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The financial analysis of projects helps determine whether they are likely to be profitable and advisable as investments. There are many steps involved in the financial analysis of projects, including data gathering, cost-benefit analysis, forecasting, and results interpretation. Economic analysis may also be included in this process, which will present a broader idea of the impact of projects on an economy.
The first step in the financial analysis of projects usually involves a period of research and project financial data accumulation. If the analysis will focus on a certain product, such as a particular soft drink, analysts will need to gather historical data about sales, costs, and competitive performance of the soft drink. Balance, cash flow, and equity statements for the project may also need to be gathered. These components are the backbone on which a financial analysis is built; it is important to have as many accurate and comprehensive financial records as possible to ensure an effective analysis.
Examining costs versus revenues is a critical part of the financial analysis of projects. Costs that may be examined include raw materials, manufacturing costs, labor expenses, and the costs of packaging, shipping, and marketing a product or other project. These costs are balanced against the revenues brought in through sales, interest, and other sources of profit. If financial analysis determines that a project costs far more than it returns, it may be discontinued or revised in order to minimize losses. Determining cost-benefit levels will have an important impact on the future of nearly any type of project.
Forecasting is often performed to help determine the future performance of a project. Some projects, such as a new business or product line, may need a few years to get off the ground. As long as forecasting can show a steady increase toward profitability or other desirable goals, the project may remain a worthwhile investment. Forecasting typically involves an examination of historical data, sales trends, competitor data, and other similar statistics. Financial analysts or forecasting software is frequently employed to ensure accurate permutations and calculations.
Looking at the raw data from the financial analysis of projects may not always give a clear idea of the profitability and potential involved. Results frequently need to be interpreted by market or financial experts in order to explain what the numbers really mean. For instance, a website in its second year may not yet be profitable, but the presence of favorable factors, such as a strong monthly growth rate of visitors, may still make it a viable venture. Proper interpretation can also incorporate forecasting into the financial analysis, so that the future potential of projects is carefully examined and explained.