by John C. Chambers, Satinder K. Mullick, and Donald D. Smith
In virtually every decision they make, executives today consider some kind of forecast. Sound predictions of demands and trends are no longer luxury items, but a necessity, if managers are to cope with seasonality, sudden changes in demand levels, price-cutting maneuvers of the competition, strikes, and large swings of the economy. Forecasting can help them deal with these troubles; but it can help them more, the more they know about the general principles of forecasting, what it can and cannot do for them currently, and which techniques are suited to their needs of the moment. Here the authors try to explain the potential of forecasting to managers, focusing special attention on sales forecasting for products of Corning Glass Works as these have matured through the product life cycle. Also included is a rundown of forecasting techniques.
To handle the increasing variety and complexity of managerial forecasting problems, many forecasting techniques have been developed in recent years. Each has its special use, and care must be taken to select the correct technique for a particular application. The manager as well as the forecaster has a role to play in technique selection; and the better they understand the range of forecasting possibilities, the more likely it is that a company’s forecasting efforts will bear fruit.
The selection of a method depends on many factors—the context of the forecast, the relevance and availability of historical data, the degree of accuracy desirable, the time period to be forecast, the cost/ benefit (or value) of the forecast to the company, and the time available for making the analysis.
Furthermore, where a company wishes to forecast with reference to a particular product, it must consider the stage of the product’s life cycle for which it is making the forecast. The availability of data and the possibility of establishing relationships between the factors depend directly on the maturity of a product, and hence the life-cycle stage is a prime determinant of the forecasting method to be used.
Our purpose here is to present an overview of this field by discussing the way a company ought to approach a forecasting problem, describing the methods available, and explaining how to match method to problem. We shall illustrate the use of the various techniques from our experience with them at Corning, and then close with our own forecast for the future of forecasting.
Although we believe forecasting is still an art, we think that some of the principles which we have learned through experience may be helpful to others.
Manager, Forecaster & Choice of Methods
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. This is almost never true.
Successful forecasting begins with a collaboration between the manager and the forecaster, in which they work out answers to the following questions.