What is Cost Variance?

Instead of playing the guessing game with expenses, you can use the WBS to identify costs line by line. A work breakdown structure (WBS) is just what it says it is — it is a breakdown of everything you need to do for the project to complete it. We use the second formula for what-if analysis when the original budget is no longer viable, e.g., when we’re already over budget. You decide to check how the project is doing financially at the end of day 17.

  • Understanding a projects cost variance enables a company to gauge project performance during the course of a project.
  • Cost Variance represents how far the project is over or under budget relative to the work performed.
  • While the first month’s cost
    variance was positive (i.e. the earned value exceeded the actual cost), it
    turned eventually negative in the 2nd month.
  • Actual cost, however, relates to the actual costs of the accomplished work.

He is also the technical brains behind ProjectEngineer, the online project management system for engineers. He is a licensed professional engineer, certified project manager, and six sigma black belt. The overall project cost variance is negative $100, therefore the project is over budget. The first task is over budget, and the second task is under budget but not enough to make up the shortfall.

Use the Schedule Performance Index to Check

While this was a straight forward cost variance analysis, some of them aren’t so easy. The cost of the steel used was $460 per ton, versus an expected $500 per ton, and ABC used a total of 500 tons. The price variance is the difference between the actual versus expected price of whatever is being measured, multiplied by the standard number of units. The project winds up taking about 10 weeks longer than you originally anticipated, and the graphic designer logged 1,600 hours in total.

Thankfully, there are cost management tools that make keeping your eye on variances effortless so that you don’t have to manually crunch the numbers. Such cost developments are not unusual
given that projects and teams may require some ‘settling in’ time before they can
leverage their full performance potential. This
formula needs to be adapted for the different types of cost variances. While
the basic calculation – the difference of EV and AC – is basically the same,
the input parameters are replaced as follows. For
instance, if you are in month 4 of a project, you would calculate the
point-in-time cost variance of that period by using the actual cost (AC) and
earned value (EV) of the 4th month only.

After all, all of these project-based companies are running business which need to make profits, and predictable and well formulated cost variances  increase the chances that every project will turn a profit. No matter what your cost variance calculator looks like, the cost variance formula will be one which you use and lean on for projects all of the time. Similarly to the result we got from the cost variance formula, our schedule variance has spat out a negative number, which means we are also behind the schedule. Understanding a projects cost variance enables a company to gauge project performance during the course of a project. Estimating the project budget at the beginning of the project and then seeing where the costs landed at the end of the project is a great way to blow a budget. A cost variance can relate to virtually any kind of expense, ranging from elements of the cost of goods sold to selling or administrative expenses.

This could mean that you’re spending too much or that your projected revenues are too low. If you have an adverse cost variance, then it’s time to do some deeper digging. Analyze where your numbers differ between your projections and reality. If the result is a negative number, you are overspending and have spent more than what was expected at this point in the project.

If you have Budgeted cost or Earned value along with the actual cost, you can project the cost of the project after its completion. After you are completed with the project, comparing the budget with the actuals can be of huge importance. Cost Variance is a simple concept and can be used to avoid cost overruns while managing a project.

What is the cost variance formula?

The designer is responsible for creating marketing materials, website design, and other visual assets at a rate of $50/hour. If you expect the entire project to be finished in two months—or 1,200 work hours—you should budget $60,000 for this project. Calculating cost variance requires project management software robust enough to calculate and organize your data in real time.

The cost variance formula is a helpful way to keep track of a project’s progress and ensure that costs remain within budget throughout the duration of a project. In this article, we’ll explain the cost variance formula, wave review 2021 different cost variance calculation methods, and provide examples of cost variance in action below. Throughout the life of a project, you’ll want to have each of these cost variance formulas at your disposal.

Cost variance analysis definition

The volume and price variances have different names, depending upon the type of expenditure being examined. For example, the volume and price variances for direct materials are the material yield variance and the purchase price variance. Or, the volume and price variances for direct labor are the labor efficiency variance and the labor rate variance.

Example of Cost Variance Analysis

Our team of reviewers are established professionals with decades of experience in areas of personal finance and hold many advanced degrees and certifications. A once-in-a-while variance of $1,000 may not be as significant as a $500 variation that recurs frequently. Historical data can be data from a similar project or the project you are currently working on.

As these variances are often used together with the cost-performance index (CPI) – you will find more details in the corresponding example in this CPI article. Note that the input numbers in the CPI article are consistent with these examples. There are often two causes for cost variance to either increase or decrease rather than staying constant at zero. Overestimation or underestimation of the expected value of an outcome is one potential source of cost variation. Cost variations can also be caused by circumstances beyond the company’s control, such as shifts in the market. Unpredictable price differences may result from several different factors.

Rent, property taxes, and subscriptions are all examples of fixed overhead costs. The calculation for sales variance is budgeted sales minus actual sales. This is the only type of variance on the list that is good when it is negative. If your budgeted (or expected) sales total was $1,000 and your actual sales total was $2,000, then your sales variance is -$1,000. When actual sales exceed budgeted sales, your variance will be negative—but your profits will be positive.