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Will robots change the paradigm of standard cost analysis?

Lately we are talking a lot about how in a near future the intensive introduction of technology in the workplace will result in the elimination of jobs that will be replaced by robots or various types of automation. There are many studies that differ in the degree of this impact, but according to the OECD (just to mention one), the percentage of jobs with a high risk of automation, and therefore of being eliminated, goes from 6 to 12% among the main developed countries. It is not very clear the time horizon in which this change (disruptive, they call it) will occur, although some speak of the next 10 or 20 years.

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Analysis with bridges

golden-gate-bridge-388917_1920The technique of bridges is a study tool which is a step beyond the traditional horizontal analysis. It can be said that the latter is static, as it generates a data (sometimes appears as a percentage) but provides no further information. For its part, the analysis with bridges aims not only to display a value, but also explain it. Hence, precisely its name is a bridge between two data.
This is, therefore, an examination with great potential and that requires knowledge or the investigation of the origin of variations or deviations. Not enough to generate a value, but must give the reason or cause.
Let’s take a simple example. Suppose the budget of the Sales Department of a company for the year X and the actual expenditure for that year.
First, we perform the classic analysis.
a horizontal english
The analysis with bridges explains the variations.
a bridges english
As seen in the example, bridges technique gives more information and reconciles data in a simple manner. It pretends to be very visual and schematic, so that we do not need narrative explanations.
The potential of analysis with bridges is high and has the following applications, among others:
It compares different types of settings: allows you to compare the actual data with a budget for the same period; or the actual data with several consecutive periods; or the difference between various budgets …
It analyzes one or more data at once: we can focus on the reasons for a single value such as sales, or make it wider and jointly analyze variations on sales, gross margin and profit. This second option is very rich (and appreciated by managers) and provides at a glance the impact of the mix, volume, price, overhead …
It is applicable to different areas: although its origin is linked to the study of financial indicators can be used to address differences in all kinds of magnitudes: departmental expenses, personnel expenses, number of employees, customer complaints …

Open learning: my edX experience

Toronto University CertificateSome months ago, I wrote a post about a variety of free learning opportunities which were available on the net. I talked about sites where we can find courses imparted by leading universities or business schools.

I decided that I couldn’t write about this subject if I didn’t know in-depth. That is the reason why I decided to register for an edX course. In this entry, I will explain my experience.

The election

At the beginning of October I dived into the web to find an attracting course. Since my career is related to Finance, I was looking for a course in that area; you know…accounting, cash management and that type of stuff. However, I didn’t find any. Having this problem of availability, I chose the one I saw was something to do with business management.  I joined “behavioral economics in action”, a training in the area of choice architecture and decision making process.

The course

The program, which was offered by the University of Toronto, started on October 14th and had a length of six weeks. Each week was divided in sections and each section in units. The units could take the form of lecture videos (main teaching tool), texts (supporting documents) or practice quizzes (for testing the topic comprehension).

The length of the videos was appropriate (between 5 and 15 minutes) and they were based on the traditional teaching system; that is: a teacher explaining the topic.  Although I didn’t always agree, I found the explanations interesting and sometimes funny. The transcript of the videos was available, which helped to check some concepts I didn’t understand, or to take notes and make summaries.

There was something relevant regarding the progress of the course: the sections of each week were only available from the beginning of that week. For example, at the beginning of week 2, only the sections of week 1 and week 2 were available, but not the ones of the remaining weeks. For me this was good, because I organized my time to the sections of each week.

The examination

Here is where I have my main doubts. The examination was composed by two short exams (each represented the 20% of the final grade), a self assessed reflection (20%) and the design of a short project (40%) assessed by other students taking part in the course.

While the exams were ok, I don’t see the sense of self assessing. On the other hand, although there were some instructions to assess others’ projects, I noticed that mine was rated very kindly. I understand that it is difficult to find a system to evaluate all students’ works (more than 200, in this case), but maybe the process somehow should be improved.

 After finishing all the tests and passing them (minimum score of 60%), a certificate like the one attached to this post was sent.

Conclusions

This first experience was positive. I selected a course about a subject I didn’t know that existed, which I found more than interesting. The length of the course and the lectures were correct. I missed a better way to clearly fix the main concepts. However, there were many supporting texts to help and to deepen.

It is something that I would recommend. But, please, take into account that like all the teaching systems this has its limits. On the other hand, there are other attracting places which also offer good courses, such as Coursera.

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