Once only in the realm of massive corporations, real-time data is now the intelligent cog that makes successful small businesses tick. In 2019 Gartner reported that organisations in every industry are using data and analytics as competitive weapons.
The Data and Analytics are Key to Digital Transformation Report suggests that by 2022, data will be critical to business success. If your business is yet to embrace the use of real-time data to support your decisions, you could be left behind.
What is real-time data?
Real-time data is information that is delivered immediately after it’s collected. For businesses, real-time data can provide insights on how sales are tracking, the effectiveness of a marketing campaign or a business’s financial health.
Real-time data allows a business to track a sale from woah-to-go. Picture this.
You own a shoe shop, a customer walks in and buys a pair of sandals. As soon as you swipe their credit card and finalise the transaction, the information flows straight from the register to filter through to your accounting software. It’s immediately identified as sales revenue. The sales information also tracks the payment method, along with the size, style and colour of the shoe. It tallies the purchase as part of your daily revenue.
You (your accountant) get an instant picture of the sale, including how the sale reflects in your business income. The information is streamed straight into your cloud accounting solution, so you have real-time data at your fingertips. Now picture the same for processes like supplier invoices and employee expenses.
Why real-time data should be a priority for your business
Real-time data allows you to get a clear and complete understanding of your business. It enables you to make informed financial decisions as you have complete visibility into what is being spent, and why. It gives you visibility across your business so you can drill down to a granular level to evaluate performance. Suppose you want a snapshot of how your business is doing – from cash flow to assets, revenue to expenses. In that case, real-time data gives you the complete picture. You can also compare financial periods, see trends in spend and even use this data to negotiate things like supplier discounts.
Real-time data helps protect your business from errors and fraud.
Since real-time data delivers transaction information directly, tracking mistakes and anomalies in spend is more straightforward. It’s easier to pinpoint suspicious behaviour, so you can quickly identify any accidental or intentional fraudulent spend. Real-time data also makes reconciling your bank statements easier too. And if you’ve made a clerical error, they become easier to pick up and flag, such as duplicate expenses and invoices.
Real-time data is excellent for forecasting and strategy.
When you have access to real-time information setting up business goals and strategies is more effortless. If you want to forecast trends – historical data matched with real-time data simplifies the process. You can set possible growth paths and tailor your plan based upon real-time data as time goes by. It’s easier to see areas of your business that are underperforming and adjust your plan as needed. More data means better accuracy when setting goals for your business. More data leads to more significant insights. Insights allow you to make decisions that will help you grow and scale your business.
Real-time data simplifies reporting.
When you’ve got accurate, up-to-date data, your reports will reflect your business position right now. You can pull reports whenever you need to review performance indicators. And you can adjust as you go with real-time data, so you can tailor reports to suit your business needs.
Real-time data delivers tangible benefits to your business. Having access to critical business information with just a few clicks means it’s easier to plot a path towards success.
When you use up to date financials, you take away a lot of the guesswork. Real-time data puts you and your business in a better place to take advantage of any trends.
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