Why real-time visibility is essential for business continuity

The rapid digital transformation seen in the past few months has changed the workplace forever, and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) have needed to adapt their business models to suit the needs of the new business environment. With the current economic uncertainty, real-time visibility is crucial to maintaining stable business operations.

As businesses adjust to a new way of working, they must refine their business continuity plan to continue to understand potential weaknesses or threats in times of a crisis, so that they are in a better position to adapt. While many SMEs have rapidly adopted technology to meet immediate needs, long-term success depends on ongoing transformation and improvement.

In the new business environment, online, cloud-based business models will prove to be more successful than manual systems that rely on paper-based processes. Cloud-based systems help SMEs to become more agile during periods of rapid market change.

One of the key benefits of a cloud-based system is that it gives SMEs real-time visibility into all aspects of the business’s expenditure in context. This can help manage cashflow and reduces the risk of management making ill-informed decisions that can have negative consequences for the business.

Visibility into cashflow and expenditure is even more critical in times of uncertainty. Cashflow is affected by various factors including sales revenue, procurement, employee payroll and expenses, supplier invoices, and more. Real-time insights into all of these factors is the key to informed business decisions. This is especially important for SMEs that are operating on tighter margins with less room for error.

There are three ways that real-time financial visibility helps ensure business continuity, even in uncertain times:

  1. Effective cashflow management
    Essential business operations costs are inevitable; however, managing these costs effectively can be the difference between a healthy cashflow and struggling to pay debts and suppliers on time. Automated, cloud-based expense management solutions give SMEs better visibility into and control over their invoicing and payment options. Because they’re cloud-based, these tools are securely available at any time, from any location and on any device. This gives business owners and managers direct, real-time insight into cashflow even when team members are working remotely. This supports better organisational planning and helps businesses pivot faster during disruption.

    2. Faster opportunity identification
    Expense and invoice automation frees up costly resources that can be redeployed to deliver better value back to the business. Intelligent automation also delivers real-time data. The resulting insights let decision-makers identify patterns and trends, and recognise opportunities and operational inefficiencies.

    Instant reporting capabilities let business leaders easily establish and track key metrics. Once analysed, these metrics inform payment decisions to optimise cashflow, maximise opportunities, and help managers make forward-looking, real-time strategic decisions. This positions businesses to improve their liquidity, eliminate excess spending, and mitigate potential funding gaps to ultimately generate higher profits.

    3. Better scenario planning and forecasting during uncertainty
    Real-time insights let businesses leverage current and accurate data to set rational forecasts and realistic goals. As new data is received and the business landscape changes, the business can adjust its forecasts and subsequent strategy in real time to leverage opportunities and avoid missteps.

Proactive business owners are recognising the limitations of their current processes and assessing how they can build a resilient business today to ensure strong future success. Knowing what is happening in the business is critical to success, so real-time visibility is non-negotiable. By investing in low-cost, cloud-based solutions, SMEs can gain real-time data insights, letting them save resource costs, increase process efficiencies, drive innovation, and protect the bottom line.

Fabian Calle, General Manager – SMB, SAP Concur ANZ