What is Activity-Based Budgeting (ABB)?

Activity-based budgeting (ABB) is a system that records, researches, and analyzes activities that lead to costs for a company. Every activity in an organization that incurs a cost is scrutinized for potential ways to create efficiencies. Budgets are then developed based on these results.

Activity-based budgeting (ABB) is more rigorous than traditional budgeting processes, which tend to merely adjust previous budgets to account for inflation or business development.

Key Takeaways

  • Activity-based budgeting (ABB) is a method of budgeting where activities that incur costs are recorded, analyzed and researched.
  • It is more rigorous than traditional budgeting processes, which tend to merely adjust previous budgets to account for inflation or business development.
  • Using activity-based budgeting (ABB) can help companies to reduce costs and, as a result, squeeze more profits from sales.
  • This method is particularly useful for newer companies and firms undergoing material changes.

How Activity-Based Budgeting (ABB) Works

Keeping costs to a minimum is a crucial part of business management. When done effectively and not too excessively, companies should be able to maintain and keep growing their revenues, while squeezing out higher profits from them.

Using activity-based budgeting (ABB) can help companies to reduce the activity levels required to generate sales. Eliminating unnecessary costs should boost profitability.

The activity-based budgeting (ABB) process is broken down into three steps.

  1. Identify relevant activities. These cost drivers are the items responsible for incurring revenue or expenses for the company.
  2. Determine the number of units related to each activity. This number is the baseline for calculations.
  3. Delineate the cost per unit of activity and multiply that result by the activity level.

Activity-Based Budgeting (ABB) Vs. Traditional Budgeting Processes

Activity-based budgeting (ABB) is an alternative budgeting practice. Traditional methods are more simplistic, adjusting prior period budgets to account for inflation or revenue growth. Rather than using past budgets to calculate how much a firm will spend in the current year, activity-based budgeting (ABB) digs deeper.

Activity-based budgeting (ABB) is not necessary for all companies. For example, established firms that experience minimal change typically find that applying a flat rate to data from the previous year to reflect business growth and inflation is sufficient.

In contrast, newer companies without access to historical budgeting information cannot consider this an option. Activity-based budgeting (ABB) is also likely to be implemented by firms undergoing material changes, such as those with new subsidiaries, significant customers, business locations, or products. In these types of cases, historical information may no longer be a useful basis for future budgeting.

Example of Activity-Based Budgeting

Company A anticipates receiving 50,000 sales orders in the upcoming year, with each single order costing $2 to process. Therefore, the activity-based budget (ABB) for the expenses relating to processing sales orders for the upcoming year is $100,000 ($50,000 * $2). 

This figure may be compared to a traditional approach to budgeting. If last year’s budget called for $80,000 of sales order processing expenses and sales were expected to grow 10%, only $88,000 ($80,000 + ($80,000 * 10%)) is budgeted.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Activity-Based Budgeting

Activity-based budgeting (ABB) systems allow for more control over the budgeting process. Revenue and expense planning occurs at a precise level that provides useful details regarding projections. ABB allows for management to have increased control over the budgeting process and to align the budget with overall company goals.

Unfortunately, these benefits come at a cost. Activity-based budgeting (ABB) is more expensive to implement and maintain than traditional budgeting techniques and more time consuming as well. Moreover, ABB systems need additional assumptions and insight from management, which can, on occasion, result in potential budgeting inaccuracies.