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7.9 Be Aware of Qualitative Factors

Learning Objective

  1. Evaluate qualitative factors when using differential analysis.

Question: This chapter has focused on using relevant revenue and cost information to perform differential analysis. Using these quantitative factors to make decisions allows managers to support decisions with measurable data. For example, the idea of outsourcing production of wakeboards at Best Boards, Inc., presented at the beginning of the chapter, was rejected because it was more costly to outsource production of the boards than to produce them internally. Although using quantitative factors for decision making is important, management must also consider qualitative factors. How might the consideration of qualitative factors improve decisions made by managers?


Answer: Qualitative factors may outweigh the quantitative factors in making a decision. For example, assume management at Best Boards, Inc., believes there will be a decline in the market for wakeboards after next year. Outsourcing production makes it easier to quickly reduce costs in the face of a downturn by simply ordering fewer wakeboards from the supplier. Continuing to build the boards internally takes away this flexibility. The significant fixed costs often associated with manufacturing firms are difficult to reduce in the short run if production declines. Thus the qualitative factor of being able to reduce manufacturing costs quickly by outsourcing production may outweigh the quantitative factors shown in Figure 7.3 "Summary of Differential Analysis for Best Boards, Inc." and Figure 7.4 "Product Line Decision".


Question: What if the quantitative differential analysis for Best Boards had a different result, in that it showed the company should outsource? What qualitative factors should management consider before implementing this decision?


Answer: Management must consider whether product quality would remain the same. Financial stability of the producer must be considered as well. It does no good to outsource production and eliminate production facilities and employees if the producer being used suddenly shuts down. Also, employee morale tends to slide if employees in one segment of a company are fired. This can lead to an unhappy and inefficient workforce in other areas of the company, causing costs to rise. These are just a few of the qualitative factors that must be weighed against quantitative factors when performing differential analysis.

Key Takeaway

  • Although accountants are responsible for providing relevant and objective financial information to help managers make decisions, qualitative factors also play a significant role in the decision-making process.

Review Problem 7.9

What qualitative factors should management consider when deciding whether to outsource production or keep production within the company?

Solution to Review Problem 7.9

The qualitative factors that management should consider when deciding whether to outsource production include the following:

  • Will the quality of the products remain the same?
  • Will shutting down the manufacturing facility have a negative impact on the morale of remaining employees?
  • Is the producer that will be making the product financially stable and reliable?