Understanding Sensitivity Analysis and How It Can Help With Financial Decisions


Sensitivity analysis is a process used to make predictions about the changes in the results of a decision when conditions of the original data change. It is the process of establishing ranges within the data to determine existing relationships and predicting outcomes under changing conditions.

when making financial decisions, it is an important tool used to pause and analyse the risks versus rewards of proposed decisions. Sensitivity analysis can help you systematically investigate what happens if various assumptions and variables have a different value than expected.

Overview of Financial Decision Making Process

Understanding the process of financial decision making will help you to apply sensitivity analysis accurately. Generally, the process of financial decision making is composed of the following steps:

  • Define the decision
  • Collect data
  • Analyse data
  • Choose among alternatives
  • Evaluate the consequences

What Kind of Financial Decisions Can be Improved with Sensitivity Analysis?

Sensitivity analysis is a method used to evaluate how varying one or more variables may impact the outcome of a given decision. Its goal is to help identify options that are best-suited for specific business goals, while at the same time minimizing risk. By performing sensitivity analysis, businesses and investors can more accurately assess the potential benefits and drawbacks of their decisions. As such, it can be effectively used to improve several important financial decisions.

Investment Decisions

Sensitivity analysis can be especially helpful when making investment decisions. By varying different factors such as market forces and interest rates, investors can get a far better understanding of the risks and rewards associated with their investment strategy. Sensitivity analysis provides investors with an invaluable tool to help them identify whether their investments could prove successful in the long-term or if they should choose different strategies.

Major Purchases

When making major purchases such as buying a new home or car, sensitivity analysis can be used to measure the affordability of the purchase. By taking into account different scenarios such as fluctuating interest rates, income levels, and down payments, one can make an informed decision about whether or not the purchase is really worth it. This is especially important when committing to long-term purchases that could encumber finances for many years to come.

Operating Decisions

Equally as important as investment and purchase decisions are operating decisions. Operating decisions often have long-term implications, so sensitivity analysis should be performed to identify the costs, benefits, and risks associated with each option. By performing sensitivity analysis, businesses can evaluate the potential effect of their decisions and make informed choices that can help save money and maximize profits in the long-run.

Types of Sensitivity Analysis

Sensitivity analysis is a powerful tool that can help businesses of all sizes to analyze the impact of different scenarios and make informed financial decisions. It can also help to identify and decrease the risks associated with any proposed endeavor. Typically, sensitivity analysis is used to determine how changes in different variables can affect the outcome of a certain project.

One-way Sensitivity Analysis

One-way sensitivity analysis is the simplest form of sensitivity analysis and is used to determine the impact a single variable has on the outcome of a particular project. In this type of analysis, different values are applied to the chosen variable to see how they impact the project's output. This is done by varying the value of the chosen variable and keeping all other variables constant.

Two-way Sensitivity Analysis

Two-way sensitivity analysis is an more complex form of sensitivity analysis than one-way. In this type of analysis, two variables are chosen and values are assigned to both to see how they affect the outcome of a project. Both the chosen variables are tested to see how the value changes when one is increased or decreased while the other remains constant.

Scenario Analysis

Scenario analysis is the most comprehensive form of sensitivity analysis. This involves testing different scenarios and evaluating the outcomes of each one. This type of analysis tests different variations of the input variables to determine how they affect the project's output. It allows businesses to factor in different potential risks and gain insight into which scenarios are the most beneficial for a certain project.

Benefits of Using Sensitivity Analysis

Sensitivity Analysis is a powerful tool to support decision making in the realm of finance. With its capabilities, businesses of all sizes and industries can benefit from utilizing sensitivity analysis to help ensure they make sound financial decisions.

Identify Risk

One of the primary advantages of sensitivity analysis is its ability to identify areas of potential risk. By exploring how different variables can affect a financial outcome, businesses can obtain a better understanding of how decisions and changes may affect their current and future performance. With a clear picture of the risks involved, businesses can make cleaner and better-informed decisions.

Optimize Financial Decision Making

In addition to identifying areas of risk, sensitivity analysis can also help optimize financial decision making. By exploring the effects that different variables can have on a scenario, businesses can better plan for possible outcomes and make decisions with more confidence. With the ability to quickly adjust parameters and run different scenarios, sensitivity analysis makes it easier to identify and capitalize on opportunities.

Facilitate Cash Flow Planning

Finally, sensitivity analysis can also be used to facilitate cash flow planning. By uncovering potential changes in cash flow caused by different variables, businesses can better plan for future capital investments and ensure that their money is being used in the most effective ways possible. With the ability to analyze different scenarios and quickly respond, sensitivity analysis can help businesses make better-informed decisions when allocating resources.

Steps to Use Sensitivity Analysis

Sensitivity analysis is a powerful tool used to evaluate the accuracy of input assumptions for a model or to test the sensitivity of a model's results to changes in those assumptions. This process can be used to help make better financial decisions. Below are the steps in utilizing this effective analysis.

Establish Baseline Assumptions

The first step to performing a sensitivity analysis is establishing baseline assumptions. This includes identifying the key input variables to review. These variables are typically based on the expected outcome, such as cash flows and profit margins. Once the variables have been chosen, they need to be assigned a baseline value. For example, if examining the impact of changes in the sales price of a product, the baseline assumption might be the current selling price.

Measure the Sensitivity of Any Variable

The second step is to measure the sensitivity of any variable. This involves determining how much any changes in the assumptions have on the outcome of the model. To do this, you can use formula functions to compare the results of different scenarios. For example, create a formula to see how varying the sales price would affect the total profit.

Analyze the Range of Results

The final step of using sensitivity analysis is to analyze the range of results. This requires interpreting the output from the different scenarios. Compare the data and draw conclusions. If a variable appears to have a significant impact on the outcome, further investigations can be made to further understand why and to determine the best course of action.

Limitations of Sensitivity Analysis

One of the key drawbacks to using sensitivity analysis to aid in making financial decisions is that it is subject to estimation errors. This means that the values used to generate results of the sensitivity analysis may be inaccurate. This could result in inaccuracies regarding the potential outcomes of different scenarios. As such, sensitivity analysis should be viewed as a tool to inform decision making rather than the sole indicator for making financial decisions.

Another limitation of the sensitivity analysis approach is that the results obtained are dependent on the assumptions that are used to generate the results. If any of the assumptions used in the analysis processes are incorrect or inaccurate, then the accuracy of the results may be compromised. It is therefore important to ensure that the estimates and assumptions used in the analysis process are accurate and reflect the financial realities of the situation being examined.

Finally, it is important to note that sensitivity analysis is not a tool to suggest whether a financial decision is good or bad; its real purpose is to provide insight into how sensitive the decision-making process is to changes in values and assumptions. As such, it should only be used as a guide for decision making and not as the only indicator for making financial decisions.


Sensitivity analysis is a powerful tool for making better financial decisions in an uncertain environment. It involves analyzing potential outcomes of a decision by assessing the sensitivity of the outcome to changes in the underlying variables as uncertainty evolves. This helps to understand both the risks and opportunities associated with a financial decision.

By modelling scenarios and understanding how the outcomes change when some assumptions are modified, managers can gain a better understanding of the risks and rewards of their decisions and make better financial decisions. Some of the major benefits of using sensitivity analysis include: being able to assess a variety of potential outcomes, reducing risk by understanding the decision’s sensitivity to external factors, better identifying areas of vulnerability and opportunities arising from different events, and having greater insight into the effects of major decisions.

However, it is also important to note that sensitivity analysis is not without its limitations. It is only as accurate as the assumptions used in the models, and can be difficult to explain to stakeholders who do not have a detailed understanding of the technique. In addition, the analysis does not always provide a complete picture and may not be able to account for all potential risks.

Overall, sensitivity analysis is an invaluable tool for helping financial decision makers understand the associated risks and rewards, and make better decisions when faced with an uncertain environment.

Expert-built startup financial model templates

1000+ Excel financial model templates for your business plan

Leave a comment

Comments have to be approved before showing up