Here’s How to Forecast Accounts Receivable Using DSO in 3 Easy Steps

15 February, 2022
5 min
Bill Sarda, Chief of Staff, Digital Transformation

Table of Content

Key Takeaways
Introduction
What Is Accounts Receivable (AR) Forecasting?
Why Is Accounts Receivable Forecasting Crucial?
Steps for Forecasting Accounts Receivable Using DSO
How Automation Can Enhance Accounts Receivable Forecasting 
Choose Your Accounts Receivable Forecasting Tool
FAQs

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Key Takeaways

  • Forecasting accounts receivable accurately is crucial but complicated. The most accurate approach is utilizing the metric known as DSO as it can simplify the process.
  • Forecasting accounts receivable involves sales projection, DSO calculation, and estimating accounts receivable for effective cash flow management.
  • Leveraging automation in your accounts receivable process can greatly enhance the accuracy of your organization’s accounts receivable forecasting.
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Introduction

Accounts receivable forecasting is a strenuous yet necessary task for a company’s growth. However, forecasting accounts receivable accurately can be challenging since payment terms are often agreed upon but not followed through. 

Here’s a complete guide to forecasting accounts receivable using days sales outstanding (DSO). In this guide, you will learn the three essential steps to accurately forecast accounts receivables. 

Before delving into the steps involved in forecasting, let’s explore what accounts receivable forecasting is and its importance.

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What Is Accounts Receivable (AR) Forecasting?

Accounts receivable forecasting is a vital component of effective cash management. It entails monitoring both historical and anticipated receivable payments. By analyzing past payment patterns of clients, you can make informed predictions about when you can expect future payments.

Why Is Accounts Receivable Forecasting Crucial?

Cash flow is the lifeblood of any business, and accounts receivable plays a pivotal role in maintaining it. Accounts receivable forecasting is a vital financial analysis technique that enables businesses to anticipate and prepare for future customer payments. By examining historical sales data and customer payment patterns, businesses can project their future accounts receivable balance and make informed decisions accordingly.

In essence, accounts receivable forecasting is essential for assessing a company’s profitability, offering clarity on cash inflow to the CFO. Here are some key benefits of accounts receivable forecasting:

  • Facilitates informed decision-making by predicting future cash flow.
  • Provides an accurate and reliable balance sheet, enhancing working capital management.
  • Reduces the need for external funding options, boosting cash flow.
  • Utilizes financial data to support well-informed business choices.
  • Offers investors greater insight into a company’s overall financial stability and liquidity.
  • Aids in minimizing bad debts and tracking business debtors.

To make sound financial decisions, the CFO’s office must stay well-informed, and accounts receivable forecasting plays a pivotal role in this process. Let’s delve into the step-by-step process of forecasting accounts receivable using DSO.

Steps for Forecasting Accounts Receivable Using DSO

Forecasting accounts receivable is a valuable tool for CFOs to anticipate future payments and manage cash flow effectively. Among various methods, one of the most accurate approaches is utilizing the metric known as DSO. Let’s delve into how DSO can simplify the process.

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Step 1: Generate a Sales Forecast

Start by projecting your sales, which involves estimating the anticipated sales revenue for a specific period. An effective method for accurate sales forecasting is to examine your historical sales and analyze changes in financial data. Consider these key factors that may evolve over time and should be taken into account for sales forecasting:

  • Acquisition of new customers
  • Pricing adjustments
  • Economic conditions
  • Customer retention or attrition
  • Market expansion, and more

While the execution of these factors may require some time, they form the foundation of a reliable sales forecast. Other approaches can also be employed, including historical data analysis, deal stage assessments, and custom forecasting models incorporating variables like lead scoring. 

Here’s a common formula for forecasting sales: 

Sales Forecast = (Last Month Revenue + Expected Growth – Expected Churn)

For instance, if last month’s monthly recurring revenue was $100,000, and sales revenue has consistently grown by 10% each month for the past 12 months, with a monthly churn rate of 1%, the sales forecast for the next month would be calculated as follows:

Putting these numbers in gives us:

Sales Forecast = $100,000 + (10% x $100,000) – (1% x $100,000) = $109,000

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Step 2: Calculate Days Sales Outstanding 

Irrespective of your industry, DSO is the most popular metric for estimating the financial health of a business. It can be defined as the average number of days a company takes to recover its receivables after a sale. For a CFO, it is better to keep DSO as low as possible. 

Different industries have different approaches towards DSO calculation but, the common formula is:

DSO = (Accounts Receivable / Total Credit Sales) x Number of Days in the Period

For instance, if there’s a company, Company X, with net credit sales totaling $100,000 and accounts receivable for 50 days amounting to $60,000, you can calculate its DSO as follows:

(60000/100000) x 50 =30 Days

From the above calculation, we could say that company X recovers its dues within 30 days, and hence its DSO is 30 days. Generally, a DSO of less than 45 days indicates low DSO, which means the company has consistent cash flow and fast-paying customers.

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Step 3: Forecast Accounts Receivable

After forecasting sales and calculating DSO, you’ll have the necessary numbers to estimate accounts receivable. The formula to calculate the accounts receivable forecast is:

Accounts Receivable Forecast = Days Sales Outstanding (DSO) x (Sales Forecast / Time)

For instance, let’s assume that Company X has a sales forecast of around $40,000 in 60 days, and as we know, DSO is 30 days. You can calculate the accounts receivable forecast as follows:

Accounts Receivable Forecast = 30 x ($40,000 / 60) = $20,000

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How Automation Can Enhance Accounts Receivable Forecasting 

By leveraging automation and utilizing accounts receivable forecasting tools, businesses can significantly improve the accuracy of their accounts receivable forecasts. According to Pymnts and American Express, companies that rely on manual processes take 67% more time to follow up on overdue accounts than those using AR automation.

Moreover, automating the accounts receivable forecasting process offers several advantages for businesses:

  • Reduce risk: Automating the forecasting process minimizes the potential for human errors and enhances confidence in the analysis.
  • Enhance efficiency: Automation enables accounting teams to conduct accounts receivable forecasting more swiftly and effortlessly.
  • Handle diverse data sources: Regardless of the number of accounts involved in a company’s processes, an automated platform can rapidly analyze the data required for forecasting accounts receivable.

As we highlight the efficiency gains from automating accounts receivable forecasting, consider industry leaders like Hershey’s. Our analysis of their working capital metrics, including DSO, DIO, DPO, and the Cash Cycle, reveals strategic financial management. The comparison with competitors and insights into Hershey’s Order-to-Cash modernization efforts offer a glimpse into effective financial strategies and innovation driving operational excellence.

Choose Your Accounts Receivable Forecasting Tool

HighRadius offers an e-invoicing and collections app that aids CFOs in achieving accurate accounts receivable forecasting. Our AI-powered solution offers a holistic view of your financial data, leading to enhanced financial health by effectively reducing DSO and minimizing bad debt risks.

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FAQs

1). What is forecasting collections in accounts receivable? 

Forecasting collections in accounts receivable (AR) is a crucial aspect of financial management as it allows organizations to predict the timing and amount of cash inflows from outstanding invoices. This helps organizations optimize cash flow, manage working capital, and make informed business decisions.

2). How do you model accounts receivable monthly?

You can model accounts receivable monthly by analyzing historical data, tracking changes in customer payment behavior, and adjusting for economic conditions.

3). How to increase accounts receivable forecasting accuracy?

By leveraging advanced accounts receivable forecasting tools, automating data collection, and regularly updating your forecasting model you can increase your accounts receivable forecasting accuracy. 

4). What is an effective tool for analyzing accounts receivable?

An effective tool for analyzing accounts receivable is an AR automation platform, which streamlines data collection, provides real-time insights, and improves forecasting accuracy.

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