The growing competition, frequent changes in customer’s demand and the trend towards automation demand that decisions in business should not be based purely on guesses rather on a careful analysis of data concerning the future course of events. More time and attention should be given to the future than to the past, and the question ‘what is likely to happen?’ should take precedence over ‘what has happened?’ though no attempt to answer the first can be made without the facts and figures being available to answer the second. When estimates of future conditions are made on a systematic basis, the process is called forecasting and the figure or statement thus obtained is defined as forecast.
In a world where future is not known with certainty, virtually every business and economic decision rests upon a forecast of future conditions. Forecasting aims at reducing the area of uncertainty that surrounds management decision-making with respect to costs, profit, sales, production, pricing, capital investment, and so forth. If the future were known with certainty, forecasting would be unnecessary. But uncertainty does exist, future outcomes are rarely assured and, therefore, organized system of forecasting is necessary.
The following are the main functions of forecasting:
The creation of plans of action.
The general use of forecasting is to be found in monitoring the continuing progress of plans based on forecasts.
The forecast provides a warning system of the critical factors to be monitored regularly because they might drastically affect the performance of the plan.
It is important to note that the objective of business forecasting is not to determine a curve or series of figures that will tell exactly what will happen, say, a year in advance, but it is to make analysis based on definite statistical data, which will enable an executive to take advantage of future conditions to a greater extent than he could do without them. In forecasting one should note that it is impossible to forecast the future precisely and there always must be some range of error allowed for in the forecast.