Strategic objective costing: Supporting the balanced scorecard

The Balanced Scorecard (BSC) is a highly regarded performance management and strategy formulation framework used by thousands of organizations globally. The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) has adapted the BSC in a way to meet the specific needs of its knowledge-based organisation.

Developed by Alasdair Macnab, FCMA, CGMA, Director of corporate systems at the RBGE, the system is known as strategic objective costing. Building upon earlier research, Dr. Macnab has taken the costing system to a greater level of granularity, analyses problems with conventional costing systems, explores the level of effort to adopt the system and discusses how strategic objective costing can create value for the organization and its stakeholders.

The research concluded that the Balanced Scorecard was a suitable framework for strategy formulation and execution but could only reach its full potential if sufficient adaptation of the perspectives were made to enable the organisational strategies to be catered for in a logical and meaningful manner for the users of the framework. The power of the Balanced Scorecard was extended by including the principal external stakeholder (in this case Scottish Government) as a perspective on the scorecard thereby allowing the RBGE to position itself in the most advantageous position in relation to its principal funder to secure the best possible support.

Strategic Objective Costing not only provides data on the cost of activities and objectives it also can be traced back to the cost centres due to the coding systems in place thereby permitting Strategic Objective Budgeting to occur. This provides a better view of what the resources of the organisation are expected to contribute to and match outputs (KPIs) to inputs (staff effort and costs). The report also posits the idea that this adapted framework and costing model could be used to organise collaborating bodies in a more effective manner whether they be striving to contribute to a common strategy such as botanic gardens or different types of bodies, such as public sector organisations, contributing to governmental goals.

This form of management accounting is relatively cheap to install (in cost terms) and maintain and provides very powerful information to management on the deployment of their resources. It is, therefore, a valuable addition to the arsenal of management accounting techniques available to practitioners.

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