Warning: This is a machine-generated transcript. As such, there may be spelling, grammar, and accuracy errors throughout. Thank you for your understanding!
Hector Garcia: Welcome to the unofficial QuickBooks accountants podcast. I am joined by my good friend Alicia Katz Pollock, the original, the one and only Qbo Rockstar CEO and founder of Royal White Solutions.
Alicia Katz Pollock: And I have the privilege of collaborating with Hector Garcia, CPA, the founder of Right Tool for QuickBooks.
Hector Garcia: In this episode of the unofficial QuickBooks accountants podcast, [00:00:30] we're going to talk about the new forecasting feature in QuickBooks Online Advanced. This is awesome. Alicia, are you excited about this?
Alicia Katz Pollock: I really am. This is not on my radar at all, so I am completely excited to hear what you have to say about it.
Hector Garcia: Okay, I'm going to walk you. Um, in this audio experience, I'm going to walk you through what the forecasting feature is in QuickBooks Online Advance one more time, QuickBooks online Advanced only. So you're [00:01:00] not going to see this in plus or lesser editions. And essentially you're going to see a new submenu on the left navigation bar that says Financial Planning. And under that you're going to see forecasts and budgets.
Alicia Katz Pollock: So this was where it did say budgets in the left navigation. Now it says financial planning and budgets is a sub underneath it.
Hector Garcia: Correct. And I think what that allows you to, to discern is that forecasts and budgets are a kind of, [00:01:30] of the same category. And, and that's the best way to think about them because the, the engine that is used to build both of these is essentially the same engine. So the the user experience, the user interface will be very similar.
Alicia Katz Pollock: And so I kind of want to just take a minute and make a distinction between what's a budget and what's a forecast. So budgeting is when you allocate the amount of money that you know you're going to have for a year and spread it out across your months and across your categories so [00:02:00] that you have targets for your spending. Whereas forecasting is more about looking at your past trends and then predicting outcomes and and patterns based on the history kind of imagining it forward.
Hector Garcia: Yeah. And, um, I think that there could be some listeners here that would go. Ah, that's a difference without a distinction. Um, they both future looking, right? So they're both, um, you know, your assumption of what's going to happen in the future for both [00:02:30] income and expenses. But budgets are much more directed towards this is realistically what we think we're going to end up having, or at least for it to be mostly to restrict you from spending or spending or overspending in a certain category where forecasting plays more of a what if analysis, you know, like, hey, if we do get this contract, this special contract that makes our revenue go up by 50%, but this contract requires [00:03:00] us to have lesser margin. So our cost of goods sold is going to go up, maybe by a whole different percentage that are revenue, maybe our margin. It's not going to be as high as before, but our revenue is going up. And then because of this contract, we have to increase only our payroll expenses or something like that. It's for you to create a multiple versions of a budget that has what if scenarios that maybe is not the most realistic or the or or the most expected number. [00:03:30] So. So what's nice about this is it allows you to essentially see all the, uh, potential impacts of a particular category or a particular group of, of accounts going up or going down based on that specific what if scenario.
Hector Garcia: But it's, it's engineered or it's built just like a, just like a budget. It just has that, that element of this particular item going up or going down. Now, this new forecast feature, it's in beta. So let's call this [00:04:00] version one. And I want to also draw a technical distinction between the things that you can do and and can't do with forecasts compared to budgets. I'm going to start just briefly by because budget is the most mature of the features. And again you do have budgets in QuickBooks Online Plus and Advanced, but you don't have forecasts in plus you only have forecasts in advance. So that's a really important distinction. When you create budgets, you can also create multiple budgets for the same period, just like what a forecast would be. [00:04:30] Big Four forecast budgets where the the the same thing you could do what if scenarios essentially with your budgets. But they were still called budgets. And I think that's kind of the challenge that people want to call that forecast. They want the reports to say forecast and not and not budgets. When you create a budget, you can create both a budget for a profit and loss.
Hector Garcia: And the balance sheet and the balance sheet is actually a fairly recent add on. And then also, um, specifically to profit and loss balance sheet is only, [00:05:00] uh, for the entire company. And that could either be monthly or yearly or quarterly, but specifically to profit and loss budgets, you can do budgets for your entire company or what they're calling consolidated budgets. The word consolidated sometimes is a little bit confusing when we talk about accounting, but consolidated budget is basically one single budget for the entire company. Or you can do what they're calling a subdivided budget, which is basically budget by location, budget by class [00:05:30] or budget by customer. If you do a budget by customer, you can even go one step further and do budget by by project or by job per se, which actually makes it makes it pretty a pretty interesting, um, and uh, and in-depth. So anyway, um, that's, that's your budgets. And also the budgets can be imported with a spreadsheet. And budgets can also be synced using the tool called Spreadsheet Sync that [00:06:00] only QuickBooks Online Advanced has. So budgets at this point, it's a very mature and sophisticated feature. When you actually go into forecast, which the mechanics are all the same, you're not going to see all those things.
Hector Garcia: You're simply going to see when you go to create a forecast, it's a forecast for a PNL only. So there's no such thing as balance sheet forecasting as of January of 2024. Now, when you go create, uh, the forecast, you can either do a forecast for the current year. So [00:06:30] through the end of the year or the end of the 12 month cycle, you can do something for two years. So you can go, uh, the current year and the next year, or you can do three years. So current year next year, the year after. So those are the three options that you have when you go create a forecast. You can either do an an average of actuals. So you can go back essentially the same a particular period. Or you can do [00:07:00] um the actuals themselves. So when you pick average of actuals you can actually say, hey, I want it to be the last three months. So the average of the last three months, the average of the last six months, the average of the last 12 months, nine months. Or 12 months. If you pick, uh, from actuals, essentially you're going to get copy and paste. So copy and paste of last year's, uh, financial statement with this year. Alicia, what do you think?
Alicia Katz Pollock: So the [00:07:30] ability to specify can you drop that down for me again, the forecast using the time frames for those last three, six, nine and 12 months are really important because a lot of the time your, uh, activity is seasonal. And, you know, depending on where you are in the year, you know, if you're Christmas and New Year's is you took vacation, then those numbers are going to be lower versus higher. And so it's really important when you're doing your forecasting that you choose a time frame [00:08:00] as the basis so that you have accurate numbers going forward, that you're not overestimating or underestimating because you had different activity in the last three months, six months than you would over a year. So, I mean, it kind of seems to me that using 12 months would give you the most accurate forecast moving forward.
Hector Garcia: Actually, that's a great. Uh, thank you for bringing that up. It's a great topic of conversation, because if you actually say that you want the the forecast [00:08:30] to come from actuals, you're basically going to see the same exact, uh, actual PNL be duplicated into the forecast, and then you would manually change whatever numbers you want. If you actually say, look, the last six months are actually more likely to be an indicator of what the next three years look like, because maybe we picked up a couple of new contracts in the last six months, or we picked up a couple of new employees. You know, maybe the whole year is not really well represented. [00:09:00] I mean, again, based on the life cycle of your business, if you actually pick the average of actuals and you pick again three, six, 9 or 12 months, the idea is that that becomes the new basis. And then from that basis, you actually have this optional rules where you can say, hey, use the last three months average as the baseline. But from that baseline let's increase our revenue by 10%, or let's decrease our revenue by 5%. And you have the ability to set these [00:09:30] rules, this, um, this, this basic rules where you can say, look, I want your income or my income to go up by 50%.
Hector Garcia: I want my cost of goods sold to go up, let's say, by 75%, because margins are going down. I want the expenses to go up, let's say, by 15%. I want my other income to decrease, let's say by 100%. Let's say I had this line of other income that doesn't exist anymore. You can have it essentially completely disappear from your forecast. And I want my other expense accounts to increase, [00:10:00] let's say 2% or something like that. So you get these five options of rules. You can create, uh, income, Cogs expenses, other income, other expenses. So you don't get to specify the specific account. It just goes across all of them and increases it for you. Now, if you pick not wanting to increase any of these across the board, then they stay at the baseline and then you manually, uh, change those. So if you actually pick to say, you know what, I want income to be projected at [00:10:30] 50% Cogs, to be projected at 75%, but actually want to manually manipulate each individual expense account that I want it to go up or down, then you don't choose the rule to automatically increase or decrease that.
Alicia Katz Pollock: Once you set these rules and it uses it in the forecast, you can then still go in and manually edit individual categories though, right?
Hector Garcia: Correct. So so setting the rules is for it to create your template. Let's call it that okay. So then after you pick so again after it's PNL, only you pick either [00:11:00] the rest of the year two years or the next three years. You, you pick either average of a particular period or actuals, and you pick whether or not you want to set a rule to automatically increase or decrease these categories. The next screen essentially is going to lay out the forecast for you, just like a budget, okay. And then you get to, uh, give it a name or even edit any of those rules if you want to. And then once it's laid out in front of you like a budget, then at that point you [00:11:30] can actually go individually into any of the each of the months that are being forecasted, and you can edit any of them if you want to. So that's actually a pretty neat, uh, uh, workflow. Then there's a really cool thing, uh, which actually, I think I think it was genius that they thought about this. And hopefully they'll add it on the budget side, too, which they have a button that says make this a budget. So for whatever reason you got here and you're like, oh man, you know, it'd be awesome [00:12:00] for this thing to be the actual budget instead of the forecast.
Hector Garcia: You can take what you're working on this screen and immediately basically copy and paste it into a budget. You can't do it the other way, so you can't grab an existing budget that you created and say, make this a forecast. I don't know why they did that or they didn't do that, but essentially having that little button there that says make this a budget allows you to just sort of quickly correct yourself and go, huh? You know, I really meant to do this as a budget. And because the budgets don't have these rules to do this automatic increasing or [00:12:30] decreasing, it could be really helpful for you to, um, create your PNL budget from a forecast, uh, like this. And then you'll basically have the option to save or save and close. You create, uh, your forecast, and now you have just a completely different thing, a forecast and a budget. Then in the budget, I mean, in the forecast screen, you're going to have a list of all your of all your, uh, forecasts that you created. You have the ability to view, edit. Unfortunately, [00:13:00] you don't have the ability to duplicate yet.
Hector Garcia: That's going to be great. When they do that. It's going to be really nice when they do that. And um, and the one area that I think forecast is actually going to be taking to the next level is, you know, last year, September, they talked about the financial LM, you know, the financial, um, language model that, uh, that Intuit is working. I essentially anything that has to do with projecting out into the future because, you know, like I is not really good at calculating, [00:13:30] like doing actual accounting tasks, but I is really good at extrapolating at, uh, at, um, at projecting. So I think it's going to be really cool whenever, um, you actually say, hey, you know, what does I think about this? Like, if what if I were to look at specific trends in my revenue, specific trends in my expenses, do you think, you know, 10% increase in revenue is, uh, it makes sense. You know, like, what is what are the chances that we can go up 20%, 30%. So it'll be really interesting to see if [00:14:00] I is ever brought into the mix, uh, to do this, uh, because, you know, other than that, forecasting is it feels like it's the same thing as, as doing a budget, basically.
Alicia Katz Pollock: Well, you know, I'm an active user of Liveplan and kind of as I'm listening to you, I'm thinking about so far the things that it kind of doesn't do because Liveplan will be able to say, okay, I want you to be able to expand this 10%, not just over the actuals, but month over month or year [00:14:30] over year, kind of a kind of accelerating. And then also like subscription churn, for example, I don't see any tools for managing subscriptions or um, individual cost churn. So. I think this is kind of a it's an interesting. Addition. And definitely like you said, it's version 1.0. And you know, it definitely has good [00:15:00] utility for being able to to roll forward three years and see what your numbers might look like for sure.
Hector Garcia: Exactly the one. The one thing that I found really strange with, with the forecast. And again, this I could be using version one, which they hadn't thought about that, but I don't see any reports. It's very it's a very strange and silly thing which I, which I'm going to make the assumption that this is a this is actually a fluke. This is not by design. This is somebody that built [00:15:30] the report that forgot to hit enable or publish on the report. Because if you actually go into the report section and you type budgets, you do see your budget overview and your budget versus actual. But I don't see like even if I go into budget versus actual, which would be like a place I would think, okay, maybe it's there somewhere. I don't have the ability to go, okay, I'm in the budget screen, you know, maybe in the budget screen I go and pick my forecast because essentially it's the same mechanism, right? A budget or a forecast is the same mechanism. So you don't have the option [00:16:00] to end the budget versus actual screen to choose a forecast. And if you go into the report list and you type forecast, uh, nothing shows up. So I'm not sure what the deal with that is. Okay.
Alicia Katz Pollock: There's also no charts. There's no visual representation. I mean, there's already a cash flow planner that does kind of ostensibly some of the same things. So I'm surprised that they didn't actually just adapt the cash flow chart technology and apply it to these, um, to, to the forecast.
Hector Garcia: So [00:16:30] that might be an interesting topic of discussion. Um, for now, I'm, I'm, I'm again I'm, I'm in my mind a forecast is like a budget. So I'm, I'm just laser focused on, you know, does it work like a budget. Can I import what you can't right now. You cannot import into forecast. And ultimately can I get the report? I will say without the report, this entire exercise is 100% moot. It's completely useless. So again, I don't think that by [00:17:00] design they released it without reports. I think that someone over there are into a world literally forgot to publish the report. If that's not the case, then something's severely wrong with the with the planning people that came up with this because it if you if you do any sort of work in QuickBooks and you spend time inputting data somewhere, if you don't have an output, the entire work gets lost the entire, uh, so I don't know, I don't know, like what? Alicia, maybe you can [00:17:30] maybe make me feel different. Would this have any functionality without a report?
Alicia Katz Pollock: Um. Not really. I mean, all it. You can use it as an exercise so that you can get some projections out of it. But right now, if all it is, is just kind of the big budget grid, all you can really do is just see the numbers. There's no encapsulation, there's no summary, there's no visual. So I think that, you know, they're they're [00:18:00] they've gotten to the point where they've put the mechanics together on how to build it, but you got to have an end result for the tool to be successful.
Hector Garcia: Right. And to be fair, forecasting is is strictly to project into the future. So obviously there's no such thing as forecast versus actuals when you're looking at the future, because there's no such thing as actuals in the future. But you have budgets versus actuals because you want to see how well you did right in your exercise [00:18:30] of budgeting versus what you did. So it would be kind of silly to not be able to see, hey, how did we do with our forecast? Or even if there isn't a forecast versus actual I want to see it in report format. It's just it's just not friendly enough for me to like take a look at my forecast in a grid. It's just doesn't make doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me.
Alicia Katz Pollock: You want to have a report that's structured like a PNL, but then with a forecasted date range on it, I mean, so we're looking at it in a grid and essentially it does that same thing. [00:19:00] But, you know, can you print it out? You know, you're going to want to see some of this on paper or save to a PDF.
Hector Garcia: Right now. The one thing I would say where maybe that's why the make this a budget button is there. And I'm just kind of thinking this on real time.
Alicia Katz Pollock: Oh, right. Right.
Hector Garcia: Yeah. It might not have been. Hey, let's add this nifty button just in case you were you were doing a forecast. You wanted to make it a budget. The actual thought behind [00:19:30] the programmers is, hey, we'll have a system so you can project it out. And if you want to see it on a report, then you need to convert it into a budget. So if we actually do click on make this a budget and you pick you pick the period. Let's say even if you pick three year period, budgets are only one year. They're only one year periods budgets. So then you have to make it a budget. And then maybe when you rename the budget itself, give it a name that's conducive to, hey, this actually came from [00:20:00] a forecast or something like that. Okay.
Alicia Katz Pollock: So your thoughts about that. Yeah. So basically what Hector is saying right there is when he we're watching him do it on the screen right now when he clicked the clicked the make this a budget button, it asks him which fiscal year he wanted. So he had put together a three year forecast, but it only allowed him to say, well, do you want to do 24, 25 or 26? So that's you know what? We're what we're looking at on our screens right now. So he went ahead and he did it for [00:20:30] the 24. Yeah. So then it then it just takes it right back to the budgeting tool. And so yeah I mean that'll give you your budget report. It would have been interesting to see this on the if you hadn't taken it to the 26 but to 2026. But I think it's, you know, still kind of amounts to the same thing.
Hector Garcia: You can still go back to it and then create the budget for 25 and then go back to it and create the budget for 2026. So it's not like it's not like a huge deal that you can't do all 3 in 1 shot. Um, but but once that once you create the budget, I guess the workaround [00:21:00] would be, you know, have the word like you just call it budget from forecast or something like that, or budget scenario one or budget scenario two or whatever, and then save it, I think in the long run.
Alicia Katz Pollock: Forecast wrong.
Hector Garcia: Yeah.
Alicia Katz Pollock: They spelled it wrong.
Hector Garcia: What I think um, in the long run, QuickBooks uh, didn't want to have two different reporting mechanisms. They only wanted to have the one budget versus actual mechanism. And then the forecast is just basically a a preemptive tool. You know, [00:21:30] it's like the tool before the tool. So the forecast it's a it's a it's a it's a preemptive tool. So you can create the budget and then use budget for that. And since budget already works in spreadsheet sync, it already works with import. Uh, although the import might be a useless scenario for this case because, you know, you already import it essentially from forecast. So it could be interesting to think about whether or not you actually do need an import feature.
Alicia Katz Pollock: Now, what would have been handy for me working out of that three year forecast would [00:22:00] be, um, breaking it down into kind of like a piano by year with the three years of that forecast and seeing it in just one report with three columns that, you know, the forecast that we're working on has it month broken out, month by month, by month, by month. But by the time I'm done, I want to just roll it up and see the whole year and what that that 10% and all of those predicted changes would do to the bottom line. And so I think that would be a really easy way [00:22:30] of turning it into something functional.
Hector Garcia: Okay. So what you're suggesting is while you're creating your forecast and you're in the grid view, um, especially if you're doing a multi-year forecast is maybe a, maybe a toggle where you can just, uh, condense those 12 months into a year so you can compare the three years next to it. Yes, I agree with you. And and I agree with you. And I think I would take a one step further. I would also have it condensed by a year and also compare it with maybe the last, the, the last [00:23:00] year that we, uh, that we had or maybe that average period. That way I can just quickly visualize, okay, how far am I from the reality in here? So even though I know I said 10% or I said 15%, I know I set those, but it isn't until you actually see the number next to it that you go, huh? You know what? Half a million from, you know, 400,000 or whatever, that doesn't seem as attainable, you know, whatever. Like I think that you might be missing, at least from the preview screen, from the grid screen. Just a quick comparison [00:23:30] with the actuals. Maybe annualized and monthly would be a little bit messy. So like at least I can get a general understanding of like what am I doing with these projections? Like, are they are they reasonable or not? Um, yeah.
Hector Garcia: So that really is it. I mean, there really isn't much to it. Um, I rate this a. Let's call it an eight out of ten. Um, I could have could have given it a ten, actually, because it really it really does work really well. Um, now [00:24:00] that you actually see the mechanism with creating the forecast and make it into a budget, the whole report scenario, the whole report situation is not as needed. In either case, I would love to see a report or a export to Excel version of that grid, because sometimes, just generally speaking, sometimes working on a web based grid is just not as comfortable as working maybe with something printed or with, uh, with with Excel, [00:24:30] something that maybe in a more tangible terms, I can sit with my team and go, hey, what do you think about this number here? What do you think about this number there? It just it feels very restrictive to to only be able to work this in a web based grid. So having the ability to maybe possibly export the current grid that you're seeing into a spreadsheet, which should be a fairly simple thing for the programmers to do, and one level up, if I can export that, edit it, and then bring it back up. Oof, that would that would be pretty incredible.
Alicia Katz Pollock: Yeah. [00:25:00] And I think for me, I would probably rate it maybe a seven, because not only is some of that reporting missing, but the ability to be able to take like, you know, 10% increases over quarters or, uh, months or quarters or annual and kind of expand it out a little bit more, and especially if you've got like subscription churn. I mean, that's one of my favorite things about Liveplan. So.
Hector Garcia: Yeah. And you and you made a really important comment earlier, which is, [00:25:30] hey, they already have a cash flow tool and they have a cash flow planner tool. And, and when we talked about, um, the forecast at the very beginning, your head immediately went to, oh, are they doing something with the cash flow planner? And it's important to point out that the cash flow planner or the cash flow tool and the cash flow planner is not linked to this forecasting feature in one way, shape or form. And one thing that I think you like, Alicia, about the cash flow planner is, um, the [00:26:00] graphics that they created, they're they're very visual, very easy to view. And the planner itself, which, uh, uses, uh, maybe open invoices and uses a pattern of expenditure over, over the past to project your possible cash in and outflows in the future. Uh, again, this is cash flow, not PNL, because PNL is more accrual and cash flow is more cash basis. But, um, but that feature of that's already in [00:26:30] there cash flow planning, cash flow and planner already had tons of power, tons of tons of, um, tons of value. And it seems like they didn't leverage the learnings from that. So I think that's maybe that was your disappointing at the beginning is like, hey, why are they not using the mechanics from here?
Alicia Katz Pollock: If they've already got the tool in place, why don't they add this as an enhancement and as a way of adding the new, um, adding [00:27:00] this new ability to what's already there. So I think it's a missed opportunity, but it would be a really nice consolidation if they introduce the the forecasting into the planner.
Hector Garcia: Yeah, that's interesting too. Um, I don't have any. I'm not privy to like what they're doing with cash flow planning or what they're not doing with cash flow planning and what they're planning to do when it comes to like, mixing these two, these two features. But you're absolutely right. I didn't even think about that when I was playing with it. It's, you know, uh, is [00:27:30] is there some opportunity to graph these out or to, um, you know, so so again, sometimes these this is, this is a spreadsheet of just numbers and it's hard to really understand, um, what this, you know, huge creative numbers mean when you see them as a graph. You, it feels more tangible. And then you can make it a decision whether or not you're, you're over projecting or under projecting a particular category. And at the end it's not the number, it's it's the user. [00:28:00] It's this information useful to the user.
Alicia Katz Pollock: Yeah. There's nothing like looking at a report and seeing a trend line and going, oh, there's no way we're going to be able to get that steep. I have to go back and adjust my assumptions.
Hector Garcia: Correct, or see that your revenue projection and your expense projection is completely misaligned, you know, and then you're like, oh, you know what? I'm it doesn't make sense for us to increase our revenue by 50%, but not increase our expenses in a similar trend line, because you saying revenue going [00:28:30] up by 50% and expenses going up by 50%, it's not necessarily the same. The same, uh, line because the baseline of each could be could be much different. So having both increase at the same time is not necessarily the most obvious way to to sort of sanity check these, uh, financial.
Alicia Katz Pollock: Sure. And, you know, hopefully you've got some scale as well that, you know, your expenses are going to go up not quite as high, because if you've got economy of scale, then you should be able [00:29:00] to, you know, get your get your cost of goods at a cheaper rate if you are buying more of them. So yeah, things to think about.
Hector Garcia: So conclusion is we do have a brand new feature is beta. Uh, there's no feedback button in here. For some reason, it's it's the strangest thing, you know, like, uh, why does this one not this one, not have a feedback button? Um, so hopefully when they do add a feedback button at some point and you're listening to this episode and you agree [00:29:30] with us, you want to flood that feedback and say, hey, this is what we need. We need to be able to export this, uh, forecast into Excel. We want to be able to import it back from Excel. We want to be able to see if in a multi year scenario, condense them by year. We want to be able to maybe compare it with the actuals. So we can have a general idea of where we are. We want to be able to graph these out, uh, maybe compare it with the actual so we can see, you know, does this stuff make sense. And we would love to see how [00:30:00] for for Intuit to leverage the learnings from the cash flow and cash flow planner into this forecasting to make this stuff like, really, really useful. Uh, Alicia, was there anything else that I missed or you think, uh, no. This is a list of capitulation.
Alicia Katz Pollock: Yeah. I'm envisioning their PM team listening to this and actually just writing down the list of.
Hector Garcia: 100%. So with that being said, uh, thank you very much for listening to this week's episode, and I we'll see you in the next one.
Alicia Katz Pollock: See you in the next one. [00:30:30]