What is Forecasting?
In essence, forecasting is a method of examining past and current market movements and patterns in order to gain some insight or hints about future trends and business movements. Forecasting is looking into the future for us to prepare for it accordingly.
Forecasting is not, however, a haywire operation. It is a systematic methodology with well-thought-out methods and procedures that are scientific. With the assistance of both quantitative and qualitative methods, it requires a detailed and proper study of data and information.
Steps in Forecasting
Identifying and Understanding the Structure -
Factors that may shape the future of an organization are almost infinite. It is neither feasible nor desirable to define all these considerations. The executives must also define the variables on which to concentrate in order to make an effective forecast. In order to define the strategic factors of the organization, internal and external variables must also be examined.
Forecasting the Future
The next step now is to make a reliable and scientific prediction after the foundation is laid. This includes both research instruments and methods and professional judgment and observations as well. The forecast is not a foolproof strategy, just a potential guidance map.
Analysis of Deviations
No prediction can be entirely exact. It is important to evaluate and study the variations or deviations from the forecasts. In the future, this would help to build more detailed predictions.
Adapting the Forecasts Procedure
The skills and professional judgment required in forecasting are acquired through experience and practice. With every cycle, the forecast procedure is fine-tuned. And we can learn and continue to build on the forecasting procedures from our errors and weaknesses.
Advantages of Forecasting
1) Helps in Scheduling
One of the greatest benefits of forecasting is that it helps the manager to prepare for the organization's future. Currently, planning and forecasting go hand in hand. We will not prepare for it without an understanding of what the future holds for the business. Forecasting, therefore, plays a very significant role in planning.
2) Changes to the Climate
Prognostics should be able to point out the potential environmental changes when performed correctly. This implies that it will allow the organization to benefit from such environmental changes. It can develop and grow its business if the changes are beneficial to the company. And it may intend and prepare to defend itself in circumstances that are adverse.
3) Weak Spots Detection
Another benefit of forecasting is that it can help the manager find any weak points that the company may have or overlooked areas. When attention has been drawn to these areas, successful controls and preparation strategies to fix them can be put into practice by the manager.
4) Enhances Coordination and Control
Information and data from a lot of external and internal sources are needed for forecasting. This knowledge is obtained from different internal sources by the various managers and employees. Thus, nearly all of the organization's divisions and verticals are involved in the forecasting process. This facilitates greater cooperation and communication between them.
Limitations of Forecasting
Along with the advantages, there are certain forecasting constraints as well. Let us have a look at a few of them,
1) Just Estimates
The future will be unpredictable at all times. Even if the best methods of forecasting are used and every factor possible is accounted for a prediction is still just an estimation. With 100 percent effectiveness, one can never predict future events. So even the best-laid plans can be nothing at all. This will still be one of the forecasting's greatest constraints.
2) Based on Forecasts
Assumptions, approximations, natural conditions, etc are the basis of every forecasting system. This renders those predictions inaccurate. So, the inherent weaknesses of forecasting must always be kept in mind and everyone has to be careful about being over-reliant on them.
3) Factors Time and Cost
There is usually a lot of data and knowledge needed to make structured forecasts. And, there is a lot of time and money involved in the processing and tabulation of such results. Another aspect is also the translation of qualitative data into quantitative data. One must be cautious that the forecasting time, resources, and effort expended must not overshadow the real benefits of such forecasts.