Business Analysis

Assignment Brief
As part of the formal assessment for the programme you are required to submit a
Business Analysis assignment. Please refer to your Student Handbook for full details of
the programme assessment scheme and general information on preparing and
submitting assignments.
Learning Outcomes:
After completing the module you should be able to:
 Demonstrate an understanding of how most effectively to prepare and present
information in ways useful to decision makers
 Identify, collect and collate primary and secondary data from a range of sources
 Apply a range of techniques to analyse data
 Utilise propriety software as an aid to decision-making and control
Your assignment should include: a title page containing your student number, the module
name, the submission deadline and a word count; the appendices if relevant; and a
reference list in BU Harvard format. You should address all the elements of the assignment
task listed below. Please note that tutors will use the assessment criteria set out below in
assessing your work.
Maximum word count: 3000 words
Please note that exceeding the word count will result in a reduction in grade proportionate
to the number of words used in excess of the permitted limit.
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Assignment Task
Answer all of the following questions.
Please note the following instructions:
• You may select any organisation upon which to base your answers but you are
strongly recommended to select an organisation that you have worked for or one
you feel you can research easily using the Internet and academic search engines. The
latter approach is acceptable where you do not work for an organisation. It is also
acceptable to base your answer on a case study.
• Where you are asked to supply MS Excel (or equivalent) material such as graphs
and/or data tables, please note these must be embedded as figures within the file
and not shown as linked files (i.e. your assignment must be a single document in
word or PDF format. Turnitin cannot accept multiple files or linked files).
Question 1
What is the difference between primary and secondary data? What are the main
advantages and disadvantages of primary and secondary data? You must draw upon
relevant theory, concepts and models and appropriate organisational examples.
In order to complete this task you will need to consider as a first step the factors outlined in
the course materials, referring as a start to lessons on Primary Sources and Secondary
Sources in the Introduction to Business Analysis unit and add relevant external academic
sources to your answer.
(25 marks)
Question 2
You have been asked to conduct a survey of your fellow colleagues to gauge their employee
engagement at the work place. Which primary data collection method would you use and
why? You must draw upon relevant theory, concepts and models and examples from your
own organisation or one with which you are familiar to support your answer.
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In order to complete this task you will need to consider the factors outlined in the course
materials, referring as a start to the lesson on Primary Sources in the Introduction to
Business Analysis unit and add relevant academic sources to your answer.
(25 marks)
Question 3
Drawing upon examples from your own organisation, or one with which you are familiar
select an appropriate recorded measure for five equal periods (such as turnover, profit,
available from annual reports etc) and having obtained values over the 5 equal time periods
calculate the following:
a) the mean
b) the standard deviation
You must include all of your manual calculations. Use an Excel spreadsheet to verify your
calculations and embed a copy of this spread sheet in your answer. Present the original data
in a suitable graph.
In order to complete this task you will need to consider as a first step the factors outlined in
the course materials, referring as a start to the Techniques to Analyse Data Unit and add
relevant external sources to your answer.
(25 marks)
Question 4
When it comes to making sound decisions, using management information systems can be
an important part of the process. Do you agree with this perspective? Give reasons for your
answer. You must draw upon relevant theory, concepts and appropriate organisational
examples to inform your answer.
In order to complete this task you will need to consider the factors outlined in the course
materials, referring as a start to the Management Information Systems unit and add
relevant external academic sources to your answer.
(25 marks)
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Formative Feedback
You have the opportunity to submit a draft of your response to question 1 prior to
submission to receive formative feedback.
The feedback is designed to help you develop areas of your work and it helps you develop
your skills as an independent learner.
Your work must be submitted to your module tutor by email using the email address on the
module page on or before two weeks prior to the assessment submission date. This is to
allow time for you to reflect on the feedback and draft your final submission.
Formative feedback will not be given to work submitted after the above date.
You MUST underpin your analysis and evaluation of the key issues with appropriate and
wide ranging academic research and ensure this is referenced using the BU Harvard system.
The My Study Skills Area contains the following useful resources; Study Skills Guide
(containing a BU Harvard Referencing section) and a Harvard Referencing Interactive
Tutorial. You must use the BU Harvard Referencing method in your assignment.
Additional notes:
Students are required to indicate the exact word count on the title page of the assessment.
The word count excludes the title page, executive summary, reference list and appendices.
Where assessment questions have been reprinted from the assessment brief these will also
be excluded from the word count. ALL other printed words ARE included in the word
count. Printed words include those contained within charts and tables. See ‘Word Count
Policy’ on the homepage of this module for more information.
Assignments submitted late will not be accepted and will be marked as a 0% fail.
Your assessment should be submitted as a single Word (MS Word) or PDF file. For more
information please see the “Guide to Submitting an Assignment” document available on the
module page on iLearn.
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You must ensure that the submitted assignment is all your own work and that all sources
used are correctly attributed. Penalties apply to assignments which show evidence of
academic unfair practice. (See the Student Handbook which is on the homepage of your
module and also in the Induction Area).
You must ensure that the submitted assignment is all your own work and that all sources
used are correctly attributed. Penalties apply to assignments which show evidence of
academic unfair practice. (See the Student Handbook which is on the homepage of your
module and also in the Induction Area).
Learning objectives covered by the assessment questions
Learning objective Qu 1 Qu 2 Qu 3 Qu 4
Identify, collect and collate primary and
secondary data from a range of sources
x x
Apply a range of techniques to analyse data x
Utilise propriety software as an aid to decision
making and control
Demonstrate an understanding of how most
effectively to prepare and present information in
ways useful to decision makers
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Assessment Criteria
(Learning objectives covered – all)
Page 8 of 8

Financial accountants keep records of business transactions such as sales invoices. They use
these records to prepare a firm’s accounting statements. Management accountants evaluate
and interpret this financial data to advise the senior managers in the business. They play
important roles in managing business performance and improving decision making.
CIMA is the leading and largest professional body for management accountants with over
171,000 members and students operating at the heart of business in 165 countries. Its
members work in financial and non-financial roles throughout organisations and carry out all
their training and experience requirements in business itself. This provides them with a unique
insight into how their organisations operate. CIMA’s mission is to be the first choice for
employers in the qualification and development of management accountants. Young people
obtain the CIMA qualification and then membership for many reasons. Some want a career
in accountancy but do not just want to work with numbers. They look for management and
leadership roles where they can contribute to business performance. Others are already
managers in business but want to improve their skills in financially-based decision making.
CIMA people are financially qualified business leaders and are not limited to working in
accountancy practices and finance departments. They are active across a range of management
roles in retailing, manufacturing, property, energy and government services.
The decision making process
Effective strategic business decisions bring together the right resources for the right markets
at the right time. Timing is crucial. For example, Tesco developed its online ordering and
delivery service as internet shopping expanded. Virgin sold off its music stores as
downloading music became more popular. The quality of a company’s decision making helps
it gain an advantage over competitors. Business decisions must reflect an organisation’s
aims (its purpose), such as to maximise returns for its shareholders. They should also relate
to its objectives (its goals), such as to be the market leader in its field. To achieve its aims
and objectives, a business puts in place strategies. This approach applies regardless of the
size of the business.
Consider a local bakery that
operates a small café business.
The café is open from 9am to
4pm, Monday to Friday.
Competition from a nearby
supermarket and fast food
outlets is preventing the café
business from growing. What
action could the café take to
increase sales?
The key issue to identify is why
customers are choosing other
outlets. Is it because of
location, price or product
quality? Analysing a problem
of this kind needs a systematic
Improving strategic decision making
• Decision making process
• Levels of decision making
• Analysing accounts
• Performance indicators
Aims: the general end purposes
towards which an organisation
focuses its activities.
Objectives: the end purposes
that an organisation or individual
seeks to achieve.
Strategies: long-term business
plan of an organisation.
Feedback Recognition
of the problem
Choice Alternatives
A systematic
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Talking to customers about what they like, visiting other outlets to see the competition and
examining in-house data on costs, pricing and service could provide valuable information.
Based on this research, alternative courses of action might include cutting costs in order to
reduce prices or promoting the café in different ways. The business chooses actions based on
evidence in support of its objectives. The decision may be a hard one. As a last resort, the
bakery may need to exit the café market altogether if it cannot combat the competition and
increase sales. Monitoring the feedback from, or outcomes of, a decision allows the business
to know what is working and what is not, which leads to a new decision making cycle.
A rational decision making approach can help to reduce uncertainty. However, the external
environment of a business adds variable factors which can increase risk. For example,
suppose an engineering business needs new cost-saving technology to improve production
and make it competitive. Justifying this expenditure becomes more difficult in a recession.
However, what is the risk of not taking action? Will the business survive without the
technology? It is also important to balance risk against the likely return on investment. The
extent to which this happens may depend on the organisational culture. Some businesses
encourage risk taking; some are more risk-averse. Virgin reflects its owner, Richard Branson,
an entrepreneur who thrives on risk taking (both in business and in his personal life). The
Nationwide Building Society, which has a duty to safeguard its members’ money, adopts a
more cautious approach. High-performing organisations use the skills of their people to
ensure they make more effective decisions than poor ones.
Levels of decision making
Decisions are made at different levels in an organisation’s hierarchy:
• Strategic decisions are long-term in their impact. They affect and shape the direction
of the whole business. They are generally made by senior managers. The managers of the
bakery need to take a strategic decision about whether to remain in the café business.
Long-term forecasts of business turnover set against likely market conditions will help to
determine if it should close the café business.
• Tactical decisions help to implement the strategy. They are usually made by middle
management. For the café, a tactical decision would be whether to open earlier in the
morning or on Saturday to attract new customers. Managers would want research data on
likely customer numbers to help them decide if opening hours should be extended.
• Operational decisions relate to the day-to-day running of the business. They are
mainly routine and may be taken by middle or junior managers. For example, a simple
operational decision for the café would be whether to order more coffee for next week.
Stock and sales data will show when it needs to order more supplies.
As these examples show, decisions at all levels need data. A business creates a trail of data.
This includes data on sales, employee costs and payments. In a large company, such as Tesco,
millions of data items are created every day against thousands of cost and sales headings. This
data can provide a picture of trends, which the business can use in its forward planning.
Financial accountants use recorded data to prepare the accounting statements for a business.
Every company (large and small) has a duty to keep accounting records and must prepare
annual accounts that report on the performance and activities of the company during the
year. Financial accountants must ensure these accounts are accurate and prepared in
accordance with accounting rules and conventions.
Management accountants need to understand these formal accounting documents. However,
because their role involves the analysis and application of data, they must also be familiar
with business strategy and risk management. Management accountants use internal data (like
a balance sheet) and external data (such as market information) to assess effects on the
business and drive better informed decision making.
Analysing accounts
In practice the work of a management accountant is rather like that of a detective. The task is
to sift through evidence and to extract meaningful messages that will help managers make
effective business decisions. The starting point is often the basic accounting documents that
record the progress of any business.
External environment: factors
outside the business over which it
has little control.
Recession: a time near the
bottom of the business cycle when
demand is falling and businesses
sell less than they had planned to.
Strategic decisions: decisions
made to provide advantages for
an organisation and affecting it
Tactical decisions: decisions
based upon strategic policy
decisions, affecting shorter-term
issues within the organisation.
Operational decisions:
affecting the day-to-day running of
the business.
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There are two key documents:
• the income statement is an aggregated record of all sales and all corresponding
expenses over a given past period – typically a year
• the balance sheet explains how the business is currently using its resources and how
those uses have been financed. It ‘balances’ the assets employed (all long-term resources
in the business) against the capital employed (the long-term finance in the business).
These documents are closely related and need reading together. The balance sheet is a
snapshot of a business at one point in time. The income statement is dynamic and describes
the flow of money through the business over a period of time.
This example focuses on JJB Sports, one of the UK’s largest sports retailers. It shows how
management accountants were able to use information from the company’s accounting
documents to identify potential problem areas. JJB Sports was formed in 1971. The business
started out with just one shop. The company expanded rapidly and it was floated on the
London Stock Exchange in 1994. However, the business began to falter during 2007.
Financial data in isolation is not meaningful. To say that JJB Sports made a pre-tax profit of almost
£39 million in 2007 reveals little. By comparing data over time and by calculating financial ratios
a management accountant would identify a different picture. The data shows that the company’s
financial position weakened in some respects in 2008. Although sales remained fairly constant,
the income statements show that pre-tax profits fell from £38.5 million to £10.8 million. JJB
Sports’ return on capital employed also fell significantly. This is an important financial ratio,
as it is a measure of how well the company is exploiting the assets at its disposal. It is calculated
by expressing a company’s net (pre-tax) profit as a percentage of the capital employed.
This analysis suggested that, although JJB Sports was making sales, it was not getting value
from those sales. Management accountants can compare the financial performance with
other businesses in the retail and sports goods sectors for context.
Income statement: a statement
setting out sources of income for a
business e.g. sales revenue,
interest earned etc as well as
deductions for costs, interest paid
etc. The term income statement
has replaced profit and loss
account under IFRS.
Balance sheet: this is a
financial document that shows
what a business owns (assets) and
what it owes (liabilities) at a
particular moment in time.
Capital employed: the total
amount of capital (expressed in
money terms) used by the business
from all sources.
Return on capital employed
(ROCE): the return on all the
funds invested in the business
expressed as a % of that capital.
JJB Sports income statements 2007 and 2008
2007 £m 2008 £m
Sales revenue 810.3 811.7
Cost of goods sold 425.3 405.6
Gross profit 385.0 406.1
Overheads 346.0 394.8
Operating profit 39.0 11.3
Other income (0.5) (0.5)
Pre-tax profit 38.5 10.8
Tax 12.7 1.2
Profit after tax 25.8 9.6
JJB Sports balance sheets at years end 2007 and 2008
2007 2008
£m £m £m £m
Non-current assets 414.8 417.2
Current assets 358.0 372.3
Current liabilities (300.0) (301.6)
Net current assets 57.9 70.7
Assets employed 472.7 487.9
Loan capital 95.7 122.8
Share capital 181.2 183.1
Reserves 195.8 377.0 182.0 365.1
Capital employed 472.7 487.9
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They would analyse the data further to highlight those areas where JJB Sports managers
should take action. They would be concerned that:
• the reduced cost of goods sold in 2008 was not generating increased profits
• increased overheads were eating into potential profit.
Performance indicators
Key performance indicators (KPIs) are an important management tool and help to
monitor the achievement and progress towards targets. A well-made set of KPIs or metrics
enables a business to know if it is on the right track. Data used in this way can improve
efficiency (‘doing things right’) and effectiveness (‘doing the right things’). As management
accountants are familiar with the strategy for the whole business, they can work with
department managers to identify the appropriate measures for recording progress in each
area. For example, Tesco uses the ‘Tesco Steering Wheel’ as a tool to drive performance. This
states key performance indicators for people, finance, customers, operations and the
community. Every store has its own steering wheel and its own target KPIs. Quarterly results
are reported to head office. The table shows the company’s performance against two KPIs.
The carrier bag target has been easily achieved. The missed target on landfill avoidance will
trigger a new round of action for 2009 or a modified KPI if the target is found to be
unachievable. Using the feedback from the KPIs allows Tesco managers to make informed
decisions and adjust strategy if necessary.
CIMA is the employers’ choice when recruiting financially qualified business leaders. As CIMA
members are management accountants they have broad-ranging business and management
skills to complement their financial training. They are able to offer strategic and practical advice,
manage risk and make and support key decisions at all stages of the decision making process.
For example, at the problem recognition stage, they may be the first to detect an opportunity or
approaching threat. At the ideas stage, they can help to provide creative solutions.
Management accountants also consider qualitative performance indicators such as brand
reputation and customer satisfaction. They analyse external information, for example, about
competitors and they may benchmark performance against similar organisations to help
improve business efficiency. Management accountants have a far from ‘back room’ role. They
are much more likely to be key partners in shaping strategy and contributing to competitive
advantage in a business.
1. How is management accounting different from financial accounting?
2. What skills does a management accountant need?
3. Suggest ways in which a management accountant might contribute to a formal decision
making process.
4. How far do you think that financial analysis can enable business managers to make the
right decisions?
Key performance indicators:
Financial and non-financial
measures to monitor performance
across a range of activities within a
function, department or role.
Metrics: measurements.
Key performance indicator Performance
Blue = above target
Red = below target
Carrier bags Reduce carrier bags given out Saved around
by 25% over 2 years to 2008 1.3 billion bags –
over 25%
Landfill avoidance To divert 75% of waste from 70% of our waste
landfill was diverted
Adapted from Tesco plc Annual Report 2008
32184_CIMA:CIMA STUDY V7 22/6/09 15:10 Page 4


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