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What Business Forecasting Is and Why It Matters 9 min read
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As a business leader, you already understand that every decision you make impacts the overall success of the company. With this much at stake, it’s imperative that you make decisions with the most up-to-date facts and data possible. This step can be difficult when it comes to predicting future business statistics, such as sales data, inventory control, and budgetary figures. To help with this issue, many companies rely on business forecasting to make future projections based on high-level assumptions and historical data.

It’s crucial for your company to understand what business or demand forecasting is, why it matters and what methods to use to make these projections. This article defines these terms and delves into the types of forecast models you can use to learn more about your business and predict future trends.

“Business forecasting” is a part of our Project Management Glossary — check out the full list of terms and definitions!

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What is business forecasting?

Business forecasting is a common practice companies of all sizes use frequently.

Business forecasting is the process of collecting and analyzing historical company data as well as marketing insights and trends to make projections regarding future business outcomes.

While the practice of business forecasting has been around for centuries, the combination of big data and advanced technologies, including machine learning and artificial intelligence, makes today’s predictions more accurate than ever before. Business leaders use this planning technique to predict everything from financial outcomes to future sales numbers. It’s important to note that there are numerous business forecasting methods you can use depending on the type of projections you need.

Types of business forecast methods

Business forecast methods typically fit into two primary categories: qualitative and quantitative.

Qualitative forecasting relies heavily on expert opinions and high-level assumptions. It’s an ideal planning tool for companies with less than three years of historic internal data or for when you’re forecasting during times of significant disruptions in the market. Quantitative forecasting, on the other hand, relies primarily on facts and numbers. These methods analyze current and past data to predict future outcomes.

Within these two categories, there are numerous types of business forecasting methods. Here’s a look at the top four.

  • Delphi method: The Delphi method is a qualitative type of business forecasting that relies on expert opinions. Generally, project managers poll a panel of industry and field experts regarding relevant information, such as market trends and insights. Managers then compile and analyze this information to deliver data-driven forecasting results.
  • Market research: The market research method involves polling users regarding specific products or features. This qualitative approach allows teams to obtain a general consensus as to the success or failures of these products and to determine future sales projections.
  • Time-series method: The time-series method is a quantitative approach that relies heavily on the company’s past data points. This method uses the company’s historical data and advanced technology to analyze information and build models and other visuals that predict future outcomes.
  • Econometric modeling: Econometric models use a mathematical approach that evaluates the company’s current and previous data to make strong projections regarding the company’s future. As a quantitative approach, it uses statistical analysis to predict future outcomes.

How to you know which of the forecasting techniques to use? It depends on several factors, including:

  • Scope: The size of the project may limit the effectiveness of some forecasting methods. For example, the market research method may be difficult to complete for larger projects with many different steps and stages. In these cases, a quantitative approach, such as the time-series method may work better.
  • Years in business: If your business is relatively new, a quantitative approach may not be possible. Typically, these methods require at least three years of hard data to deliver accurate results.
  • Forecasting goals: The type of forecasting goals also determines the type of method you want to use. For instance, if you’re trying to identify shifts in the market, taking a quantitative approach that utilizes historical company data may not provide the results you need.

No matter which forecasting method you utilize, it plays a vital role in the project management process.

The role of business forecasting in project management

Accurate forecasting can help project managers set realistic goals and objectives, predict future outcomes, and conduct accurate risk assessments. These projections can help increase the project’s overall success and allow the team to meet tight deadlines.

Fortunately, advanced technology can help project managers track and manage company data to make business forecasting quick, easy, and effective. For example, allows project managers to store and view company data in one easy-to-use software. Our platform integrates with popular business platforms, such as Salesforce, Excel, Stripe, Zapier, and DropBox, which makes it easy to track business data, such as sales reports and financial information.

With the help of these digital tools, your company can reap the many benefits of business forecasting in project management.

Benefits of business forecasting in project management

Business forecasting offers organizations a variety of benefits, including those summarized below.

Gain valuable insights

Forecasting gives business leaders insights regarding the anticipated success of the company. While forecasting is not always 100% accurate, it does provide enough information to help companies with everything from managing cash flow to predicting inventory needs and setting realistic goals.

Make improvements

The business forecasting method, especially quantitative approaches, provides insights into the company’s past performance as well as future predictions. This visual representation can help your company identify problem areas, learn from past mistakes, and improve business operations.

Identify market shifts

Given today’s fast-paced market, it’s crucial for businesses to prepare for future changes. Forecasting — especially via qualitative methods — can help you understand future trends in the market, upcoming supply chain challenges, and changes in customer expectations. Having this knowledge in hand can help your organization prepare for the future and minimize the impact of any changes or shifts in the market.

Increase profits

The business forecasting process can improve your company’s long-term profitability in several ways:

  • It allows your business leaders to develop budgets based on data-driven sales predictions.
  • Accurate forecasting can help your organization secure the funding necessary to grow the business.
  • Forecasting can help your company reduce waste by projecting shifts in the market.

The easiest way to understand the many benefits of business forecasting is to see this practice in action.

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A few business forecasting examples and what they could mean for your team

To better understand how business forecasting can help your company prepare for the future, here’s a look at some forecasting examples and what they could mean for your team.

Sales forecasting

Suppose a shoe store wants to project next year’s sales numbers. Since this store has been in business for over five years, the time-series forecasting method is a good option. This method allows the business owner to use collected data to predict the future of the company. However, due to today’s fluctuating market, the shoe store owner may also want to take a qualitative approach, such as the Delphi method, to determine if any shifts in the market could impact future sales.

This forecasting data can help the shoe store owner with everything from planning next year’s budget to managing inventory to determining how many workers to hire.

Forecasting the success of a new product or service

Let’s look at a fashion design company that’s preparing for a new product launch. Knowing how much product to have on hand is crucial to the success of this launch. Too much inventory can impact profits, yet not enough inventory can affect customer satisfaction. In this case, the company can use market research to poll a number of potential customers to determine the likelihood of them making a purchase or referring this new product to others.

This forecasting data can help the company project future sales, set an appropriate price point, and have enough inventory in place to meet demand.

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Frequently asked questions

What is forecasting in business?

Business forecasting is the process of analyzing big data, market insights, and expert opinions to make projections regarding future business outcomes. Business leaders use forecasting to set budgets, determine product offerings, oversee supply chain management, and manage projects.

How does forecasting help a business?

Forecasting is a critical tool for businesses of all sizes. While business planning is not 100% accurate every time, it does provide business leaders with data-driven insights. Leaders then use these insights to make informed decisions for the company, such as which products to sell, how many workers it needs, and how much inventory to secure.

What are the four basic forecasting methods?

There are dozens of business forecasting methods available, most of which are broken down into two categories, including qualitative and quantitative. The most popular qualitative methods are market research, which polls a panel of users to predict future outcomes, and the Delphi method, which involves gathering insights from industry experts. The most popular quantitative methods include the time-series method, which analyzes current and historical data to predict future outcomes, and econometric modeling, which uses mathematical models and statistical methods of analysis to make future projections.

Prepare for your company’s future with business forecasting

Don’t risk moving your company into the future without first understanding what to expect. Blindly leading your company into the upcoming weeks, months, and years can significantly impact the success of your business. Instead, rely on effective business forecasting techniques to help you project future outcomes, prepare for upcoming shifts and mitigate any possible risks.’s seamless Work OS lets you gather data, work as a team to analyze it, and set goals and timelines so you can act on what you learn during forecasting.

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