So, what exactly is real-time data? To put it simply, information that is updated instantly.  

As individuals or consumers, we have set expectations to get answers within a split second, when you google search, when you’re looking for directions on Google Maps. We’ve come to expect it in real-time.

Every day, we as consumers type words, phrases, or questions into search bars of websites expecting—and often receiving—split-second answers.

Now, why does this excite me for SMEs and the Financial Services Industry?

Given my love for sport, I’m going to use a quick sporting analogy. My brother-in-law is a rugby coach, and we talk a lot about the modern game and the use of data to drive decisions. The coaching staff (which now include data analysts!) are no longer all on the sidelines but up in the stands with laptops analysing live data transmitted from the players. It’s frightening how much the game has changed with such a high focus on technology and data.

All the players, including the ball, have GPS and sensors now that track numerous data points, such as the number of tackles made by a player, the intensity of each hit from the opposition, how quickly the player gets up from a tackle, and the speed of movement around the pitch. The coaches use this data to make in-game decisions, such as when to make substitutions and injury assessments.

Data-driven decisions are made at critical points in the game. Those instant decisions can make the difference between winning and losing a game or avoiding long-term injury.

So why should it be any different for a business? Businesses are playing in their own game. They launch products online instantly, and they can track how many orders are being filled and how many potential customers are showing an interest in specific products. This is critical insight for businesses to help them take strategic actions at crucial moments.

Real-time data on operations can help manufacturers make instant changes in the production line to speed things up and reduce costs. These real-time decisions could be the difference between staying competitive, having cash to pay wages, surviving, or growing. Moving at pace these days is critical.

In the realm of Financial Services, information is everything. It’s the lifeblood that fuels decision-making, strategy, and ultimately, the success of organisations.

Organisations of all types, shapes, and sizes are in demand for more data. They want better and additional data sets. The “game,” as it were, is now being run by data. I think real-time data is now the competitive advantage.

Traditionally, Financial Services have relied on historical data—looking backward to inform their actions in the present and future. While this approach has served its purpose, the world we live in today demands more. It demands immediacy, accuracy, and agility. And that’s where real-time data comes into play.

Real-time data can provide a snapshot of a company’s financial health. Gone are the days of waiting for month-end reports, monthly management accounts or quarterly statements to gauge performance. With real-time data, SMEs and financial service providers have access to up-to-the-minute insights that enable them to make informed decisions when it matters.

I always use the experience I had running my own business and my usual end-of-year meeting with my accountant to review my end-of-year accounts. He would always say, “This is what you should have done, Andrew.” Well, thanks, but it’s a bit late now. I wish I had known that six months ago.

I want them to provide me with the right advice at the right time when I can do something about it.

So why is this important for service providers and financial technology companies? Because the people we serve—the directors, the shareholders, and the business owners—want to feel confident that they are making the right decisions and taking the right action when it matters. Good news: The technology is now there to make it happen.

I think it’s a great time to be a service provider to SMEs. The industry has so much to offer, and with real-time data, it’s about being there at key moments in the game that could make a difference in the long run.

Real-time data streamlines processes and empowers proactive decision-making. In today’s fast-paced business environment, waiting for outdated reports to identify trends or issues is simply not an option.

It allows us to spot opportunities and risks as they emerge. With AI, we can assess a lot more data quickly and advise our customers on the next best action to capitalise on opportunities or mitigate risks before they escalate, even identifying fraud.

We can develop more accurate forecasts and strategic plans by providing real-time insights into revenue, expenses, and market trends. This enables organisations to adapt quickly to changing market conditions, identify growth opportunities, and stay ahead of the competition. It enhances financial transparency, crucial for building trust with stakeholders, whether they are investors, regulators, or the public. Real-time data provides stakeholders with accurate, real-time insights into the financial performance of an organisation, fostering transparency and accountability.

But real-time data is more than just a theoretical concept—it’s a game-changer in practice. By monitoring key performance indicators in real-time, such as production efficiency and inventory levels, the company can identify bottlenecks or inefficiencies and take immediate corrective action. This not only improves operational efficiency but also enhances profitability and customer satisfaction. 

Of course, harnessing the power of real-time data is not without its challenges. Organisations must address data accuracy, security, and integration with existing systems. However, these challenges can be overcome with the right technology, processes, and training. 

Looking ahead, the future of financial services is exciting. By embracing technology, service providers can be the trusted, impactful business partners that businesses need. 

I believe the industry’s future is undoubtedly intertwined with real-time data. Advancements in technology, such as AI, will further enhance the capabilities of real-time data analytics, enabling us to gain deeper insights into our clients and make even more informed decisions. 

Real-time data is not just a tool—it’s a paradigm shift. It’s changing the way we work, the way organisations operate, and the way decisions are made. By embracing real-time data, businesses and those who provide a service to them can gain a competitive edge in today’s dynamic business environment and pave the way for a more prosperous future. 

Our goal at Pulse is to play a big part in that future!