November 2021 Update: Check out the latest feature updates that expand on the viability and use cases for Live Forecast.
A financial forecast serves as a roadmap in your client advisory relationship. A strong forecast is built by analyzing past results, considering current trends, and outlining a path forward to meet the goals of the business.
But even the strongest forecast won’t always be 100% accurate. Unexpected costs, external market factors, and unforeseen challenges can all lead to discrepancies between your predicted and actual results. The further into the future you look, the larger that gap can become.
With a static forecast, you’re forced to either live with these discrepancies or manually adjust your completed months in your forecast to match to actuals. The latter process is tedious and time-consuming. What you really need is something that is dynamic. A forecast that will stay up to date as the business changes and adapts.
Introducing Live Forecast
LivePlan’s newest feature, Live Forecast, gives you just that: a one-click button that displays actual results for completed periods right into your forecasted Profit and Loss statement.
Now, your monthly process of “truing up” takes only a few seconds. Your forecast becomes a living roadmap — one that adjusts with your business, allowing you to understand your future not just where you thought you’d be by now, but where you actually are.
How to use Live Forecast
To activate this feature, you’ll first need to ensure that you have accounting data in your Dashboard. This can be accomplished through a direct connection with QuickBooks or Xero, or by manually entering your accounting data in the Dashboard.
Once your accounting data is in LivePlan, navigate to your Forecast and select the profit and loss statement. At the top right, you should now see a grey Live Forecast button. Select this to turn Live Forecast on. The button will turn green to notify that Live Forecast is now active.
To revert back to your unadjusted forecast data, simply select the Live Forecast button again. It will turn back to grey to display that the feature is no longer active.
Live Forecast provides additional insights
With Live Forecast active, right away you’ll notice a few changes:
- Past months now display an additional ‘Actual’ column
- Grey + icons, allowing you to expand columns for past months
- A cash bar displaying your end of month cash balance
Your profit and loss statement now overlays actual results for completed months. Selecting the + icon next to a completed month will allow you to expand that month to display what you originally forecasted, as well as the percentage discrepancy against actuals.
Additionally, you can now easily see your running cash balance via the cash bar displayed below your profit and loss statement. This allows you to quickly know your current cash position, while still seeing how future forecasted months will impact this actual cash balance.
Forecast and actual data combined
For some future periods (year-end balance, for example) LivePlan will use a mixed result. This is calculated by combining actuals for past months and forecasted values for future months. You’ll see a green graph icon next to any mixed result. Future cash balance, for example, will be calculated by taking the closing cash balance for your most recently completed month and then adding on top of that your forecasted cash flow for future months.
Note that Live Forecast will not modify or delete any of your forecast data. You can toggle it off at any time by just selecting the Live Forecast icon again.
Your new streamlined month-end process
Your month-end review process can now start in your Forecast. Once you’ve closed out a month, turn Live Forecast on to quickly identify a few results:
- Difference between forecast and actuals for revenue, costs, and expenses
- Updated cash balance
- Impact of your projected year-end totals based on most recent actuals
For example, you can identify if your client was able to meet their sales goals for prior months. If they did not, you can see how that discrepancy will impact their year-end sales goals. You can also quickly see their current cash balance, and see how their forecasted cash flow will impact that cash balance.
Your Dashboard will still allow you to see additional reports and identify other discrepancies. For example, if you notice your actual cash balance is quite a ways off from your forecast cash balance, you can review the cash flow statement in your Dashboard to identify where that discrepancy may have come from.
Review your results through both the Live Forecast and the Dashboard to look for gaps and trends, and prepare questions to address with your clients to help identify and discuss the drivers behind those gaps. Remember: you don’t necessarily need to have the answers right away. Thoughtful questions will help drive conversation and decision making.
The true potential of Live Forecast will come when you make adjustments to your forecast. Now you can just focus on making changes to future months for revenue, costs, and expenses. No longer do you need to go through, item by item, and “true-up” prior months by manually adjusting them to match actuals. Remember that you can easily change your revenue, costs, and expenses in the forecasted profit and loss just by selecting the name of the item you wish to edit in blue.
Once you make those adjustments, LivePlan will display the impact of those changes for your projected profit and loss and your projected cash balance using your last month’s actual closing figures. This allows you to quickly and easily update your forecast to ensure you always have an accurate roadmap for your client.
Live Forecast feature update log
We truly believe in how powerful financial forecasting can be for small business success. This is why Live Forecast was designed to evolve over time. Check out the latest updates to the Live Forecast feature.
Expanded Live Forecast view
LivePlan’s new user interface introduces an expanded forecasting view when using Live Forecast. You will now see more monthly columns of data in one adaptive view. You can even turn on or off which months utilize the Live Forecast results, creating even more accurate cash and profit projections to enhance your advising capacity. This is just the first step in making your Live Forecast more useful and easier to review.
Past month Live Forecast toggle — November 2021
You can turn on or off the months that use Live Forecast actual results, creating even more accurate cash and profit projections.
Printable forecast statements — November 2021
Sometimes you just need to print! Now you can print the Live Forecast version of your Profit and Loss Statement. This is a critical report for showing current and future profit and cash together in one view. This further extends how you can leverage Live Forecast to fit your client’s needs.
Provide better client support
Live Forecast is one more step in enhancing your ability to better support your clients with LivePlan for Strategic Advising. We hope that this new forecasting feature will streamline your ability to update and analyze forecasts, and allow you to help your clients make quick and confident strategic decisions for their business.
For current LivePlan Strategic Advisors, as always, email firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know how this new feature is working for you. Our team is hard at work on continued evolution of LivePlan’s forecasting for better business management.
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