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Commercial Awareness - course outline

Course benefits:

This course prepares candidates to sit the examination for the Certificate in Commercial Awareness.

This certificate is concerned with the commercial and organisational knowledge required for business analysis work.

The syllabus is structured around the two key areas of Business Finance and Organisational Behaviour, and uses definitions, techniques and principles from the books specified in the recommended reading list.

Who should attend:

This course is aimed at Business Analysts who wish to gain the BCS Certificate in Commercial Awareness. Systems analysts and business users will also benefit from attending the course.


There are no specific pre-requisites for entry to the examination, however candidates should be suitably prepared and possess the appropriate skills and knowledge to fulfil the objectives.

What you will learn:

Holders of the BCS Certificate in Commercial Awareness should be able to:

  • Understand three techniques used to evaluate a financial case.
  • Understand costing and pricing.
  • Understand cash flow forecasting and budgeting.
  • Describe the contents of financial accounting documents.
  • Interpret financial accounts.
  • Explain specified business performance ratios.
  • Define the elements and usage of Porter's Five Forces Framework and Value Chain.
  • Define the elements and usage of the Boston Consulting Group's matrix.
  • Define the performance measures and usage of the Balanced Business Scorecard.
  • Define the elements of specified cultural analysis approaches.
  • Explain the different management structures and their characteristics.
  • Define the different architectures that may be adopted by organisations.

What you will cover:

Part 1: Business Finance

  1. Evaluating a Financial Case
    1. Purpose of Building a Financial Case
    2. Techniques used for evaluating a Financial Case
      • Payback
        1. Calculation
        2. Payback and Risk
        3. Limitations of Payback
      • Discounted Cash Flow / Net Present Value
        1. Purpose
        2. Calculation
        3. The NPV Decision Rule
      • Internal Rate of Return
        1. How to derive IRR
        2. How IRR is used
        3. The IRR Decision Rule
  2. Budgeting, Costing and Pricing
    1. Budgets and Departmentalised Businesses
      • The purpose of budgets
      • Reasons for departmentalisation
      • Cost centres and profit centres
    2. Cash Flow and Cash Management
      • Cash flow forecasting
      • Use of cash flow in decision making
      • Cash Flow and Profit
    3. Costing and Pricing
      • Fixed and Variable costs
      • Direct and Indirect costs
      • Break even and Contribution Analysis
  3. Financial Reporting and Analysis
    1. Statement of Financial Position (Balance Sheet)
      • Purpose and Structure
      • The nature, purpose and types of Capital
      • Current and non-current liabilities
      • Current and non-current assets
    2. Income and Expenditure (Income Statement, Profit and Loss Account)
      • The importance of Operating Profit
      • Revenue (turnover)
      • Cost of Sales
      • Administrative Expenses
      • Profit after Tax
    3. Statement of Cash Flows (Cash Flow Statement)
    4. Ratios (formulae and interpretation)
      • Profitability Ratios: Operating Margin and Return on Capital Employed ratios
      • Liquidity (Cash Management) Ratios : Current and Acid Test ratios
      • Gearing (Leverage) Ratio: Debt/Equity Ratio

    Part 2: Organisational Behaviour

  4. Market analysis and competitive advantage
    1. Analysing the business domain - Porter's Five Forces Analysis
    2. Analysing the portfolio - Boston Box
    3. Delivering value - Porter's Value Chain
  5. Organisational behaviour and culture
    1. What is organisational behaviour?
    2. Organisational effectiveness and the Balanced Scorecard
    3. Understanding and analysing culture
      • Organisational Cultural Types (Deal and Kennedy; Handy)
      • International Cultures (Hofstede)
      • The Cultural Web
  6. Group formation
    1. Groups and group dynamics
    2. Formal and informal groups
      • Groups and group tasks
      • Characteristics of formal groups
      • Homan's theory of group formation
      • Tuckman and Jensen's theory of group development
      • Characteristics of informal groups
      • Social networks
  7. Principles of organisational structure
    1. Organisation structuring
      • Elements of organisation structure
      • The six Structure Levels
      • The Leavitt Diamond
    2. Types of jobs
      • Work specialisation
      • Flat and tall hierarchies
      • Span of control
    3. Line, staff and functional relationships
    4. Formalisation of rules and procedures
    5. Centralisation v decentralisation
      • Advantages
      • Disadvantages
  8. Operating models
    1. Organisation structures and their characteristics
      • Functional
      • Divisional - product or service/ geography/ customer
      • Matrix
      • Team-based - cross functional/ project
    2. Organisational boundaries
      • Boundaryless organisations
      • Outsourcing
      • Offshoring
      • Hollow organisation structures
      • Modular organisation structures
      • Virtual organisations
      • Collaborations and strategic alliances

How you will learn:

The course comprises short and focused lecture sessions with exercises to practise appropriate techniques. Discussion of the problems and issues experienced by attendees will be encouraged.

The format for the examination is a closed book one hour multiple-choice examination. The examination contains 40 questions and candidates must answer at least 65% (26/40) of thequestions correctly in order to be awarded a pass.

Candidates who are awarded a pass for the examination are awarded the BCS Certificate in Commercial Awareness.