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How Forecasting Helps Clients See the Financial Future of Their Business
Posted on 20th June 2016 in Forecasting
Written by Amy Harris
Without adequate forecasting, Business Owners are forced to run their business blind to the road ahead.
Financial reporting is a fundamental part of the accountant/client relationship.
Business owners and their management teams expect an accountant to provide regular financial reporting, generally as part of a monthly cycle of management information that provides the key numbers needed for informed decision-making.
But too much financial reporting stems from historic accounts and transactional data from the past. This is reporting based on numbers that look backward at the road already travelled, not forward to the business’s future.
And that’s why building forward-looking forecasting and data extrapolation into your reporting is vital if your firm is going to deliver genuinely insightful business advice.
The historic view
The nature of accounting has changed irrecoverably over the past decade. Online accounting software has revolutionised the technology behind most practice systems. And, in turn, this evolution in software has changed the methodology that accountants apply to financial reporting.
Traditionally, delivering ‘management accounts’ to end clients meant producing reams and reams of hard-copy printouts, filled with numbers and data – numbers that generally meant very little to the business owner.
Accountants became stuck in a short-termist view of their role, becoming content to supply the numbers and seeing that as the end of their role. But the impetus for a business hiring an accountant has changed…
Modern, ambitious entrepreneurs and business owners don’t want an accountant that merely delivers cold, dry numbers. What these tech-savvy businesses want is a trusted adviser who can help them analyse and interpret this data – and then provide the meaningful advice they need to change the future path of their enterprise.
The future view
This shift from historic accounts to future business advice underpins how the accountant’s role has evolved. And changing your firm’s focus during client conversations will be crucial to the practice’s long-term success.
The depth of the relationship you build with your portfolio of clients has to change. Businesses have an expectation that their advisers are ‘in it for the long game’ now, and that your firm will become an invaluable element of the management team. That means increased contact points, deeper understanding of the business’s underlying model and a working relationship that’s far more interactive and proactive.
In short, your role is now to review, analyse and safeguard the long-term future of your client’s business.
The forecasting power of data and metrics
How, then, do you start producing the kind of reporting that can deliver the forward-looking business information your clients require?
The answer lies in forecasting, and in the new breed of cloud solutions that have the number-crunching capabilities needed to produce such forecasts.
Cloud accounting software has changed the game significantly. Businesses that use cloud accounting are already habitually recording a huge amount of data relating to their financial transactions. Sales, overheads, payroll spend and a myriad of other items are all automatically being recorded and saved in the cloud. And that data is a valuable pool of potential insights just waiting to be sorted, sifted and revealed.
By understanding your client’s business, and highlighting the important key performance indicators (KPIs), you can customise their coding and Chart of Accounts to record the right metrics and the right cost pools. And armed with this pre-coded data, your forecasting solution is then able to produce incredibly detailed projections, based on prior actuals.
If the client wants a forecast of spending on raw materials over the next six months, you can provide that. If they need an estimate of potential cash flow over the coming year, you can provide that as well.
To break it down to its simplest form:
Data + time + flexible forecasting software + accountant = future advice for clients.
Visualising your projections in new ways
Your forecasting may be based in data and dry numbers, but it doesn’t mean you have to present the end results in a numerical format.
Our business reporting and forecasting solution, FUTRLI, takes a very different approach to how forecasting is presented. We understand that many entrepreneurs and business owners require reporting that takes a more visual approach to management information.
With FUTRLI, the basis for the forecasting is pulled directly from the client’s accounting software, but the final report is a mix of visually engaging charts, graphs and graphical elements – all designed to bring the forecast to life.
A cash flow projection can be a colourful, 3D bar chart, or an insightful chart that maps out your cash position for each of the next 12 months. It’s customisable, it’s flexible and it helps clients to see the underlying patterns in their financial data.
How FUTRLI takes the pain out of forecasting
If your firm is looking to evolve its forecasting and reporting capabilities then FUTRLI has the tools you need to move your practice focus from historic accounts to forward-thinking business advice.
Provide seamless integration with all the leading online accounting platforms to your clients, and simplify the process of creating customised reporting. Set up ‘Boards’ for any area of your client’s business – whether it’s sales figures, production costs or depreciation of equipment – and track those KPIs over time and into the future.
This all-in-one reporting and forecasting gives your firm the tools it needs to evolve from historic accountant to forward-facing business adviser.