How often do you sit down at your desk, take a look at your emails, glimpse over your workload, and just sigh to yourself, wondering where to start with it all? Business owners, do you ever find yourself breaking into deep sweats at the sight of your cash flow forecasts, wondering where all your project funds have gone? Or stand there pulling your hair out over fears your stockpiles are running low and there isn’t another delivery for a week?
There is an easier way! In 2023, business forecasting tools are everywhere, and though it can take a bit of digging to find out which might be the best fit for your business, once you start utilising them, efficiency across every department will rapidly rise, and stress levels will fall.
Going forward, we’ll take a look at the interesting role of AI and machine learning in business forecasting, that has become vital in today’s competitive landscape, and how modern operations have been transformed by AI’s ability to rapidly process massive amounts of data. We’ll also take a look at the versatility and adaptability of today’s forecasting tools and look at some of the most important things you should be looking for in a product, before checking out some of the biggest names on the market today to see if they could be beneficial and suitable for your current business needs!
The Rise of AI and Machine Learning in Business Forecasting
Artificial intelligence (AI) models, and ‘machine learning’, or the process of AI making predictions based on data it is fed, have helped businesses across all industries hugely in the past few years. From expenses and materials, to project planning and financial forecasting, almost every area of modern enterprise operations has benefited from AI’s ability to rapidly process large amounts of information, and keep track of enormous sums of numbers to produce actionable insights.
Modern business forecasting tools are incredibly versatile and adaptable, and later on we will look at some of the most popular brands currently on the market. They are capable of integrating with technologies across numerous platforms, from accounting and financial software, all the way to human resource management. Regardless of which sector your business operates in, there are generally a number of key areas in which AI has grown to help companies excel, and if you are currently not utilising AI in your operations and find yourself struggling with any of the following, you may want to consider the benefits they can bring:
Business and Market Analysis
‘General Business Forecasting’ technology can offer a comprehensive perspective on any market by highlighting the influence of various external factors such as emerging technology, political trends, and economic dynamics on businesses. ‘Sales Forecasting’ tools meanwhile can take previous data for up-to-date revenue predictions across different time frames. Budgeting and marketing will both benefit through this kind of accurate and automated reporting and ultimately lead to better financial decisions. ‘Market Forecasting’ can help your business align with emerging market demands and will help you stay up to date with trends, while ensuring your stock is in check. Each of these tools will naturally help any business meet demands, pleasing customers and increasing business value.
‘Accounting Forecast’ software can offer vital insights into upcoming financial commitments, from inventories to utilities. ‘Financial Forecasting’ delves deeper, providing ongoing assessments of a company’s financial health. The data of everything from operating costs to assets are taken into consideration by the AI, making it extremely important that the program is receiving accurate information. With regards to finances, ‘Budget Forecasting’ can also help anticipate potential cash flow or facility challenges, and if addressed correctly, means overall expense management will continue to remain healthy.
‘Project Forecasting’ tools can help to stay on top of many aspects of a current or future operation, offering valuable insights on things like available resources or tasks that will need completing, while also offering predictive outcomes, like project stage completion dates. Using accurate data analytics, prior completed projects can be used to help new forecasts be more efficient. Not only can AI help you minimise risks, but will also aid in your chances of successful completion.
It’s easy to see why business forecasting tools are so advantageous, and also why there are so many different areas for which they have been developed. It’s also a reason why, when looking for business forecasting tools, it’s important to choose a product that is versatile enough to meet all of your needs. Some businesses may only be looking for financial forecasting, while others, like a construction firm, would want something that can also help with project management and inventory.
So long as the data your forecasting tools are being trained on is accurate and in-depth enough, their scalability potential means they can grow with your business, and continue to improve and learn as your enterprise expands.
Key Features to Look for in a Business Forecasting Tool
Due to the complexity of modern business operations, it is likely that you will find the need to incorporate various platforms and software types to completely cover every detail of every sector. Any reliable business tool should be able to integrate with numerous sources, be it for customer relations (CRM), all the way through to project planning. The more data your forecasting tools has access to, the more accurately it can produce comprehensive predictions and insights across the board.
Due to how quickly the business landscape evolves, it’s important to find a forecasting tool that can work with up-to-date information. Real-time data processing will be essential for spotting trends both within and outside of your organisation. If, for example, raw materials see a sudden climb in price and your forecasts take this into account, number increases will alert you, and the necessary precautions can be taken to either avoid or capitalise on the changes in demand.
You will typically want a program that can produce user-friendly documentation. Gantt charts and kanban boards in particular can help with managing tasks, while Excel or Google Sheets are perfect for analytics and collecting data for reports. Dashboards are particularly useful for presenting financial data, and translate well from established Open Banking and Open Accounting software. So long as information is presented in a simple and concise enough way, planning and scheduling are also simplified, naturally leading to a smoother running operation!
A forecasting tool’s ability to scale as your business grows will become important, and with most brands charging per employee, you will certainly want to get the worth for your money. That being said, it’s always important to research any product before making your final choice, as some lesser-known tools that might work for a startup, will likely not suffice should your firm become an expansive corporation. Scalability ensures that, as a business expands, your chosen product can handle increased data volumes, along with the ability to incorporate more forecasting models and additional users. Investing early on in a scalable tool means you can familiarise yourself and your team with a single platform, saving time and resources in the long run.
Depending on your business sector, you will find your own set of challenges, goals, and operational hurdles. Although here we are discussing the generic benefits of forecasting models for all kinds of industries, once the basics have been established, you will doubtlessly want to begin customising your data, and what your tool creates forecasts for. As touched on before, businesses like trade firms will want to focus on materials, whether it be stock management or spotting industry trends in pricing and demand. Tech firms might make use of a virtual assistant, based on the company’s data, to interact with customers. Depending on the tools you choose, the possibilities can be expansive, so it’s always worth exploring your choices first.
With these key features in mind, let’s go on to look at some of the current market’s most popular business forecasting tools in 2023, to see what unique characteristics they possess, and see if they might suit your business!
Top Business Forecasting Tools in 2023
One of the most well known names on the market, Workday offers great versatility across its products, and moves away from the more traditional reliance on Excel. Between budgeting, finance forecasting, reporting and analytics, Workday is rated for its scalability and user friendly design, making it a great choice for businesses just starting out, as well as vast and established firms.
With the ability to ‘drag-and-drop’, and its synced processes, it is easy enough, for example, to lift recent data into your financials and have your forecasts update automatically, eliminating the need for outdated spreadsheets and greatly mitigating the chances of human error.
Although Workday can reportedly be a task all in itself to initially set up, once familiarised, you will find a simple to use interface that provides a comprehensive view across all sectors of your business, incorporating all of the key features we have previously covered. Prices for Workday packages start around £40-£160 per employee per month. Further pricing details can be obtained from Workday upon enquiry, and they currently have a free 30-day trial available.
Vena Solutions adopts the familiar interface of Excel, which can help newcomers to the system quickly learn the excessive capabilities Vena possesses. Once seamlessly integrated with Excel, Vena is capable of a comprehensive range of financial and forecasting tasks, as well as workforce, budgeting and scenario planning to name just a few!
To complement the familiarity of Excel, Vena also provides fully customisable, premade templates, which are easily adapted to individual industry needs. Because of this, Vena is well known for catering to a range of industries, from banking, all the way through to the professional sports industry. Along with its adaptability, Vena’s integration capabilities are second to none, and whether it’s Quickbooks for finances, or Microsoft 365 for data points or info, Vena is capable of connecting with a vast range of recognised resource systems.
Thanks to Vena’s familiar Excel base it can be an easy solution to transfer your team to. Tailored prices can be discussed with the Vena team upon enquiry, and they boast special costs for non-profit organisations. It is currently possible to sign up for a 7-Day Vena trial, and also take a free guided tour of everything they have to offer – a great time to see if their solutions might be suitable for your business!
As the name would suggest, Forecast Pro is celebrated most for its ability to create extremely accurate forecasts, whether it be across finances, inventory, or demand, thanks to its ‘best pick’ algorithm. The product is aimed at business forecasters regardless of the industry they work in, with many reviewers vouching for its easy to use interface, and its integration capabilities with other resource systems. It is in the products’ pronounced use of AI and machine learning that allows it to forecast statistics with such accuracy, and can make it relatively low maintenance once initial setup is complete.
Forecast Pro offers a number of package tiers, each initially offering services to one named user for a one time purchase. For entrepreneurs and SMEs, Forecast’s lowest package starts around £1495. Their larger product package is £4995, with the most extensive product being available for £9995. A free trial is currently available if you would like to get to grips with everything Forecast has to offer before making a decision.
Prophix is aimed for use by business leaders across numerous industries, from healthcare to construction, due to its ability to not only forecast finances, but also create budgets for vital things like team projects, wages, or stock. Prophix is another business forecasting product that moves away from the use of Excel. Instead, it uses user-friendly interfaces to take, as one example, data directly from stakeholders to use in its financial forecasting. This ensures more accurate projections as the numbers have not been run through input programs that are time delayed and risk human error.
It isn’t just financial analysts and officers that can make good use of Prophix, controllers and information officers can also take advantage of the product’s ability to consolidate data, and master one of Prophix’s standout features – its automation capabilities, where high value, strategic contributions can be put into projects, removing the necessity of excessive, time consuming inputs from an individual. Through its automation capabilities, users also speak keenly of its ability to eliminate risks tied to disconnected databases.
The product’s user-friendliness, along with it requiring minimal IT support, are just more reasons why Prophix is known to be a confidence booster to those business leaders who adopt it. Similar to other business forecasting products, Prophix has masses of resources on its website for prospective users to familiarise themselves with. You can currently book a demo of their product in action, and prices for your unique business needs can be discussed.
As we prepare to launch Pulse with innovative forecasting capabilities, it is worth mentioning the benefits it can already bring to your business and its finances during our transition period. Presented through a bespoke dashboard, with your permission, Pulse can integrate with Open Banking and Open Accounting software to gain read-only data of your business finances. Pulse’s AI-driven algorithms will then use your data to generate actionable insights which can be used to make better financial decisions for you and your enterprise.
AI and machine learning continue to grow in importance in the world of business. Their capabilities to generate accurate forecasts across a multitude of industries will only get better with time. Their increasing ability to scale and integrate across product platforms will likely see established and new brands in the future encompass complete packages, absorbing everything from finances to lifestyle. Until then though, with our focus strictly on the now and business, it’s important to research products that are capable of fulfilling your unique needs, whether that be ease of use, or even customisation, aim to select a tool that aligns with your own vision.
Tools like Workday, Vena, Forecast Pro, Prophix, and our very own Pulse, each bring unique strengths to the table, catering to specific industry needs while emphasising ease of use and adaptability. Whether it’s the familiar Excel-centric approach of Vena or the automation capabilities of Prophix, every product offers unique strengths, offering data-driven insights for current and future business strategies.
Contact Pulse Today
Pulse is free to sign up to and use. Every month you will receive thorough data analytics and financial metrics directly into your inbox, ready to be utilised to enhance the operations of your business and edge out competitors! Get in touch today and a member of our friendly team will contact you shortly.
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