choosing one alternative over another. In other words, opportunity cost is the lost or missed opportunity as a result of a choice or decision.

Considering opportunity costs allows project managers to weigh the merits of alternative courses of action, rather than just the current path or choice being considered in the cost-benefit analysis. By considering all options and potential missed opportunities, the cost-benefit analysis is more complete and allows for better decision-making.

Finally, the results of the additional costs and benefits must be compared quantitatively to determine whether the benefits outweigh the costs. If so, then the rational decision is to proceed with the project. If not, the company should review the project to see if it can make adjustments to increase benefits or reduce costs to make the project viable. If not, the company should probably avoid the project.

In cost-benefit analysis, a number of forecasts are built into the process and if any of the forecasts are inaccurate, the results can be questioned.

(Video) Cost benefit analysis

The process of cost benefit analysis

There is no single, universally accepted method for conducting a cost-benefit analysis. However, each process usually has some variations of the following five steps.

Identify the scope of the project

The first step in a cost-benefit analysis is to understand your situation, identify your goals, and create a framework to frame your scope. The scope of the project begins with determining the purpose of the cost-benefit analysis. An example of the purpose of a cost-benefit analysis might be “to determine whether to expand in order to growmarket share" or "to decide whether to renew a company's website".

In this initial phase, the planning of the project takes place, including the schedule, required resources, constraints, required personnel, or evaluation techniques. At this point, a company must assess whether it is equipped to perform the analysis. For example, a company may find that it does not have the necessary technical staff to conduct a proper analysis.

During the scoping phase of the project, the key stakeholders should be identified, notified and given the opportunity to contribute throughout the process. It may be appropriate to involve those most affected based on the results of the analysis (ie if the result is a company's website overhaul, IT may need to hire additional staff and should be consulted).

determine costs

With the framework behind us, it's time to get down to numbers. The second step in a cost-benefit analysis is to determine the cost of the project. The costs may include the following.

  • Direct costs would be the direct labor costs of manufacturing, warehousing,raw material, production costs.
  • Indirect costs can include electricity, general administration costs, rent, utilities.
  • intangible costsa decision, such as the impact on customers, employees or delivery times.
  • Opportunity costs such as alternative investments or buying a facility versus building a facility.
  • Cost of potential risks, such as B. Regulatory risks, competition and environmental impacts.

When determining the costs, it is important to consider whether they are recurring or one-off costs. It is also important to assess whether costs are variable or fixed; If they are fixed, consider what step cost and relevant rank will affect that cost.

“Costs” can be financial (ie recognized in an income statement) or non-financial (ie have an adverse impact on the community).

determine benefits

Each project will have different basic principles; Benefits can include:

  • Higherrevenueand sales due to increased production or a new product.
  • Intangible benefits such as increased employee safety and morale, and customer satisfaction through better product offerings or faster delivery.
  • Competitive advantageor market shares gained by the decision.

An analyst or project manager must apply a monetary measure to all items on the cost-benefit list, being particularly careful not to underestimate the costs or overestimate the benefits. A conservative approach, deliberately trying to avoid subjective bias in calculating estimates, is more appropriate when assessing both costs and benefits for a cost-benefit analysis.

(Video) Cost Benefit Analysis for Development Projects

Analysts also need to be aware of the challenges in determining explicit and implicit utility. Explicit benefits require future assumptions about market conditions, sales volumes, customer needs, and product expectations. Implicit costs, on the other hand, can be difficult to calculate because there may not be a simple formula. For example, consider the above example of increasing employee satisfaction; There is no formula for calculating the financial impact of happy employees.

Calculate analysis calculations

With the numbers on the costs and benefits, it's time to do the analysis. Depending on the project timeline, this can be as simple as subtracting one from the other; If the benefit is greater than the cost, the project has a net benefit to the company.

Some cost-benefit analyzes deserve further criticism. This can include:

  • Usediscountsto determine the present value of cash flows.
  • Using different discount rates depending on different situations.
  • Calculation of the cost-benefit analysis for several options. Each option may have different costs and benefits.
  • Leveling of different options by calculating the cost-benefit ratio.
  • Perform a sensitivity analysis to understand how small changes in estimates can affect results.

Make and implement recommendations

The analyst performing the cost-benefit analysis is then often required to summarize the findings for presentation to management. This includes a concise summary of costs, benefits, net impacts, and how the results ultimately support the original purpose of the analysis.

In general, if the cost-benefit analysis is positive, the project has more benefits than costs. A company must consider limited resources, which can lead to mutually exclusive decisions. For example, a company may have a limited amount of capital to invest; Although a cost-benefit analysis of upgrading its warehouse, website, and equipment is positive, the company may not have enough money for all three.

Not all cost-benefit analyzes that lead to a net benefit should be accepted. For example, a company must consider project risk, compliance with its corporate image, or capital constraints.

Benefits of cost-benefit analysis

There are many reasons to conduct a cost-benefit analysis. The technique is based on data-driven decision-making; All recommended results are based on quantifiable information collected specifically for a single problem.

A cost-benefit analysis requires extensive research into all types of costs. This means considering unpredictable costs and understanding the types and characteristics of expenses. This level of analysis only strengthens the results as more research is conducted on the status of the project result, which provides better supportstrategic planningefforts

A cost-benefit analysis also requires quantifying non-financial metrics (ie what is the financial benefit of increased employee satisfaction?). While this can be difficult to assess, it forces the analyst to consider aspects of the project that are more difficult to measure. The end result of a cost benefit analysis is the provision of a simple report that facilitates decision making.

Limits of cost-benefit analysis

For projects with small to medium capital expenditures and short to medium completion times, a thorough cost-benefit analysis can be enough to make a rational and informed decision. For very large projects with a long time horizon, a cost benefit analysis may not take into account important financial concerns such as inflation, interest rates, variable cash flows, etcexisting valueof money.

One of the advantages of using NPV to decide on a project is that it uses an alternative rate of return that could be achieved if the project had never been undertaken. This power will be subtracted from the results. In other words, the project must generate at least more than the rate of return or discount rate obtainable elsewhere.

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However, any type of model used to perform cost-benefit analysis has a significant amount of forecasting built into the models. Forecasts used in a cost-benefit analysis may include future revenue or sales, alternative returns, expected costs, and expected future cash flows. If one or two of the forecasts are wrong, the results of the cost-benefit analysis are likely to be called into question, thus highlighting the limitations of conducting a cost-benefit analysis.

Cost-benefit analysis


  • Requires data-driven analysis

  • Limits the analysis only to the purpose established in the first step of the process

  • Leads to deeper and potentially more reliable results

  • Provides information on financial and non-financial results

In contrast

  • For smaller projects it may not be necessary.

  • Requires capital and resources to collect data and perform analysis

    (Video) Making a Cost Benefit Analysis: CBT Techniques Made Simple

  • Relies heavily on forecast numbers; If a single critical prediction is wrong, the estimated results will likely be wrong.

What are the 5 steps of the cost benefit analysis?

The general process for a cost-benefit analysis is to create the analysis plan, determine its costs, determine its benefits, conduct a cost-benefit analysis, and make a final recommendation. These steps can vary from process to process.

What is the main purpose of using a cost benefit analysis?

The primary goal of cost-benefit analysis is to determine whether a project or task is worthwhile. This decision is made by gathering information about the costs and benefits of this project. Management uses the results of a cost-benefit analysis to determine whether a project will bring more benefit or cause more harm to a company.

How are the costs weighed against the benefits?

Cost-benefit analysis is a systematic method of quantifying and then comparing the total costs with the total expected returns from the implementation of a project or investment. When the benefits far outweigh the costs, the decision should be made; otherwise it probably shouldn't. The opportunity cost of missed or missed projects is also included in the cost-benefit analysis.

What tools or methods are used in the cost-benefit analysis?

Depending on the specific investment or project being evaluated, it may be necessary to discount the time value of cash flows using NPV calculations. TOcost-benefit ratio(BCR) can also be calculated to summarize the overall relationship between the relative costs and benefits of a proposed project. Other tools may includeregressionmodelling, evaluation etcforecasttechniques

What are the costs and benefits of a cost-benefit analysis?

The process of conducting a cost benefit analysis itself has its own inherent costs and benefits. The cost includes the time required to carefully understand and estimate all possible rewards and costs. This can also include money paid to an analyst or consultant to do the work. Another potential downside is that multiple estimates and forecasts are required to create the cost-benefit analysis and these assumptions may turn out to be incorrect or even biased.

The benefit of a cost-benefit analysis, when done correctly and with accurate assumptions, is to provide good guidance for decision-making that can be standardized and quantified. If the cost-benefit analysis of a cost-benefit analysis is positive, you should do it!

(Video) social cost benefit analysis

The final result

Some complex issues require further analysis, and a business may use a cost-benefit analysis when it is unclear whether or not to undertake a task. By determining the costs and identifying what is cheap, a company can simplify the decision-making process by creating a cost-benefit analysis.


What is a cost-benefit analysis and why is it used? ›

Cost-benefit analysis is a way to compare the costs and benefits of an intervention, where both are expressed in monetary units. idea icon. Both CBA and cost-effectiveness analysis (CEA) include health outcomes.

What are the advantages of a cost-benefit analysis? ›

Cost-benefit analysis allows an individual or organization to evaluate a decision or potential project free of biases. As such, it offers an agnostic and evidence-based evaluation of your options, which can help your business become more data-driven and logical.

What are the disadvantages of using cost-benefit analysis? ›

Disadvantages. Although it is a useful technique for decision making, it has some limitations. The accuracy of this analysis can be affected by inadequate information. If the costs and benefits are not clearly identified and their monetary values are not calculated correctly, the results may be misleading.

What is cost analysis used to do? ›

Cost analysis, also known as cost-benefit analysis, is the process of calculating the potential earnings from a situation or project and subtracting the total cost associated with completing it. It predicts the profit gained from a project and compares the project's cost to its estimated financial benefits.

What is a cost-benefit analysis quizlet? ›

Cost Benefit Analysis. A decision-making process that weighs the pros and cons of different alternatives to see if the benefit outweigh the costs.

What is the disadvantage of cost analysis? ›

Cost-benefit analysis disadvantages

Though cost-benefit analysis can help companies make better-informed decisions, it can sometimes be challenging for them to predict certain variables, such as customer demand and material prices.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of cost management? ›

Comparative Table for Advantages and Disadvantages of Cost Accounting
Advantages of Cost AccountingDisadvantages of Cost Accounting
Assistance to the managementOnly past performance can be recorded
Helps in reducing costsCosts keep on changing every year
Helps in forecastingProper maintenance is required.
3 more rows
Mar 2, 2022

What are the disadvantages of benefit cost ratio? ›

The primary limitation of the BCR is that it reduces a project to a simple number when the success or failure of an investment or expansion relies on many factors and can be undermined by unforeseen events.

What are the 5 advantages of cost principle? ›

Advantages of the cost principle
  • It details actual costs for budgeting purposes.
  • Asset values are objective and can be easily verified.
  • It does not require updating from period to period.
  • It does not accurately reflect an asset's current value.
  • It may result in your business being undervalued.

What is an example of cost-benefit analysis in economics? ›

For example: Build a new product will cost 100,000 with expected sales of 100,000 per unit (unit price = 2). The sales of benefits therefore are 200,000. The simple calculation for CBA for this project is 200,000 monetary benefit minus 100,000 cost equals a net benefit of 100,000.

How do you use cost-benefit analysis in a sentence? ›

Economists have conducted a cost-benefit analysis of the blanket shutdown. They know they are low risk and will do their own cost-benefit analysis. She explains that the user makes a cost-benefit analysis when deciding whether to dismiss a warning.

What is the disadvantage of CAS? ›

Limitations of CAS include provision for (a) fast obsolescence of technology, (b) data loss due to either power interruptions or damage to hard disk, (c) virus and other security hazards.

What are the disadvantages of business analysis? ›

Lack of alignment, availability and trust

In most organizations, the analysts are organized according to the business domains. Unfortunately, the analysis is shared with the top executives and thus the results are not easily communicated to the business users for whom they provide the greatest value.

What are the disadvantages of the cost based methods? ›

What are the disadvantages of cost-based pricing?
  • Unrealized profit margins. When companies use cost-based pricing strategies, they risk underpricing their products or services. ...
  • Lack of competitiveness. Cost-based pricing may also make companies uncompetitive by overpricing their products. ...
  • Inefficiency.

Which best describes cost-benefit analysis? ›

Which best describes cost-benefit analysis? process of maximizing benefits and minimizing costs.

What are the 5 steps of cost-benefit analysis? ›

The steps to create a meaningful Cost-Benefit Analysis model are: Define the framework for the analysis. Identify the state of affairs before and after the policy change or investment on a particular project. Analyze the cost of this status quo.

What are the three main parts of a cost-benefit analysis? ›

As mentioned supra, a cost-benefit analysis is generally based on three decisive indicators: (i) the net present value (NPV), economic rate of return (ERR) and the benefit-cost ratio. Each of these three indicators assesses the viability of the project and combined they provide a realistic picture of the IPF.

What is cost-benefit analysis chegg? ›

Cost-benefit analysis can be defined as a process or technique used by businesses to analyze the profitability of economic decisions. This technique is used by businesses and the government to determine whether or not a project should go ahead.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of cost audit? ›

(i) Proper audit of cost accounts helps in revealing errors. frauds and inconsistencies. (ii) Cost audit brings reliability in cost reports on the basis of which important decisions are taken. (iii) By concerete suggestions cost audit can being about improvement in systems and procedures.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of cost sheet? ›

The main advantages of a cost sheet are:

(i) It indicates the break-up of the total cost by elements, i.e. material, labour, overheads, etc. (ii) It discloses the total cost and cost per unit of the units produced. (iii) It facilitates comparison.

What are the 5 disadvantages of cost principle? ›

5 disadvantages of cost principle

The costing records only indicate previous performance, but management makes long-term decisions. Cost accounting incorporates costs at a specified pace. The prior year's cost is not the same as current year's cost. As a result, cost figures aren't particularly useful.

What are the types of cost-benefit analysis? ›

Cost-Benefit Analysis in Project Management

From that, you can calculate the cost-benefit ratio (CBR), return on investment (ROI), internal rate of return (IRR), net present value (NPV) and the payback period (PBP). Whether the benefits outweigh the costs or not will determine if action is warranted or not.

What are examples of cost advantage? ›

One way companies can use cost advantage is by pricing their items close to their competitors, but then they earn more profits by reducing production costs. This type of cost advantage is a comparative advantage. A business can do this by reducing the costs of materials, processes and distribution.

What is cost-benefit analysis simple? ›

As its name suggests, Cost-Benefit Analysis involves adding up the benefits of a course of action, and then comparing these with the costs associated with it. The results of the analysis are often expressed as a payback period – this is the time it takes for benefits to repay costs.

What is cost-benefit analysis AP Economics? ›

Cost-benefit analysis is a technique used to evaluate the potential costs and benefits of a proposed project or policy. It involves calculating the costs associated with implementing the project or policy, as well as the expected benefits that it will bring.

What are the key elements of a cost-benefit analysis? ›

Cost Benefit Analysis Components
  • General description of the project.
  • List of alternative scenarios.
  • Identify Benefits and Costs.
  • Schedule Benefits and Costs.
  • Comparison of alternatives.
  • Sensitivity Analysis.

Why is cost-benefit analysis important in economics? ›

Cost-benefit analyses help businesses weigh pros and cons in a data-driven way so they can make complex decisions in a systematic manner. For a successful CBA, leaders need to identify and project the explicit and implicit costs and benefits of a proposed action or investment.

What is the major disadvantage of the case study method? ›

Limitations of Case Studies

Lacking scientific rigour and providing little basis for generalization of results to the wider population. Researchers' own subjective feeling may influence the case study (researcher bias). Difficult to replicate. Time-consuming and expensive.

What are advantages and disadvantages of accounting? ›

Comparison Table for Advantages and Disadvantages of Accounting
Decision buildingRegistration of Fixed assets at the original cost.
Evidence in legal concernsManipulation of Statements of Accounts.
Presents information to relevant partiesMoney as a determination unit changes in value.
6 more rows
Jan 6, 2022

What are examples of disadvantages? ›

44 Examples of a Disadvantage
BullyingCommunity Exclusion
Interpersonal ConflictLack of Cultural Capital
Lack of EducationLack of Family Support
Lack of Financial ResourcesLack of Free Time (e.g. working two jobs)
Lack of InfrastructureLack of Rights and Freedom
17 more rows
Apr 14, 2022

What are the advantages and disadvantages of business? ›

At the same time, consider the advantages as well as the disadvantages of owning your own company.
  • Advantage: Financial Rewards. ...
  • Advantage: Lifestyle Independence. ...
  • Advantage: Personal Satisfaction and Growth. ...
  • Disadvantage: Financial Risk. ...
  • Disadvantage: Stress and Health Issues. ...
  • Disadvantage: Time Commitment. ...
  • Try a Side Hustle.

What are the disadvantages of business? ›

Disadvantages Of Owning A Business
  • Financial Risks. Depending on the type of business you're creating, you generally need to spend money to make money – and in the beginning, you may find you're spending more. ...
  • Stress & Health Issues. ...
  • Time Commitment. ...
  • Numerous Roles, Whether You Like It Or Not.
Nov 26, 2021

Why is cost-benefit analysis so controversial? ›

Their objection, in a nutshell, is that because willingness to pay is based on income, cost-benefit analysis assigns unjustifiably large decision weight to high-income persons.

What are two important criticisms of cost benefit Analyses? ›

(1) In areas of environmental, safety, and health regulation, there may be many instances where a certain decision might be right even though its benefits do not outweigh its costs. (2) There are good reasons to oppose efforts to put dollar values on non-marketed benefits and costs.

What are 2 disadvantages of using a standard costing system? ›

Three of the disadvantages that result from a business using standard costs are:
  • Controversial materiality limits for variances.
  • Nonreporting of certain variances.
  • Low morale for some workers.

What is the key or main idea of a cost-benefit analysis? ›

Essentially, a cost-benefit analysis involves adding up the benefits of a business decision or policy and comparing the benefits with the associated costs. Use a cost-benefit analysis to: Determine if an investment is sound—verify that the benefits outweigh the costs and, if so, by how much.

What is a simple way of describing cost-benefit analysis? ›

Which is a simple way of describing cost-benefit analysis? Making a decision by listing pros and cons.

What are the main components of a cost-benefit analysis? ›

The following factors must be addressed: Activities and Resources, Cost Categories, Personnel Costs, Direct and Indirect Costs (Overhead), Depreciation, and Annual Costs. Benefits are the services, capabilities, and qualities of each alternative system, and can be viewed as the return from an investment.

What are the different types of cost-benefit analysis? ›

The assessment of costs and benefits involves three stages: enumeration, measurement, and explicit valuation.


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