We've added several features that we hope will make the LivePlan forecast easier to use, especially when it comes to entering numbers.
This article describes these forecast features in greater detail, including interactive charts to help you visualize the seasonality in your forecast by moving chart points; copy-and-paste functionality that allows you to quickly paste your numbers in from a spreadsheet; the fill-right feature, which lets you quickly fill in the same number in cells to the right, so you don't have to retype them, and finally a calculator for solving simple equations within cells. .
Customizing your views of forecast tables
Throughout the forecast, the information you've entered is summarized in tables. Here are some helpful features found on the tables in the forecast.
Expanding and collapsing table rows
If a table row has items under it, an expand/collapse arrow will appear next to it. Just click the arrow to see the related entries underneath:
To expand all available table rows, click on the arrow next to the forecast topic heading. Click again to collapse.
Reordering items in a table
After you've added items to the forecast — revenue streams, direct costs, expenses, etc. — you can change the order in which they appear in the table. To move a row, just click on the drag control to the right its name and drag it to the new position:
The new position will be indicated by a horizontal line between the rows, and the name of the item you're moving will be shown in a tooltip.
Note that you can only move an item within its assigned group of rows. For example, a revenue stream on the Profit & Loss statement can be moved within the set of revenue streams, but not into the set of direct costs.
Copying forecast entries
The copy command will create a copy of a forecast entry. This can save time when adding multiple, similar entries to your forecast.
Showing monthly detail
The Show monthly detail option allows you to choose whether you see annual columns or monthly columns in your forecast tables. This option is disabled by default, but you can enable it by checking the box. Whatever setting you choose will be applied across all of your forecast tables, and that setting will be saved for you until you change it again.
For example, the revenue table shows only annual columns when this option is not selected:
When the option is selected, the table shows monthly columns:
Forecasting varying amounts over time
When creating any forecast entry, you have two options for entering your numbers:
- Constant amount, which applies the same number to every month or year of your forecast
- Varying amounts over time, which allows you to manually enter different numbers for each month of your forecast, or to have certain months with no numbers at all
The example below shows you how to access these input types for a sample revenue entry, but the process is identical for direct costs, expenses, personnel, assets, or any other type of forecast item:
When do I use varying amounts over time?
The Varying amounts over time input is useful in a number of different scenarios:
- Let's say you want to show growth in your revenue, or growth in your direct costs or expenses, as your business grows. In that case, you can use Varying amounts over time to enter larger amounts for each month of year of your plan. (Or, you can use the point-and-click chart to draw an upward curve.)
- If the unit price of your product or service varies seasonally, Varying amounts over time allows you to set different unit prices for different months.
- If you're adding personnel to your forecast and you want to show seasonal fluctuations in the number of staff you'll be employing, Varying amounts over time allows you to enter a different number of employees each month. You can also use this method to show seasonal fluctuations in salary amounts.
In other words, the Varying amounts input can be used throughout the forecast, adding flexibility to your projections.
Applying a percentage of growth to varying amounts entries
When you've created an entry using varying amounts over time, you can then apply a flat growth percentage to each month of the current year. Enter the percentage in the Change field, and click Apply:
As shown above, the point-and-click chart and the numbers entered below it will both change as the percentage is applied to all months of the current year.
Using a point-and-click chart in LivePlan
It can be a bit time-consuming to enter individual numbers into the Varying amounts over time fields in the LivePlan forecast. This is especially true when your plan is very detailed. To make it easier to both enter and visualize your numbers, we've added a point-and-click chart that lets you add and adjust your data by clicking and dragging. Of course, you still also have the option to manually enter numbers into the grid.
Note: You can use this chart functionality with most types of forecast entries.
In addition to making it easier to enter your data, this chart is also interactive. If you are the owner of a mature business, for example, you are likely to be well acquainted with the seasonality curve for your industry. The chart shows you that curve visually and allows you to make adjustments by quickly nudging the numbers.
Using the point-and-click chart
Point-and-click charts are available in the LivePlan forecast wherever the Varying amounts over time option exists:
As illustrated below, you can click a point on the chart to enter a single number, or drag a point to draw a line that sets several numbers:
When you set a point on the chart, or drag a point to create a line, the corresponding fields in the grid update with numbers automatically. If you drag a point out of range, or hold a dragged point out of range for a reasonable amount of time, the range of the vertical axis will automatically change to accommodate the value of that point.
Of course, you can always enter numbers directly into a fields in the grid. When you do this, the chart will update to match. Any zeroes or invalid entries will create gaps in the chart's line.
Using the point-and-click chart with multiple years of monthly data
The example above shows a plan with one year of monthly detail and two annual years. However, you can have up to three years of monthly detail in a plan. In that case, there will be an interactive chart for each of these years.
Only one chart is displayed at any given time for each Varying amounts grid. Initially, the chart will show above the numbers for Year 1. If you place your cursor on a different year, the chart for the first year will move out of view, and the chart for the year you chose will come into view:
Applying an overall percentage of growth to the forecast
In the Varying amounts input mode, you can also apply a flat percentage of growth to each month of the current forecast year by entering a number in the Change field, and clicking Apply:
As shown above, the chart will automatically change, along with the numbers entered below it, as the percentage you've entered is applied to all months in the current year.
Calculate formulas within cells
LivePlan's Forecast tab can calculate simple mathematical formulas within cells. This feature is useful for making quick calculations without having to divert your attention away from the forecast and can be preformed from any cell within your LivePlan forecast. Addition and subtraction use the + and - characters, / (backslash) divides, and * (asterisk) multiplies.
In the example pictured below, the formula 115.50*38 has been entered in the cell:
Click anywhere outside of the cell to solve the formula:
This feature works in the varying amounts over time entry method as well. In the following example, 897+929 is entered into one of the cells.
Clicking outside of the cell solves the formula:
Using the touch interactions on iPad
The interactive chart component is fully functional on an iPad. It behaves the same way as on a desktop, with the following exceptions:
- You can touch a spot on the chart to place or move a point.
- You can slide your finger across the chart to draw your seasonality curve.
- You can touch and hold a point, then drag it to a new location, including out of the chart area to change the chart scale. As you drag a point, the corresponding field updates constantly to show the new value.
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