Doc has highlighted Dr. Joe Webb's commentary and data on the economics of the printing industry for some time now – he's one of the few researchers focusing on the commercial side of printing. Well, Joe has a very interesting piece on his blog about the art of proper forecasting.
There is a misplaced trust in the forecasting process as some kind of physical science when forecasting is really barely an art. The reasons executives want forecasts is that they are seeking some kind of number to calibrate their expectations so they can allocate their resources accordingly. But, this has never been enough for managers to have. It's been enough to justify a forecast or a budget for approval, but it's not really enough.
What managers really need is a collection of multiple future scenarios that they evaluate often. Forecasting is best used as a strategic tool that is constantly raises questions. Even though it involves statistical data, forecasting is a qualitative process, not a quantitative one. The fact that numbers are involved in forecasting gives an illusion of precision that can mislead managerial decision-making.
Economic forecasts are built on foundation that looks backwards. All economic forecasts have a degree of historical extrapolation based on previous market conditions that may no longer exist in the future.
Joe goes on to use his own methodology to forecast the next few years in the commercial printing industry and comes up with some surprising results. Well worth a look, complete with great charts. Check it out here.