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Role of Management Account in Strategic Planning

Management accounting facilitates strategic planning by analyzing costs & future trends. Here’s more on how it supports strategic plans & decision-making.
Role of Management

What is the Role of Management Accounting in Strategic Planning?

How do you make the best possible business decisions, when you have incomplete data guiding you?  Because in the business landscape, change is rapid. And it’s often a case of evolve or die. Your business must remain flexible, adapting and taking new forms to thrive in the face of consistent change. 

Planning ahead is the best way to future-proof your company. And not just with any plan — with a strategic plan. A strategic plan helps your business prepare for unexpected changes. It’s the bedrock of enterprise-wide decisions that can determine whether or not your business will achieve its long-term goals. 

But there’s no effective strategic planning process without management accounting. They go together. Management accounting offers access to financial data that can inform your decisions as well as many other benefits. 

Here’s a big-picture description of how management accounting works to determine the efficacy of strategic plans. First, a look at how strategic planning and management accounting intertwine. 

Where strategic planning and management accounting meet

Strategic planning is a two-step process, with defining your company’s vision, mission, and goals as the first step. Ask yourself, what percentage of the market do you want to have captured in the next five years? Are you looking to start business operations in a new country with a ready market? 

For effective strategic planning, you need to clearly outline your future objectives. Doing this requires a deep understanding of the external environment, market trends, and internal capabilities. With this knowledge, you must pre-determine company objectives, ensuring each is SMART — specific, measurable, achievable, relevant to the company vision, and time-bound. 

But, when it comes to management accounting, it’s a whole different world. Management accounting collects, analyzes, and interprets financial information to guide managerial decision-making. 

Both concepts are like the two different sides of the same coin. They combine splendidly to enhance the quality of management decisions. For starters, management accounting is the best way to measure your company’s financial health. And as you very well know, any strategic plan will run on the vehicle that is a financial investment. 

All plans, objectives, and projections will require money for execution. So, you can already start to understand how management accounting informs strategic planning. Keep reading for a detailed play-by-play of the various roles management accounting plays in any strategic plan.  

Role of management accounting in strategic planning

From cost analysis to performance measurement, here’s management accounting’s role in strategic planning. 

Analyzing costs and allocating resources

You probably have a personal budget that you try as much as possible to stick to. It’s the same way your strategic planning efforts require a budget, but the major difference is that budgetary requirements for strategic planning are more extensive. You must allocate resources efficiently to achieve organizational goals. Additionally, you must stick to preset budgetary requirements. 

You determine what part of financial resources go where and when. Similarly, you must identify the best use case for available financial resources. 

Management accounting provides the tools and techniques to achieve that easily. With it, you can analyze business expenses in-depth — understanding the causative factors behind them and pinpointing areas where you’re losing money due to inefficiency. 

Essentially, by taking advantage of management accounting you gain cost analysis insights that will inform your allocation decisions. For instance, calculating the cost-to-benefit ratio of different projects allows you to identify and invest in initiatives that promise the highest returns.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that, increasingly, tools, such as financial assistance and business reporting softwares, are using AI to provide better and more accurate future budget models. These can be invaluable when it comes to strategic planning and making sure that you’re managing your budget as efficiently as possible. 

Creating budgets and predicting future trends

A road trip isn’t worth it if you suddenly have to stop halfway without reaching your destination. In the same way, you must guarantee the availability of resources to complete a strategic plan with an accurate budget. 

Budgets serve as a guide for determining the feasibility of any new project initiatives. The best part is you can rely on technology while leveraging this aspect of management accounting. 

For instance, accounts payable software is brilliant at delivering accurate, real-time fund visibility and reporting so you can stay on top of your cash flow. It can provide the data to help construct better cost structures and design budgets you can rely on till project completion. 

Management accounting really shines when it comes to helping you predict future market changes and how they might affect your project. Through management accounting, you can assess historical data, uncovering trends that will help you design budgets that are as protected as possible against the unpredictability of modern markets. 

That’s not all. Cost accounting, another aspect of management accounting, can help you nail down the costs tied to every step of your production activities. This is crucial for accurate budgeting, as understanding production expenses can assist managers in making well-informed decisions. 

Measuring performance and progress

Strategic planning without effective measurement is sailing without a compass or map. You’re moving but can’t accurately tell the direction or distance you’ve covered. In short, strategic planning is only fully effective when you have systems to measure progress and results.

Keeping a close eye on financial and non-financial metrics as you progress on a project is key. The result of this evaluation can help you make much-needed adjustments to your strategic plan. That’s why it’s important to leverage the tools management accounting offers for measuring project performance and progress. 

Management accounting facilitates the establishment of comprehensive performance metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) for every part of your plan. These KPIs are your progress trackers for those big-picture goals, giving you the lowdown on how well your strategy is doing.

Now, here’s where management accounting comes to the rescue. Take variance analysis, for instance. Variance analysis is all about checking how your actual financial results stack up against what you thought would happen. It’s like looking at the GPS to see if you’re on course.

On top of this, there’s more in the management accounting toolbox, such as benchmarking. Benchmarking focuses on your business performance. It compares your performances with industry standards and direct competitors, helping you identify where you stand.

You should consider using tools such as ERP software, to help create and monitor your benchmarks and your performance compared to your goals. This is because it will collect data from across your organization, making it easier to view your financial and accounting data alongside your order and customer data, giving you a deeper understanding of your progress. 

These comparative results help you identify where business performance doesn’t measure up to others in the industry. You can devise better strategies to improve performance and results using these insights.

Supporting decision-making processes

Let’s face it, business decisions can be complex to make. Firstly, there’s a whole bunch of different elements to weigh up before you make the big calls. Secondly, the wrong decision can send your company on a downward spiral, affecting your market share and stakeholder confidence. 

But here’s the good news: when you’ve got data in your corner, your odds of making the right business decisions go up exponentially. That’s why 44% of business experts in S&P Global’s Voice of the Enterprise survey say most strategic decisions at their companies are driven by data.

Management accounting is the foundation for strategic planning. It delivers all the data you need to make decisions that reflect your company’s financial health. This makes management accounting crucial when you’re picking between different strategic moves or trying to figure out the best course of action. 

Those financial insights help you connect the dots between short-term goals and your big, long-term strategy. It helps you stay on track!

Allocating resources effectively

Strategic planning is all about learning how to divide resources between varied company projects. Management accounting’s role here is to determine the smartest ways to use your resources. It’ll show you the appropriate places to put every dollar, employee, and tool in the company’s capacity for maximum profit. 

By having the right tools and data to hand, you’re able to make your business more efficient and better allocate your resources. 

For example, say you’re designing a strategic plan to increase order fulfillment speed by 50%. You can use business tools such as Sage’s order management software to track inventory levels and facilitate shipping automation. You can then also use tools like Salesforce, to track the effect this has had on your customers and amount of orders. 

By combining the two tools you’ll be able to optimize your inventory levels, reduce stockouts, and monitor how this is benefitting your customers and business overall. 

Another example is activity-based costing (ABC), which allocates costs based on the actual activities that drive those costs. 

This approach really shines a light on the actual costs of different tasks. It’s like turning on the high beams for your expenses. With this info in hand, you can divvy up your resources according to what’s crucial for your strategy and what adds value.

Identifying and managing risks

Every strategic plan operates within a dynamic and uncertain environment. Regardless of how perfect a plan is, there will always be elements that can undermine it. Technological advancements, policy changes, and market purchasing power are some examples of risk factors to any strategic plan.

But with management accounting, you can quickly identify and contain risks before they become prominent. 

Management accounting offers some nifty tools for spotting risks. For instance, scenario analyses, sensitivity tests, and stress tests act as risk detectives of management accounting. The best part is they can help you design backup plans fast by putting numbers on the line for different ‘what if’ situations. So, you’re ready to tackle any curveballs that come your way.

Management accounting is key to strategic planning

Like a utility player in football, management accounting plays many roles. It offers cost analysis, accurate budget design and supports key decisions. 

Its role in measuring performance and effectively allocating resources guarantees that strategic plans don’t become ordinary theoretical documents. Instead, it turns them into actionable roadmaps that guide organizations toward their envisioned future.

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David Appel , Global Head of SaaS

David Appel is Global Head of the SaaS Vertical for the largest technology company on the London Stock Exchange, Sage. Over time as a Sales and GTM leader, his organizations have earned the business of >2,000 SaaS and Software companies, growing at 40%+/year. He previously ran Direct Sales at, led NetSuite’s Software Vertical, and was part of IBM’s Corporate Development team.

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