In a rapidly changing world, the value of collaborating flexibly and being able to adjust course quickly can’t be underestimated.
An organisation’s agility relies on the ability of operational systems and processes to flex rapidly in response to new information. However, building this into financial systems, which can often be static and slow to adapt, presents a challenge.
Rolling forecasting is a key process to help businesses correct course when needed. Instead of creating a fixed spending plan that is then enacted over the time period in question, finance teams can keep the performance of the business under continual review, allowing them to make more timely decisions.
As with any forecasting procedure, rolling forecasting empowers you to continue assessing assets and evaluating projects so you can make changes that relate your spending plan to enable continuous financial performance of the business.
Finance leaders are increasingly adopting the rolling forecast approach, to enable them to successfully navigate uncertain times.
While rolling forecasts are gaining popularity, conventional static financial plans are still a widely used option among finance teams. Fixed financial plans – with fixed timespans and fixed targets – may seem at first glance to be the easiest route to take. While they may fit the bill for organisations that have minimal growth, operating in a predictable market, in truth there are fewer and fewer businesses that operate under such conditions.
For businesses that work in a fast-paced, growth-oriented environment, as well as large companies with multiple branches of activity to keep track of, static financial plans and fixed-term forecasts may not be sufficient to keep up. For many, rolling forecasts are no longer a nice to have, but an essential tool for their financial planning.
Needless to say, it needn’t be an either/or approach. It’s possible to run static budgets and rolling forecasts in tandem. Some businesses are required to have both in order to offer a complete perspective on organisational performance to the board, investors or stakeholders. In these cases, rolling forecasts become an augmentation of your annual planning process. They can either be implemented business-wide, or can equally be applied just to specific areas, such as income or cash management, with a more conventional forecasting methodology utilised in other areas of the business.
Rolling forecasts let you plan for both the short and long term, keeping an eye consistently on the weeks and months ahead, while also bearing in mind longer, multi-year plans and objectives. Here are some of the key benefits of the process:
1. They help you to better map the future and steer you through uncertainty
Historically, businesses have often relied on previous years to model their future budgets – making countless assumptions along the way. This backward-looking approach is no longer fit for purpose, as the pace of change in economies and the business landscape is accelerating rapidly, and becoming ever more uncertain. Rolling forecasts help you to take account of continual changes to operational drivers, such as share of market, category growth, and changing patterns of client expectations and behaviour, to remain ahead of market and business changes.
2. They provide a more accurate picture of what’s happening now
Static budgets quickly get outdated, often within months, or even weeks in exceptionally volatile times. A rolling forecast gives you a consistent view of the near future, allowing you to change rapidly so you have the correct resources set up to keep up with market conditions.
3. They mitigate risk
By ensuring the data you base your decisions on is fully up-to-date, you’ll be better placed to anticipate risks and threats to your business, and to take appropriate action to reduce or mitigate those risks. Forewarned is forearmed, and businesses that have these robust forecasting processes in place will be the ones that best weather any storms.
4. They enable better decision making
By keeping a constant eye on your forecasting, you’ll have a better understanding of when to take appropriate risks — for instance, committing resources to new development activity. Decisions can only be based on the known information to hand, and rolling forecasts ensure that the data you work with is as timely and accurate as possible.
What does it take for a rolling forecast to be effective? Here are 6 key tips for success:
1. Keep your business-wide targets front of mind
Aligning your forecast processes to the wider goals of the business, and being ready to flex as those plans and objectives and plans change, will assist you with guaranteeing that resources are deployed to their best effect. This requires creating a forecasting methodology that not only drives change, but also responds to external changes – your process shouldn’t be set in stone.
2. Pick the best timespan for your business
Regardless of whether you decide to estimate quarterly, month-to-month or week-by-week, the timespan should reflect the rate at which change takes place, both within your business and in the wider industry and market in which you operate.
3. Decide how granular you need to get
Equally as significant as the time period you pick, is choosing how detailed you need to be in your forecasting. The best approach is to concentrate your focus on the drivers that are guaranteed to have the greatest effect on your objectives and performance, coupled with a high-level overview of less pivotal business areas.
4. Pick the right technology
Choosing the right technology to support your rolling forecast process is key to guaranteeing the process runs smoothly. Financial forecasting tools such as the ones provided by Axiom provide users with easy-to-use, intuitive tools that let you build, modify, execute and measure the success of rolling forecasts, as part of a wider suite of financial planning and management tools. You need to ensure you choose a system that has buy-in across the business, and that, like Axiom, can integrate successfully with multiple, disparate data sources and accounting systems.
5. Ensure your data is as clean and accurate as possible
Starting with a solid data foundation is vital to the success of any financial process. No data source is 100% accurate, but the better the standards you can maintain, the easier your job will be. What you shouldn’t do, however, is hold off from acting solely on the basis that your data may not be fully up to scratch. The rolling forecast process can help to expose areas where inaccuracies are creeping in, allowing you to tighten up processes and procedures as needed.
6. Measure the impact of your new process
Use dashboards and KPIs to track the contribution of your rolling forecasts to business performance, so you can quantify the benefits they provide. This will also help you to tweak the process and optimise it as you go, maximising the impact of the forecasting process.
When implemented well, rolling forecasts give you the agility and knowledge you need to enable your business to grow, and guarantee you’re prepared for whatever is ahead.
To find out how Axiom can help you to build and execute a rolling forecast system that runs smoothly, giving you timely and accurate information, get in touch today for a demo by calling +44 (0)1932 548 465, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.