Well, simply put, it is estimation and prediction. No, not the kind where you can predict whether or not your company gets listed in the top lists of Forbes. By definition, Forecasting means recognizing past patterns of your business and applying the derived insight for the present and future patterns. It also includes dividing and allocating your budget with the plan you are about to implement. Forecasting, for a running and thriving business, is extremely important to get valuable insights and project your business expectations accordingly.
Investors need numbers. One can romanticize a business philosophically, but an investment, expenditure, and profits are strictly numbers. Potential or existing Investors, use forecasts as a means to get insights on the future value of the brand or business. In other words – what will be the share price of your company in the coming times.
Forecasting is specific when it comes to data. Experts on the commerce of businesses or Economists present their studied assumptions or data for a particular situation before determining variables of the forecasts. A data set is then selected to gauge information accordingly. Based on the currently analyzed determiners, the future forecast is then accurately modeled.
But what is a 5-year forecast?
A 5-year forecast, also known as the long-range forecast is planning and adjustment for long-term endeavors. It includes major development plans with regards to production or service, the client segment you are catering to, and the allocation of new sectors/categories you are about to modify. A 5-year forecast is necessary for the long run of a business but it is equally important to include a short-ranged one too.
- Long-range forecasts should be backed up by efficient research. Things like new product planning, facility location, research, and development need more than just numbers. It should run parallel with the short-ranged forecast as short-term impact plays a crucial role in the long term.
- Short forecasts tend to have more accurate results than the long-range ones. They bracket-in mostly a 3-month term or can go up to 1 year. This includes assessment and reevaluation of the workforce, production levels, purchasing, work schedules, and assignments. Medium Ranged ones deal with sales, production, and budgeting. They generally are for 3 months to 3 years.
Is forecasting a new concept?
The answer is NO. It goes way back to ancient civilizations. Often lost amid the modern debate, ancient civilizations understood a lot of things that we have adapted to the current times we live in. It dates even to Egyptian civilizations who used estimation and predictions for yearly harvests based on water levels of the river Nile.
A relatively closer history of the concept was presented by Sir William Petty – who suggested an idea of the 7-year business cycle. It was considered as a first attempt of forecasting economic matters. The cause and effect nature which applied to businesses as well came to the surface at that time.
Methods or Types of forecasting
Before we dive into the types and methods of forecasting, let us take a sneak peek at the strategic importance of it.
➢ Supply Chain Management – It gives an in-depth insight into the current supply chain and how to gauge it for future needs. It factors in good supplier relations. It is also an advantage for product innovation and the speed of supply to the market.
➢ Human Resources – It is important to hire, train, and lay off employees according to the forecast plan which you choose for the next business run. Giving paramount importance to hiring plans and the benefits or remunerations you allocate works wonders.
➢ Capacity – It is sad to not know the supply or sale capacity of the business and end up losing clients. Here’s where forecasting for the short and long term helps in delivery, market share, and acquiring newer clients.
Now let’s see what are the methods one can use –
1. The qualitative method includes talking to people and uses little to no hard data for situations. It is generally adopted in vague situations such as researching for a new product launch. Experts often deploy their intuition and experience of the market for this method rather than crunching in real numbers which are often only half part of the story.
2. The quantitative method as the name suggests – involves hard data. It requires historical data and situations to be relatively stable for projecting future results. It often involves mathematical analysis and techniques for assumptions and future projections.
Under the Quantitative method, analysts often deploy 4 main methods or techniques to evaluate future expenses, revenues, and investment costs for a business. They are
– Straight-line Method
– Moving Average Technique
– Simple Linear Regression Flow
– Multiple Linear Regression Flow
The often talked about Delphi method uses an intricate process of surveying experts to conclude on a decision. The experts are presented with a set of questionnaires.
The Nominal Group Method uses answers to questionnaires and then are aggregated, shared with other groups for another round. Every round is almost like filtering out the objective observance or opinion of the group. The final consensus on what the group thinks is then determined.
Executive Opinions are often used in forecasts by higher-level executives of the company using their intuitive and experience of the market.
Scenario Projections is an evaluation of different scenarios for deriving at certain outcomes.
Who needs Forecasting?
Forecasting is nothing but a foundational plan for the future of a business. All departments or functional wings of the organization reap benefits from it. Sales and marketing teams benefit the most. They plan and execute sale numbers and marketing success ratios based on the valuable insights the strategy brings in. It helps concerned departments to strategize and re-strategize their goals of the business in a concerning time frame.
When it comes to Marketing, forecasting provides key insights for campaigning and market entry-exist strategies. It benefits financial functioning too. When analyzed with hard data, they allow the financial team and experts within the organization to prepare and evaluate financial roadmaps accordingly. It also stretches to other departments like resource allocation as well under which all expenses like rent and other utilities are included. Forecasting is important for almost all businesses to be successful in and out of the market. When it comes to dealing with newer clients and future cyclical patterns of revenues & expenses, forecasting gives an upper hand for consistent success ratio.