Key Financial Forecasting Methods Explained

In 1965, we disaggregated the market for color television by income levels and geographical regions and compared these submarkets with the historical pattern of black-and-white TV market growth. We justified this procedure by arguing that color TV represented an advance over black-and-white analogous to the advance that black-and-white TV represented over radio.

  • To be sure, the manager will want margin and profit projection and long-range forecasts to assist planning at the corporate level.
  • Eventually we found it necessary to establish a better field information system.
  • To provide estimates of trends and seasonals, which obviously affect the sales level.
  • For example, a forecast that a large percentage of a population will become HIV infected based on existing trends may cause more people to avoid risky behavior and thus reduce the HIV infection rate, invalidating the forecast .
  • Cyclic data cannot be accounted for using ordinary seasonal adjustment since it is not of fixed period.

We expect that computer timesharing companies will offer access, at nominal cost, to input-output data banks, broken down into more business segments than are available today. The continuing declining trend in computer cost per computation, along with computational simplifications, will make techniques such as the Box-Jenkins method economically feasible, even for some inventory-control applications. Computer software packages for the statistical techniques and some general models will also become available at a nominal cost. In 1969 Corning decided that a better method than the X-11 was definitely needed to predict turning points in retail sales for color TV six months to two years into the future. As we have indicated earlier, trend analysis is frequently used to project annual data for several years to determine what sales will be if the current trend continues. Regression analysis and statistical forecasts are sometimes used in this way—that is, to estimate what will happen if no significant changes are made. Then, if the result is not acceptable with respect to corporate objectives, the company can change its strategy.

Predictive Analytics: Become A Proactive Organization With Informed Predictions

There is a wide range of quantitative forecasting methods, often developed within specific disciplines for specific purposes. Each method has its own properties, accuracies, and costs that must be considered when choosing a specific method. As proposed by Edward Lorenz in 1963, long range weather forecasts, those made at a range of two weeks or more, are impossible to definitively predict the state of the atmosphere, owing to the chaotic nature of the fluid dynamics equations involved. Extremely small errors in the initial input, such as temperatures and winds, within numerical models double every five days. Seasonality is a characteristic of a time series in which the data experiences regular and predictable changes which recur every calendar year.

Great attention is paid to weather forecasts during times of severe events such as blizzards, hurricanes, and tornadoes. Accordingly, the NWS commits significant resources to the forecast of such events.

The basic tools here are the input-output tables of U.S. industry for 1947, 1958, and 1963, and various updatings of the 1963 tables prepared by a number of groups who wished to extrapolate the 1963 figures or to make forecasts for later years. Second, and more formalistically, one can construct disaggregate market models by separating off different segments of a complex market for individual study and consideration. Specifically, it is often useful to project the S-shaped growth curves for the levels of income of different geographical regions. They are naturally of the greatest consequence to the manager, and, as we shall see, the forecaster must use different tools from pure statistical techniques to predict when they will occur. Primarily, these are used when data are scarce—for example, when a product is first introduced into a market. They use human judgment and rating schemes to turn qualitative information into quantitative estimates.

English Language Learners Definition Of Forecast

California is averaging more than 500 COVID-19 deaths a week, and there are some scenarios that forecast an uptick in weekly deaths later this winter, especially if too few vaccinated adults get booster shots as their immunity weakens. Forecast adds the implication of anticipating eventualities and differs from predict in being usually concerned with probabilities rather than certainties. Be careful about using forecasts to raise an alarm about an impending crisis. Describe forces acting on your revenues or expenditures that might cause the actual results to be higher or lower than the forecast. Credibility of the forecast’s presenters is essential if a forecast is to be trusted.


In practice, we find, overall patterns tend to continue for a minimum of one or two quarters into the future, even when special conditions cause sales to fluctuate for one or two periods in the immediate future. For component products, the deviation in the growth curve that may be caused by characteristic conditions along the pipeline—for example, inventory blockages. Furthermore, the greatest care should be taken in analyzing the early sales data that start to accumulate once the product has been introduced into the market. For example, it is important to distinguish between sales to innovators, who will try anything new, and sales to imitators, who will buy a product only after it has been accepted by innovators, for it is the latter group that provides demand stability. Many new products have initially appeared successful because of purchases by innovators, only to fail later in the stretch. Input-output analysis, combined with other techniques, can be extremely useful in projecting the future course of broad technologies and broad changes in the economy.

Categories Of Forecasting Methods

The greatest potential for improvement in forecasting appears to lie in the short and medium ranges, while experimental work will characterize the extended range. Improvements in daily forecasting are likely to increase at a relatively minor pace. Finally, most computerized forecasting will relate to the analytical techniques described in this article. Computer applications will be mostly in established and stable product businesses.


Whereas it took black-and-white TV 10 years to reach steady state, qualitative expert-opinion studies indicated that it would take color twice that long—hence the more gradual slope of the color-TV curve. The success patterns of black-and-white TV, then, provided insight into the likelihood of success and sales potential of color TV. Where the manager’s company supplies a component to an OEM, as Corning does for tube manufacturers, the company does not have such direct influence or control over either the pipeline elements or final consumer sales. We should note that while we have separated analysis from projection here for purposes of explanation, most statistical forecasting techniques actually combine both functions in a single operation.

Time Series Forecasting

Moving averages and single exponential smoothing are somewhat more complex, but should be well within the capabilities of most forecasters. For example, a “conservative” forecast underestimates revenues and builds in a layer of contingencies for expenditures. This might make it harder to balance the budget, but reduces the risk of an actual shortfall. On the other hand, an “objective” forecast seeks to estimate revenues and expenditures as accurately as possible, making it easier to balance the budget, but increasing the risk of an actual shortfall.

Because substantial inventories buffered information on consumer sales all along the line, good field data were lacking, which made this date difficult to estimate. Eventually we found it necessary to establish a better field information system.

We have found that an analysis of the patterns of change in the growth rate gives us more accuracy in predicting turning points than when we use only the trend cycle. Virtually all the statistical techniques described in our discussion of the steady-state phase except the X-11 should be categorized as special cases of the recently developed Box-Jenkins technique.

What is forecasting in an organization?

Forecasting can be broadly considered as a method or a technique for estimating many future aspects of a business or other operation. Planning for the future is a critical aspect of managing any organization, and small business enterprises are no exception.

However, dynamic forecasts can be constantly updated with new information as it comes in. This means you can have less data at the time the forecast is made, and then get more accurate predictions as data is added. Inventory optimization finds and maintains optimal safety stock levels, reorder levels, order quantities, service levels, fill rates, and more. When forecasting time series data, the aim is to estimate how the sequence of observations will continue into the future. Figure 1.1 shows the quarterly Australian beer production from 1992 to the second quarter of 2010. While the veracity of predictions for actual stock returns are disputed through reference to the Efficient-market hypothesis, forecasting of broad economic trends is common. Such analysis is provided by both non-profit groups as well as by for-profit private institutions.

First Known Use Of Forecast

We also found we had to increase the number of factors in the simulation model—for instance, we had to expand the model to consider different sizes of bulbs—and this improved our overall accuracy and usefulness. For the year 1947–1968, Exhibit IV shows total consumer expenditures, appliance expenditures, expenditures for radios and TVs, and relevant percentages. If this approach is to be successful, it is essential that the (in-house) experts who provide the basic data come from different disciplines—marketing, R&D, manufacturing, legal, and so on—and that their opinions be unbiased. A manager generally assumes that when asking a forecaster to prepare a specific projection, the request itself provides sufficient information for the forecaster to go to work and do the job. Additional models are run on the computer as needed, for example, during hurricanes. After each model is run, selected results are further processed and transmitted to the NWS offices, other governmental agencies, universities, private meteorologists, and the general public, and to the GTS for international distribution.

How does forecasting work in Tableau?

Forecasting in Tableau uses a technique known as exponential smoothing. Forecast algorithms try to find a regular pattern in measures that can be continued into the future. … You typically add a forecast to a view that contains a date field and at least one measure.

To provide estimates of trends and seasonals, which obviously affect the sales level. Seasonals are particularly important for both overall production planning and inventory control. To do this, the forecaster needs to apply time series analysis and projection techniques—that is, statistical techniques. Naturally, there are limitations when dealing with the unpredictable and the unknown. Time series forecasting isn’t infallible and isn’t appropriate or useful for all situations. Because there really is no explicit set of rules for when you should or should not use forecasting, it is up to analysts and data teams to know the limitations of analysis and what their models can support. Data teams should use time series forecasting when they understand the business question and have the appropriate data and forecasting capabilities to answer that question.

Drift Method

Quantitative forecasting models are used to forecast future data as a function of past data. They are appropriate to use when past numerical data is available and when it is reasonable to assume that some of the patterns in the data are expected to continue into the future.

The appropriate forecasting methods depend largely on what data are available. Based on the investigation conducted during the first step, the second part of forecasting involves estimating the future conditions of the industry where the business operates and projecting and analyzing how the company will fare. Within five years, however, we shall see extensive use of person-machine systems, where statistical, causal, and econometric models are programmed on computers, and people interacting frequently. As we gain confidence in such systems, so that there is less exception reporting, human intervention will decrease. Basically, computerized models will do the sophisticated computations, and people will serve more as generators of ideas and developers of systems.

  • Primarily, these are used when data are scarce—for example, when a product is first introduced into a market.
  • Forecasts are based on opinions, intuition, guesses, as well as on facts, figures, and other relevant data.
  • The Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma., has primary responsibility for forecasting severe events connected with thunderstorms, including tornadoes, downbursts, hail, and lightning.
  • However, simpler methods are useful when you just want a straightforward answer—one of these methods would be to opt for financial management software.
  • This means you can have less data at the time the forecast is made, and then get more accurate predictions as data is added.
  • Generally, the manager and the forecaster must review a flow chart that shows the relative positions of the different elements of the distribution system, sales system, production system, or whatever is being studied.

Although forecasters aren’t confident in the long-range forecast, and the computer models don’t agree, there is a chance for some rain in Southern California late next week. The assumptions should be made very clear, and be supplemented with salient information. The forecaster should explain how the assumptions lead to the forecast, without delving into the details of the specific methods. Making the forecast and using forecast ranges are included within the implementation methods. Be aware of current laws or expected changes in laws that affect forecasts. Enable digital transformation and drive strategy with all your financial processes and data in a unified platform — owned by Finance. Serving legal professionals in law firms, General Counsel offices and corporate legal departments with data-driven decision-making tools.

Time series methods use historical data as the basis of estimating future outcomes. They are based on the assumption that past demand history is a good indicator of future demand. Risk and uncertainty are central to forecasting and prediction; it is generally considered good practice to indicate the degree of uncertainty attaching to forecasts. In any case, the data must be up to date in order for the forecast to be as accurate as possible.

Geometric Extrapolation With Error Prediction

Events such as the roll of a die or the results of the lottery cannot be forecast because they are random events and there is no significant relationship in the data. We find this true, for example, in estimating the demand for TV glass by size and customer. In such cases, the best role for statistical methods is providing guides and checks for salespersons’ forecasts. For Corning Ware, where the levels of the distribution system are organized in a relatively straightforward way, we use statistical methods to forecast shipments and field information to forecast changes in shipment rates. We are now in the process of incorporating special information—marketing strategies, economic forecasts, and so on—directly into the shipment forecasts. We should note that when we developed these forecasts and techniques, we recognized that additional techniques would be necessary at later times to maintain the accuracy that would be needed in subsequent periods. These forecasts provided acceptable accuracy for the time they were made, however, since the major goal then was only to estimate the penetration rate and the ultimate, steady-state level of sales.


10, it provides detailed information on seasonals, trends, the accuracy of the seasonals and the trend cycle fit, and a number of other measures. The output includes plots of the trend cycle and the growth rate, which can concurrently be received on graphic displays on a time-shared terminal. In late 1965 it appeared to us that the ware-in-process demand was increasing, since there was a consistent positive difference between actual TV bulb sales and forecasted bulb sales. We were able to predict this hump, but unfortunately we were unable to reduce or avoid it because the pipeline was not sufficiently under our control. Between these two examples, our discussion will embrace nearly the whole range of forecasting techniques. As necessary, however, we shall touch on other products and other forecasting methods. It expresses mathematically the relevant causal relationships, and may include pipeline considerations (i.e., inventories) and market survey information.

The objective here is to bring together in a logical, unbiased, and systematic way all information and judgments which relate to the factors being estimated. Such techniques are frequently used in new-technology areas, where development of a product idea may require several “inventions,” so that R&D demands are difficult to estimate, and where market acceptance and penetration rates are highly uncertain. Exhibit I shows how cost and accuracy increase with sophistication and charts this against the corresponding cost of forecasting errors, given some general assumptions. The most sophisticated technique that can be economically justified is one that falls in the region where the sum of the two costs is minimal. In general, for example, the forecaster should choose a technique that makes the best use of available data.

  • An important distinction in forecasting is that at the time of the work, the future outcome is completely unavailable and can only be estimated through careful analysis and evidence-based priors.
  • This information is then incorporated into the item forecasts, with adjustments to the smoothing mechanisms, seasonals, and the like as necessary.
  • A moving average is the calculation of average performance around a given metric in shorter time frames than straight line, such as days, months or quarters.
  • Be careful about using forecasts to raise an alarm about an impending crisis.

Although the forecasting techniques have thus far been used primarily for sales forecasting, they will be applied increasingly to forecasting margins, capital expenditures, and other important factors. This will free the forecaster to spend most of the time forecasting sales and profits of new products. The third uses highly refined and specific information about relationships between system elements, and is powerful enough to take special events formally into account. As with time series analysis and projection techniques, the past is important to causal models.

Whenever possible, meteorologists rely on numerical models to extrapolate the state of the atmosphere into the future, since these models are based on the actual equations that describe the behavior of the atmosphere. Different models, however, have widely varying levels of approximation to the equations. The more exact the approximation, the more expensive the model is to use, because more computer time is required to do the work.

In short, this method helps identify underlying patterns which you can then use to evaluate common financial metrics such as revenues, profits, sales growth and stock prices. A rising moving average indicates an uptrend, whereas a falling moving average points to a downtrend. A restaurant chain’s annual growth rate has held steady at 5% over the past three years.

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