Cost accounting information lets you assess the true costs, including indirect and hidden costs, of business decisions in terms of materials and human resources. With a true estimate, you can determine the profitability and possible dollar risk of any proposed alternative and arrive at the best course to take. If your company is small to mid-sized, you may choose to assess expenditures through basic cost-based bookkeeping or a cost accountant. Larger companies may opt for cost accounting software.
There are typically 4 approaches to cost accounting: standardized cost accounting, activity-based costing, throughput accounting and marginal costing. Each approach has control variables against over- or underestimations and was established over time as modern company processes and expenditures became more complex. Cost correction is done through a variance analysis, which compares actual costs to standard costs for components such as material and labor costs.
Choose among various cost-based accounting solutions to better estimate and plan your business decisions:
1. Find a bookkeeper or accountant with experience in cost accounting.
2. Get comprehensive cost accounting software.
3. Research information about cost-based accounting.
Find an expert in cost accountingRetaining the service of a cost accounting expert is one option to help assess actual costs that will allow you to make profitable business decisions. Find either a certified public accountant or certified bookkeeper through referral services or associations. As with any professional whose services you retain, be sure to get references to guarantee competency.
Buy cost accounting software that supports the various accounting methodsGood cost accounting software provides you with alternative methodologies. Multiple options offer flexibility and can maximize profitability.
Educate yourself and your staff about cost-accountingTake advantage of online tutorials and seminars to educate you and your staff about cost accounting methods. Then decide which methods work well with your business accounting needs.
Harvard Business Publishing provides an online tutorial introducing you to cost accounting systems. The tutorial includes information about cost system designs and their variations; concepts about direct and indirect costs; and how costs are assigned. You can enroll online. Another online resource is Train Up.com's cost accounting decisions training class that explains the basics of cost accounting to business managers.
- If you choose to provide information about cost-accounting to employees in house, consider full online courses (not just tutorials). Some offer certification as well.