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What is an "intelligent" forecast?

Alex Wunderlich
February 22, 2022

For years, Finance and Accounting professionals have been hearing that AI will take over their jobs, and someday the world. To date, the technology has hardly lived up to the hype, and there’s a lot of B.S. out there…so when you hear of a new “intelligent” forecasting tool that’ll save hours of work and change your life, I can’t blame you for being skeptical. You absolutely should be.

Clockwork exists because we, too, were sick of cut-rate FP&A software that promised the world and only delivered a dashboard (after a month-long implementation). We knew there was a better way to leverage technology in the FP&A process and raise the bar on what “intelligent” actually means.

For us at Clockwork, an “intelligent” forecast needs 2 main ingredients:

  • Accuracy: Thoughtful application of machine learning (along with decades of combined Finance experience) to deliver a level of accuracy and speed that’s simply impossible with spreadsheets or other tools.
  • Ease of Use: Intuitive design and careful use of automation to eliminate tedious and repetitive tasks, without locking you into prescribed workflows.

So, how does an “intelligent” forecast work in practice? Let’s imagine you just connected your QuickBooks Online or Xero account to Clockwork for the first time…

Within the first minute, Clockwork will import up to 3 years of financial history (down to the transaction level) and learn from trends, seasonality, and other unique patterns to calculate detailed performance breakdowns and baseline forecasts automatically. Without lifting a finger, you’ll have a 5-year financial model, a 52-week cash flow forecast, performance dashboards, and the ability to compare “what if” scenarios with a click. It’s all customized to your business and effortless to navigate. That alone could save you 10+ hours of work, and it’s just the start.

Since Clockwork learns the nuance behind the way you collect and pay, and automatically applies this cash timing behavior to your revenue and expense forecasts, we’re able to give you the most accurate and intelligent cash flow forecast possible, instantly. We can even predict when specific invoices will be paid down to the day. It’s hard to compare something like that against the status quo, because it’s never been possible until now.

If that’s not enough, you’ll even get a one-click Scenario Writer to copy your financial model, change assumptions (e.g. “what if we hired 10 more salespeople?”) and compare against your baseline forecasts. This is often used to evaluate different options and/or prepare for best and worst case scenarios, but there’s no limit to the questions you can ask. What used to require a team of analysts can now be completed in less than a minute. Try doing that in a spreadsheet.

And finally, because of the wealth of data we’re pulling from your accounting system, you’ll automatically get a suite of performance dashboards that highlight red flags and help you uncover new levers to pull in your business, all without an ounce of setup or effort on your part. Just login anytime to see where you’re at and what you can do about it.

Your “B.S.” meter is probably going off right now, so we need to be straight about one thing. Nobody knows your business better than you, and Clockwork doesn’t know who you’re planning to hire next month, or how that new marketing campaign will impact sales next year…so your automatic baseline forecast won’t be 100% perfect from the moment you connect. You’ll most likely need to change some of the baseline forecasting Assumptions (e.g. adjust growth rates, prices and quantities of products, headcount, etc.), but the good news is that we made it extremely easy to do that with a couple of clicks, right in your financial model. 

Assumptions are the only inputs you’ll need to make in Clockwork, and they’re the one piece of “intelligence” we may never be able to replace. However, as long as you spend 15 minutes or so dialing in your assumptions when you connect, everything else is on autopilot, as it should be. We’ll update your actual financial results every hour, because you should never be looking at outdated numbers. We make it super easy to compare performance vs. forecast, and adjust your Assumptions with a click, because FP&A shouldn't be a competition of who can stay up the latest or work the most weekends. And we let you compare unlimited Scenarios, because we never want another business owner to lose sleep over “what if” questions. 

Bottom line, we built Clockwork around you, and that’s what makes it so intelligent. It’s not just the machine learning, or the automation, or the wealth of data we ingest. It’s a combination of technology and years of experience living your pain, all bundled together into a tool that’s so powerful yet easy-to-use that you’ll feel like you’re missing something.

If you want to see for yourself, check out the interactive walkthrough below!

(Note: demo not recommended for mobile devices)


We also have a Free 14-day Trial that takes less than a minute to spin up, so give it a try and let us know what you think!

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