When do you stop trying to improve forecast accuracy? (Part 1)


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Q:When Do You Stop Trying to Improve Forecast Accuracy?

Despite the popular exhortations to never quit, never give up, and never stop improving, there may be some good reasons to stop trying to improve your forecast, and focus resources elsewhere. Some rules of thumb:

1. Is your forecast accuracy good enough to meet your business needs? If so, don't waste resources building fancier models or developing a more elaborate process. If forecast accuracy is not constraining your overall performance, move on to the next problem.

2. Have you considered the consequences of a less-than-perfect forecast? If the costs and consequences are small, why waste time trying to get great forecasts? Or at least focus any improvement efforts on those forecasts that have the most impact on your business.

On the other hand, if you've conducted a rudimentary FVA analysis and determined that you are forecasting worse than a naive model, then this is no time to quit trying. The most fundamental objective of the forecaster is "First, do no harm." If all your people and software and elaborate processes are performing worse than a naive model, then there is room for improvement.

More rules of thumb in the next installment...


About Author

Mike Gilliland

Product Marketing Manager

Michael Gilliland is a longtime business forecasting practitioner and formerly a Product Marketing Manager for SAS Forecasting. He is on the Board of Directors of the International Institute of Forecasters, and is Associate Editor of their practitioner journal Foresight: The International Journal of Applied Forecasting. Mike is author of The Business Forecasting Deal (Wiley, 2010) and former editor of the free e-book Forecasting with SAS: Special Collection (SAS Press, 2020). He is principal editor of Business Forecasting: Practical Problems and Solutions (Wiley, 2015) and Business Forecasting: The Emerging Role of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (Wiley, 2021). In 2017 Mike received the Institute of Business Forecasting's Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2021 his paper "FVA: A Reality Check on Forecasting Practices" was inducted into the Foresight Hall of Fame. Mike initiated The Business Forecasting Deal blog in 2009 to help expose the seamy underbelly of forecasting practice, and to provide practical solutions to its most vexing problems.

1 Comment

  1. Sean Schubert on

    We should stop trying to improve forecasting when management stops asking us, "why are we so bad at forecasting?"


    1) After we've automated FVA data collection for replenishment products (not always easy), and we consistently review our results and make changes to our forecasting process based on our findings.

    2) After we've build a tight feedback loop on forecasting new products, and we use historical results to 'temper' our enthusiasm if we've tended to be over-optimistic in the past (or vice versa).

    The best way to make the forecast better, is to stop making it worse, and you're going to need data for that!

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