Over the past couple of decades, business forecasters have come to recognize the importance of collaboration for creating more accurate forecasts; however, in business forecasting, the term “collaboration” doesn’t necessarily have only one definition.
Many forecasting processes can be described as “collaborative.” Some organizations utilize highly-formalized processes (e.g., S&OP, IBP) which involve defined roles, specific data elements, and/or structured meeting schedules. Others deploy less-formalized and more loosely-defined processes which involve creating an initial forecast and allowing various stakeholders to review and even modify (e.g., adjust) the initial forecast.
Whether collaboration is formal or informal, between supplier and customer, or among different departments or individuals within a company, the common thread is that collaboration utilizes multiple inputs. The implicit assumption is that each input adds value.
A Forecast Pro User Example
One long-time Forecast Pro user describes a collaborative forecast process which consists of:
- First developing a “Business as Usual” forecast, which is a relatively conservative base-demand forecast that’s statistically driven off history. This forecast is derived using Forecast Pro’s Expert Selection algorithm combined with Event Modeling.
- Then incorporating a “Business as Unusual” forecast, which relies on field-based knowledge of expected deviation from base demand. This forecast is derived by interfacing directly with the Customer Service Reps and sales team.
Two License Types
In order to support the process outlined above, the company utilizes two distinct types of Forecast Pro licenses — the Forecaster License and the Collaborator License.
The Forecaster License is used to generate the statistical forecasts. It contains all of the product’s modeling capabilities, including Forecast Pro’s automatic forecasting (Expert Selection), Event Modeling for promotions and other non-calendar occurrences, outlier detection and correction, and a host of other utilities and features. The Forecaster License also allows you to review, adjust and override the statistical forecast.
The Collaborator License is used by the individuals whose role is to add business knowledge to the baseline statistical forecast. It provides the tools and utilities to review, adjust or override, and reconcile the forecast across the hierarchy.
Both license types offer full reporting functionality.
The Forecast Project
The Forecast Project contains the historical data, the statistical forecasts and any overrides or adjustments. Both Forecaster Licenses and Collaborator Licenses are designed to work with forecast projects. Projects are easily passed between users of either license type. Thus, forecast projects are the central element in a collaborative forecasting process using Forecast Pro.
One of the key components of any forecast project is the TRAC Database File (*.db). Every forecast project is tied to a database file that contains information pertaining to the current forecast period and all previously archived forecasts. Access to the current forecast period’s information plus all archived information gives users the ability to track and report on forecast accuracy (forecast vs. actual) and to perform exception reporting.
Forecast projects are tied to a single TRAC database; however, these individual projects may consolidate into a larger “master” project, called a “Super Project.” If only using a single Forecast Pro project, the forecaster and the reviewer are each working with the entire forecast, most likely in a sequential process. In the “Super Project” scenario, different users may work on subsets of the forecast in separate projects, which then roll into the combined “Super Project” for further review and/or consolidation.
An Example: Working in a Sequential Process with the Forecaster License & Collaborator License
The screen below shows a primary view found in the Forecast Pro TRAC Collaborator License. The graph pane displays historical data, the forecast and the confidence limits. The report pane displays pertinent information about models and forecasts. The “Navigator” window provides drill-down through various levels of a data hierarchy.
Find Out More
To find out more about how Forecast Pro TRAC can be used to support your collaborative forecasting schedule a Web-based demo to see the software live.
Business Forecast Systems also offers personalized hands-on Web-based training for Forecast Pro users. If you would like to learn how to more effectively apply Forecast Pro using your own company’s data click here.