Menu
Benefits of accurate cash flow forecasting
//16-01-2024

Benefits of accurate cash flow forecasting

by Matthew Muldoon, VP - Financial Management Solutions

In the dynamic and uncertain landscape business finance, cash flow forecasting emerges as the anchor that can keep companies on a good footing. It provides a roadmap for optimising cash flow management, navigating through financial turbulence, and steering organisations towards lasting success.

Through this blog, we'll explore the benefits of a cash flow forecast, highlighting its main purpose, its importance, and how it can help your business to survive and thrive.

What is a cash flow forecast?

Cash flow represents the movement of money in and out of a business during a specific period. A cash flow forecast is the projection of these movements based on estimations of how much money will be received/paid out over a specific period in the future.

If your business experiences positive cash flow, it means it has enough funds to function smoothly. On the contrary, if your cash flow is negative, it can indicate a dire financial state, and sustaining operations may be challenging if it continues to be negative for too long.

Given the crucial role cash flow plays in any business’s existence, forecasting becomes essential. It helps you to stay ahead of challenges posed by negative cash flow and optimises opportunities for positive cash flow.

What do I risk by not carrying out a cash flow forecast?

Without the foresight offered by cashflow forecasts, there is a higher risk, businesses will make poor financial decisions, ultimately leading to financial instability.

A lack of knowledge around future capital requirements makes organisations more prone to unexpected cash shortages, which will ultimately hinder operations and growth.

Issues related to cash flow often underpin the factors that lead to a company filing for insolvency. By anticipating potential cash flow bottlenecks, a cash flow forecast becomes an effective tool for proactively counteracting and avoiding such unfortunate events.

Main objectives of a cash flow forecast

The objectives of a cash flow forecast go deeper than predicting the potential cash flow of the company. They serve several vital purposes, including:

Liquidity planning and risk management

Effective liquidity planning is crucial for a business to maintain enough cash in hand to fulfil its everyday operational needs and financial obligations. One of the primary objectives of a cash flow forecast is to facilitate this planning by identifying potential shortages or surpluses.

For instance, if a forecast anticipates a cash shortage, businesses can proactively seek solutions such as obtaining a loan or liquidating assets. Thus, forecasting prepares businesses to face economic downturns with a contingency plan and help with its risk management.

Strategy development, budgeting, and financial planning

Another key objective of cash flow forecasting is to provide valuable insights. By projecting future cash inflows, outflows, and needs, it enables informed decision-making on financing options and overall financial management. It facilitates the creation of comprehensive budgets, helping businesses to plan for investments and other necessary outlays.

Financial reporting

Organisations are obligated to submit timely reports on company performance and projections, which may include estimates of their cash position. Cash flow forecasting is an integral part of such reporting, ensuring compliance with financial regulations, reporting requirements, and audit obligations.

Scenario planning

Scenario planning involves the development and evaluation of hypothetical situations to understand their impact on the company’s cash flow and performance. For instance, envision a situation involving a supply bottleneck or rapid demand drop. Scenario planning entails assessing how these situations would affect future cash flow and determining the duration the company's cash reserves would last. With these insights, those responsible can be ready with solutions to deal with any of these circumstances should they occur.

Scenario planning and cash flow forecasting helps finance teams to assess and plan for potential impacts in various realistic situations, preparing for both the best and worst cases and ensuring readiness for every situation.

Elevate shareholder value and attract investments

Shareholders have a vested interest in the company’s cash flow and financial health. Cash flow forecasts provide them with a comprehensive overview of the organisation's current and projected performance. Anticipated future cash flow significantly influences the company’s overall value and enhances its ability to attract additional financing. A positive prediction casts the company in a favourable light, making it more likely for lenders to approve loan applications or extend credit to the organisation.

Elements of an effective cashflow

A comprehensive cash flow forecast includes various components that are necessary to put together a detailed and complete overview of the company's expected cash movements. It usually includes:

Opening cash balance

This denotes the amount of money on hand or available to the company at the beginning of the forecast period, illustrating the current cash position of the business.

Cash inflows

The cash coming into the business, which includes receipts from sales, funding, investments, tax refunds, loans, or grants.

Cash outflows

This is a sum of all the money that is moving out of the company during the forecasting period. It encompasses operational expenses such as rent, utilities, salaries, and supplies, long term Capital Expenditures (CapEx), loan repayments, and taxes.

Net cash flow

It represents the net change in the cash position and is derived by subtracting total cash outflows from cash inflows over the forecasting period.

Closing cash balance

This denotes the projected amount of cash remaining with the company at the end of the forecast period. It is determined by adding the opening cash balance and the net cash flow.

Assumptions and factors impacting cash flow

This encompasses a detailed account of the assumptions, methodologies, and factors influencing cash flow during the development of the forecast. These details are crucial for maintaining transparency and credibility in the projections.

Sensitivity analysis

This involves assessing how different scenarios and variables (such as fluctuations in sales volume and interest rates) may impact the forecast.

Advantages of carrying out a comprehensive cash flow forecast

With a positive influence across various aspects of the business, cash flow forecasting offers several advantages. Let’s explore how this strategic tool can benefit your business:.

Debt management

Borrowing is a common practice among businesses seeking funds for growth. By offering insights into your business’s future, cash flow forecasting serves as a valuable tool for managing and devising strategies to expedite a sensible debt position. For instance, if the forecast indicates a potential cash shortage, proactive planning can help with maintaining timely payments and avoiding expensive short term borrowing.

Business growth

Apart from cash shortages, forecasting also identifies surplus cash in advance. This prior notice gives companies time to plan and make the most of it by investing in expansion, acquisitions, loan repayments, or new ventures.

Investor and creditor confidence

It also serves as a powerful tool for showcasing financial stability to investors, creditors, and external stakeholders. It plays a crucial role in building trust, offering a clear picture of the company’s financial trajectory. This confidence is instrumental in negotiating better terms for debt financing, increasing investment opportunities, and attaining a higher valuation.

Stability

Enabling organisations to plan ahead for upcoming fluctuations, cash flow forecasting fosters a strong foundation and stability too. This is supremely important for long-term sustainability, particularly when the market is turbulent.

Overdue payment management

In the process of estimating future cash inflow, forecasting empowers you to track business cash flow, monitor overdue payments and provides insights into late payments received. This information enables you to take proactive measures such as implementing late fees, adjusting payment terms, or offering new payment options. This not only saves you from the challenge of chasing payments but also optimises/quickens the process of getting liquid cash into your organisation.

The limitations of cash flow forecasting

Relying heavily on assumptions about future outcomes like sales, expenses, and market volatility, a cash flow forecast is an estimate, not a definitive prediction. Despite being based on historical data and expert judgment, these assumptions cannot guarantee accuracy due to the inherent unpredictability of the future.

While short-term cash flow forecasts offer insights into immediate financial needs, they may overlook long-term trends and risks associated with strategic initiatives. Market conditions, the make-up of the leadership team, and business strategy are all dynamic factors that can significantly evolve over the course of a year.

Hence, a cash flow forecast developed at the beginning of the year may lose reliability over time, potentially leading to flawed decision-making. It’s also significantly prone to human error dues to the intricacies surrounding calculations.

How to make cash flow forecasting more precise

To enhance the accuracy of cash flow forecasts, companies should complement long-term cash flow planning with regular short-term assessments on a monthly or weekly basis. This provides increased visibility and control over their cash flow and facilitates the comparison of predicted and actual cash flow throughout the year, so they can identify discrepancies and refine the forecasting process as they go along.

Additionally, a rolling forecast approach allows for greater adaptability to evolving needs. Cloud-based financial management software proves particularly beneficial for this as it enables collaboration and provides real-time updates so that the cash flow forecast is responsive to the latest information.

Technology in the finance industry is fast evolving and it is a proven tool for addressing human error. Cloud adoption and automation can save time and resources of the company thereby improving cash flow. It also brings speed and precision to the forecasting process.

How Advanced Financials can help you with accurate cash flow forecasting

At Advanced, we recognise the role finance teams play in strategy. Dedicated to delivering cutting-edge financial management solutions, we empower your finance team to transition from manual tasks to strategic planning. Our Cloud-based accounting and financial management software, Advanced Financials, effortlessly fulfils the critical necessities for precise cash flow forecasting.

By centralising financial data, it ensures real-time accessibility while prioritising data quality and security. Proficient in understanding the intricacies of cash flow forecasting, our solution identifies potential shortfalls, predicts cash flows across various periods, and minimises reliance on complex spreadsheets. Partner with us for unparalleled accuracy and a steadfast route to financial stability and growth through effective cash flow forecasting.

Blog Financial Management Advanced Financials
Matthew Muldoon

Matthew Muldoon

PUBLISHED BY

VP - Financial Management Solutions

Matthew has 30 year's experience working with application systems, as a product manager, marketer, implementation consultant, and in pre-sales. He has been involved in the definition, development, and deployment of complex applications for a number of companies in the Tech, ERP, and Banking space (including Epicor and Sage). Matthew is a specialist in Finance, Distribution, and CRM solutions. He's also a qualified accountant, with a focus on improving processes and making information more accessible for technology users.

Read published articles