Navigating the future with business forecasting

Reading time: 7 min.

In today's dynamic and ever-changing business environment, organisations must make accurate future predictions to stay competitive and thrive. Business forecasting is one tool that enables companies to make informed decisions about their future.

Agicap UK demo logo - women typing on keyboard

What is business forecasting?

Business forecasting is predicting future outcomes based on past and present data. This involves analysing historical trends, market conditions, customer behaviour, and other relevant factors to determine prospects and threats.

The main goal of business forecasting is to develop an informed estimate of future events and circumstances. This enables businesses to make strategic decisions and prepare for future expansion.

Why is business forecasting important?

Forecasting is important for businesses as :

  • It helps organisations to make strategic plans for the future.
  • Helps organisations to allocate resources effectively and efficiently.
  • Plays a crucial role in financial planning by helping businesses estimate future revenues, expenses, and profits.
  • Helps organisations to identify problems, potential risks and uncertainties and develop risk management strategies to mitigate them.
  • Provides decision-makers with valuable insights and data, which can help them make better-informed decisions and develop short & long term success strategies.

Related article: The best cash flow forecasting software in 2023

Business forecasting process

Effective business forecasting requires careful planning and execution. The followingsteps provide a comprehensive guide on how to develop a successful forecasting plan:

  • Define the objective: The first step in the business forecasting process is to define the objective of the forecast by identifying the key performance indicators (KPIs) such as sales, revenue, or market share.

  • Gather data: Next, gather relevant data, including historical data on the KPIs, market trends, and other variables that may impact the forecast.

  • Analyse the data: Once the data has been gathered, it must be analysed to identify patterns, trends, and other factors that may impact the forecast. This can be done using statistical models, machine learning algorithms, or other analytical tools.

  • Develop the forecast: Based on the analysis of the data, a forecast can be developed using the insights gained from the data analysis to generate a prediction of future performance on the KPIs.

  • Validate the forecast: Now, it should be validated to ensure its accuracy. This can be done by comparing the forecast to actual performance data from past periods.

  • Implement the forecast: Finally, the forecast can be used to make informed decisions about business operations. This involves adjusting resource allocation, pricing strategies, or other aspects of the business based on the predicted future performance.

As business forecasting is an iterative process, it's important to monitor actual performance against the forecast and adjust the forecast as required to ensure its accuracy over time.

👉 Watch our video on cash flow forecasting

What are 2 basic methods of forecasting in business?

Two main methods of forecasting are:

  1. Qualitative forecasting: This approach uses expert opinions, market research, surveys, and other subjective data to predict future trends. Qualitative forecasting is useful when historical data is limited, and the future is uncertain.

  2. Quantitative forecasting: This method relies on historical data and statistical analysis to predict future trends. Quantitative forecasting is suitable for industries with a lot of historical data and stable market conditions.

4 Basic forecasting techniques

The four basic forecasting techniques are:

  • Trend analysis: This method identifies patterns and trends in historical data to predict future values. Trend analysis helps forecast long-term trends.

  • Regression analysis: Regression analysis is helpful for forecasting in complex environments where multiple variables are involved. This approach identifies the relationship between two or more variables to predict future values.

  • Moving average: This method calculates the average of past data points to identify trends and predict future values. Moving averages are helpful for forecasting in stable and predictable environments.

  • Exponential smoothing: Exponential smoothing is helpful for forecasting in rapidly changing environments. This technique assigns more weight to recent data points than older ones to predict future values.

A few other business forecasting techniques are:

  • Scenario analysis
  • Judgmental forecasting
  • Causal forecasting
  • Econometric forecasting
  • Delphi method
  • Simulation modelling

See also: Improving liquidity in your business in 5 easy ways

5 Forecast models:

Forecast models in business forecasting are mathematical or statistical tools used to predict future trends and outcomes based on historical data and various influencing factors. These models are designed to analyse patterns, relationships, and dependencies within the data to generate reliable forecasts.

The forecast models serve as valuable tools for businesses to anticipate demand, sales, market trends, financial performance, and other crucial factors, enabling them to make informed decisions and develop effective strategies. By leveraging these forecast models, businesses can make data-driven decisions, improve resource allocation, optimise inventory levels, and enhance operational efficiency.

There are several types of forecast models commonly used in business forecasting, such as:

1. Time Series Models: These models analyse historical data to identify patterns and make predictions based on the assumption that future trends will continue in a similar pattern. Time series models, such as moving averages and exponential smoothing, are commonly used in businesses to forecast demand, sales, and financial metrics. These models can predict future trends by analysing historical patterns and seasonality and help businesses optimise inventory management, production planning, and resource allocation.

2. Regression Models: Regression analysis uses historical data to establish relationships between variables, allowing for the prediction of one variable based on the values of other related variables. It is widely applied in business forecasting to understand the relationships between variables. For example, businesses may use regression models to forecast sales based on factors like marketing expenditure, pricing, and macroeconomic indicators. These models provide insights into the impact of different variables on business performance and inform strategic decision-making.

3. Exponential Smoothing Models: Exponential smoothing models place greater emphasis on recent data points, giving them more weight in the forecast calculation while gradually decreasing the impact of older data. Exponential smoothing models are helpful for short-term forecasting and are commonly employed in inventory management and sales forecasting. By assigning different weights to recent and older data points, these models give more significance to recent trends, allowing businesses to adapt quickly to changes in demand.

4. Econometric Models: These models incorporate economic theory and statistical techniques to forecast business outcomes by considering factors such as GDP, inflation, interest rates, and other macroeconomic indicators. These models are applied in areas such as financial forecasting, market analysis, and pricing strategies. By considering macroeconomic factors and their impact on specific industries, businesses can predict market conditions and adjust their strategy accordingly.

5. Machine Learning Models: Machine learning algorithms can analyse large volumes of data, identify complex patterns, and make forecasts based on the identified patterns. Machine learning algorithms, including neural networks, decision trees, and random forests, can be utilised to forecast various business metrics. These models can analyse large datasets, identify complex patterns, and make accurate predictions. Businesses apply machine learning models for demand forecasting, customer behaviour analysis, fraud detection, and personalised marketing campaigns.

Action button leading to mid-sized company page

What are examples of business forecasts?

Let's take the example of business forecasting for a company that manufactures and sells organic skincare products. Based on the assumptions, that the company has been in business for a few years and has historical sales data, it could use that data to forecast its sales using trend analysis for the next year.

They might consider such cases and scenarios, as mentioned under:

  • Past sales trends: If sales have steadily increased by 10% each year, they might assume they will see similar growth in the coming year.
  • Market trends: They would also look at broader trends - Whether more people are becoming interested in organic products. Is there a new ingredient that is gaining popularity? These factors could influence the company's sales.
  • Marketing initiatives: If the company plans to launch a new product line or run a major advertising campaign, it might expect a boost in sales.

Using this information, the company could create a sales forecast for the following year. They might forecast a 10% increase in sales based on historical trends, plus an additional 5% increase based on market trends and marketing initiatives.

Business Forecasting Software

Business forecasting software uses cutting-edge algorithms and statistical approaches to analyse historical data and current market conditions to generate accurate forecasts about future outcomes. It helps organisations to predict future trends, patterns, and behaviours related to their business operations.

Business forecasting software is used by companies in various industries. Its key features include data visualisation tools, predictive analytics, scenario planning, and automated reporting.

Using a business forecasting software:

  • Businesses can make more informed decisions about resource allocation, budgeting, and strategic planning.
  • Businesses can identify potential risks and opportunities and adjust their operations to stay competitive in a rapidly changing market.

Wrapping Up

Business forecasting emerges as a vital tool for organisations aiming to make well-informed decisions regarding the future.

By following a comprehensive process that includes defining the objective, gathering data, selecting the methodology, developing the forecast, and monitoring and reviewing, companies can develop accurate and reliable predictions that inform strategic decisions and drive growth.

Try it for free Agicap

Subscribe to our newsletter

You may also like