Financial modelling terms explained

Variance Reporting

Unlock the secrets of variance reporting and gain a deeper understanding of financial modeling with our comprehensive guide.

Understanding the intricacies of financial modelling is a crucial aspect of effective business management. One of the key components of this is variance reporting. This term may seem complex, but with a bit of explanation, it becomes a valuable tool in the financial management toolbox.

What is Variance Reporting?

Variance reporting, in the realm of financial modelling, refers to the process of investigating and explaining the differences between actual financial results and budgeted or forecasted results. It is a critical aspect of financial management, helping businesses understand where they are underperforming or overperforming against their financial plans.

By identifying these variances, businesses can adjust their strategies and operations to better align with their financial goals. It also provides an opportunity to identify trends and patterns that may not be immediately apparent, providing valuable insights into the financial health of a business.

The Importance of Variance Reporting

Variance reporting is not just about identifying discrepancies. It is about understanding why these discrepancies exist and what can be done to address them. This is where the real value of variance reporting lies. It provides a framework for continuous improvement, allowing businesses to adapt and evolve in response to changing financial circumstances.

Without variance reporting, businesses would be operating in the dark, with no clear understanding of how their actual performance compares to their financial plans. This could lead to poor decision making and ultimately, financial instability.

How to Conduct Variance Reporting

Conducting variance reporting involves several steps. The process begins with the collection of financial data, followed by the comparison of this data against budgeted or forecasted figures. The resulting variances are then analyzed to identify their causes and potential solutions.

While the specifics of the process may vary depending on the nature of the business and the financial data being analyzed, the general steps involved in variance reporting are as follows:

  1. Collection of Financial Data
  2. Comparison Against Budgeted or Forecasted Figures
  3. Analysis of Variances
  4. Identification of Causes and Solutions

Collection of Financial Data

The first step in variance reporting is the collection of financial data. This involves gathering all relevant financial information, including revenue, expenses, and other financial metrics. This data is typically collected on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis, depending on the needs of the business.

It is important to ensure that the data collected is accurate and complete. Any errors or omissions in the data can lead to inaccurate variance reports, which can in turn lead to poor financial decisions.

Comparison Against Budgeted or Forecasted Figures

Once the financial data has been collected, it is compared against the budgeted or forecasted figures. This comparison reveals any variances between the actual financial results and the planned results.

The comparison can be done in a number of ways, but the most common method is to subtract the actual results from the budgeted or forecasted figures. This provides a clear and straightforward indication of whether the business is overperforming or underperforming against its financial plans.

Analysis of Variances

After the variances have been identified, the next step is to analyze them. This involves investigating the reasons behind the variances and understanding their implications for the business.

The analysis should consider both the magnitude and the direction of the variances. For example, a large negative variance (i.e., actual results are significantly lower than planned) may indicate a serious problem that needs to be addressed immediately. On the other hand, a small positive variance (i.e., actual results are slightly higher than planned) may not be cause for concern, but it should still be investigated to understand its causes.

Identification of Causes and Solutions

The final step in variance reporting is the identification of the causes of the variances and the development of solutions to address them. This involves a deep dive into the financial data, looking for patterns and trends that may explain the variances.

Once the causes have been identified, solutions can be developed to address them. These solutions may involve changes to business operations, adjustments to financial plans, or other strategic decisions.


Variance reporting is a critical aspect of financial management. It provides businesses with a clear understanding of their financial performance, allowing them to make informed decisions and adapt to changing financial circumstances.

While the process may seem complex, with a bit of practice, it becomes a routine part of financial management. By regularly conducting variance reporting, businesses can ensure that they are on track to meet their financial goals and maintain financial stability.

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