Demand Planning & Forecasting: Specialist Forecasting Software
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Forecasting Software - Demand Planning Software

Although Excel has great flexibility, there is a point at which increased complexity and the need for a more sophisticated approach triggers the need for specialist demand forecasting software.

Factors that may tilt the balance in favour of specialist demand forecasting software rather than Excel include:

  • Very large number of entities to be forecast

  • Frequent introduction of new products or listings

  • Need to maintain complex hierarchies for products and/or customers

  • Multi-level forecasting e.g. pushing top-down from a higher level of product or customer

  • Multiple units of measurement e.g. costs, prices, revenue, gross margin

Demand forecasting software is available at a wide variety of different levels of cost and complexity.  The array of alternatives can be somewhat overwhelming.  At Forecast Solutions we are familiar with a number of low cost sales forecasting software solutions and some very large and expensive systems such as SAP APO and JDA. However, Forecast Solutions is especially well placed to advise on a number of potential mid-range solutions and can give expert help in a software selection process.

Working towards the specification of forecasting software

The first stage is necessarily to understand the processes and methods that are currently used, together with the main business requirements. Then it will be possible to scope out the forecasting system in terms of levels of detail, time horizons, the range of demand forecasting methods likely to be useful, types of user and the interfaces that are needed with other systems. A software requirement can then be drawn up and agreed through the business.  

Features to consider in mid-range demand forecasting software

A modern demand forecasting software solution should not just be a clever set of complicated forecasting methods. It should in effect be demand planning software in the fuller sense, a forecasting support system that helps all the stakeholders engage in the forecasting process.  As well as containing the essential statistical forecasting tools it should support multi-user engagement by all who need to review and modify the forecast based on commercial judgement.

Every business is different, but here are some of the features that we find are frequently needed in a mid-range sales forecasting software solution:

  • Ability to forecast in weeks, calendar momths, accounting months or 4 wk periods

  • Flexible product / customer hierarchies for forecasting and reporting

  • Multi-level forecasting with bottom-up, top-down and middle-out capability

  • Effective seasonal index calculation across all forecasting methods

  • Product lifecycle tools including obsolescence and succession

  • Tools to deal with abnormal historical data including history override

  • Good range of forecasting methods including exponential smoothing

  • Automatic selection of the forecasting model of best fit

  • Facility for users to explore and select alternative models

  • Forecast overrides using number substitution or percentage changes

  • Ability to apply manual or profiled events to forecast or history

  • Multiple units of measurement, particularly prices, revenues and margins

  • Forecast archiving for forecast accuracy reporting over specific lead-times

  • Multi-user access with the ability to restrict access based on functionality and product / customer hierarchy elements

  • Flexible scheduled data input of transactional or aggregated sales history

Forecast Solutions can help determine the processes and methods that are needed in order to build an effective system returning the best possible forecast accuracy.

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