It’s one thing to keep on top of all the activities a business has carried out – there’s a paper trail to create very precise reports - but it’s quite another to gauge events in the future. However, knowing as much as possible about the future financial direction of a company is just as important, and if it’s done well, it can allow spending and investment decisions to be made with confidence. It can even allow a company to steal a march on the competition.
The forecaster in a supply chain operation will be in charge of gathering as much data as possible to create accurate predictions of the direction of the company’s activities. This will be through a combination of internal factors, such as sales targets, staffing and investments and external factors such as government policy, infrastructural projects and general economic outlook.
The data will then be used to create forecasts which can be employed by the planning team to guide the company’s future direction. Of course, no plan survives first contact with the enemy, and forecasts may need to be constantly refined as more and more information becomes available. However the forecaster’s reputation will be determined by the accuracy and precision of his or her work.
The skills required
Analysis will be at the heart of the forecaster’s daily work. Knowing which data are relevant and applying them to the calculations in line with the event being forecasted will be key to his or her success. Some forecasters will have a team of data analysts, each with their own sectors, to help with the task, while others will be required to source the data themselves. Ongoing monitoring will be an important part of the job, too. All forecasting is really the abstraction of past and present data to seek out trends and patterns, so when these change, so will the forecasts. It is important that mechanisms are set in place to alert the forecaster to key events which will affect the predictions.
Most of the work will be done at the desk using various IT solutions from web browsers, databases and spreadsheets to gather data to forecasting software or spreadsheets to perform the projection calculations. Good IT skills will therefore be required.
Finally, as the predictions are worthless if they are not presented properly, interpersonal and communication skills will be the final element of the forecaster’s makeup.
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