Real-time visibility: the key to finance agility

The days of setting a budget and leaving it untouched until the next year are over. To keep pace with changes in the business, finance teams need spend visibility. Here's why.

Stacy Kanevskaia
- 5 min read
Real-time visibility: the key to finance agility

To succeed in today's turbulent business environment, every company needs to be able to adapt quickly. This is especially true for finance teams, which must reassess budgets and track costs in real time as conditions change.

The finance department is usually the least agile organization in a company. Instead of being able to adapt to changing environment, it tends to be bureaucratic, slow, and locked in its ways. It’s ready to be fixed, though.

Finance teams can become strategic allies of the suit-worn heroes of the corporate battlefield by becoming more agile. They can majorly align spend visibility — the core element for finance agility.

What is spend visibility, and why does it matter?

Spend visibility is your financial team’s Holy Grail. It provides valuable insights into your company’s operational costs, identifies hidden spend, and facilitates decision-making for purchase approvals. But most importantly, it allows you to focus on what really matters: squeezing every single drop out of your marketing budget and achieving the best possible ROI.

Visibility is just a fancy buzzword for transparency. In business, it's important to know where your money goes. Not having to spend visibility might not be expensive daily — but that's the catch. If you don't actually KNOW where your money has been going — and what the return is — you can't truly evaluate the success of an action or resource to your company. If you do something and it works, great! But if it doesn't work — how can you know?

Why is it crucial for any CFO?

CFOs must be all things to all people to keep their businesses afloat and successful in tumultuous financial times. They are a jack-of-all-trades, handling all the financial and operational business functions. But they can’t do it alone. Entities need new technologies that integrate their information so the CFO can better work across their enterprise and keep it running smoothly — all while staying on top of their strategic planning, compliance initiatives, and innovative goals.

The right real-time financial visibility tools give CFOs a leg-up on the competition and show they care. They can hold their teams accountable by tracking progress in real time, rather than waiting until the end of the month or quarter to make adjustments. Reacting quickly improves outcomes, making important decisions more timely because more accurate data is available that is automatically updated in real time. Getting a true picture of the daily performance of funds and jobs makes real-time financial planning such an innovative approach. The financial agility as is.

Why don't spreadsheets work in real-time visibility?

In light of the shift to modern business systems and a true data foundation, it is clear as black and white: spreadsheets are so 20th century. Before their inception, companies used spreadsheets to train non-programmers to use isolated data applets in the business environment. It can be argued that spreadsheets have always had an element of ‘siloing’ the data. After all, if you have only a copy of a particular spreadsheet, it is like your own private vault.

Data generation is increasing rapidly. By replacing siloed systems with an integrated business platform and a unified data foundation, your company can move beyond single-function applications that store data on individual spreadsheets. Access to live data in real time is just one benefit of this transformation for agility financial management.

Spreadsheets will not vanish, but they will be checked against live data. There will be no more arguments about numbers. Everyone will be aligned company-wide.

Methods to achieve real-time spend visibility

Automate expense data collection

If your employees wait until the end of the month to submit their expense reports, visibility into spending can be delayed by as much as a month. Rather than waiting for expense reports, implement expense tracking tools. That way, you can monitor spending in real time.

Make your data centralized

Gathering expense data is no longer enough. You need a way to view and manipulate it easily, too. If your company's financial data is stored in one centralized platform, the whole finance team can access it. It eliminates the need to cross-check data from different sources, which makes it more reliable. With a centralized data platform, you can compare different datasets against each other and see the bigger picture.

Ensure compliance with spending limits

Give employees the power to make spending decisions. You'll save time on constant approvals and eliminate bottlenecks by delegating this responsibility to them.

Bake within the budget. If you establish budget limits and your employees stick to them, you won't have to worry about overstepping permissions or justifying borderline spending decisions in audits.

Forecast continuously

Real time insight means you can apply them to update your forecasts. Your rolling forecasts are more accurate than static ones, which are outdated when you create them. You can compare actual costs against predicted ones in real time, enabling you to adjust budgets and spend allowances accordingly.

How real-time spend visibility saves money and helps inform decision making

Real-time spend visibility can help your business in many ways. This is a new financial insight technology.

Stay on top of the performance

With real-time data, you can see your business's spending patterns clearly. You'll get a complete picture of how your business is performing — all in one place, just when needed. You can also compare data over time to better understand your operations and improve your financial budgeting and planning.

Take bolder and faster business decisions

You'll know exactly where you stand financially so that you can take bold action when the pressure is on. No more dithering over the best course of action and risk of missing an opportunity to turn things around.

Unlock flexible budgeting

Budgets give you flexibility in team spending. There is no chance of breaking the budget, thanks to pre-build limits. You can dig up the data that supports your argument for increasing or decreasing the budget.

Cut wasteful spending

You know where the money is going, so you can find more ways to cut costs. Money spent by different people in a household reveals previously hidden ways to save.

Spot bottlenecks and errors early

Knowing your financials gives you the insight to recognize trends and determine where bottlenecks lie. You can solve problems quickly and effectively, preventing them from affecting your business long term.

Take back control of employee spending

When employees use company credit cards to make purchases, they might not use them most cost-effectively. For example, multiple employees might subscribe to tools that provide the same functionality. Real-time visibility lets you spot these cases and act on them faster, improving agility.

Avoid fraud

You can detect fraudulent transactions early on, preventing them from spreading and saving your company thousands of dollars. One-time purchase cards are the safest way to avoid fraud, as they close after use.

Real-time tracking = agile team

Cutting costs, optimizing ROI, improving decision-making and freeing up time for strategic planning — this is what real time spend visibility can give your organization. Automated spend management technology does a lot of heavy lifting for you and provides visibility, so you have time to get financial insight and focus on other things.

Karta helps you to save money and remove the hassle of manually collecting, storing, or analyzing spending data. With automated tracking and real-time spending analysis, you can easily save time and money — and do more with your team.

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What is agility in finance?

Finance agility is the ability to switch gears in order to adapt to change. Financial agility allows you to adapt to any changes in the market and respond rapidly.

What does agility mean in business?

Agility in business means that businesses can quickly adjust their people and processes to create more value, respond quickly to changing conditions, and pivot customer engagement models. For example, agile finance teams might be able to rapidly change their supply chain strategies or redeploy their workforce.

What is budgeting agility?

In agile budgeting, regular reviews of project budgets are held in line with your sprints. Modern budgeting solutions give you more flexibility and enable you to adjust the budget as necessary, giving your team more control over its spending and resource usage.