Improving forecast quality in practice: results of a workshop

22 June 2014

The Lancaster Centre for Forecasting organised another successful workshop on "Improving forecast quality in practice" held on 12 June 2014 at the Senate House of University of London, and free to attend for all practitioners and academics in forecasting and demand planning. 

The seminar was formally opened by Professor Robert Fildes, Director of the Lancaster Centre for Forecasting. In his talk “Issues in Improving Forecasting Quality – What’s Important?”, after a quick overview of the forecasting process, he presented the dimensions of forecast quality and the “whys” and “hows” of auditing performance. Given that for almost all companies the principal objective is the production of accurate forecasts, he analysed through past and current surveys on practitioners the particularly important problem areas that get in the way of improving the quality of business forecasting. He concluded his talk by suggesting ways of improving quality, linking them with the organisational design and the forecasting process employed by the companies. The results of the survey conducted for the purposes of this talk will be published later this year at the Foresight, the International Journal of Applied Forecasting.

Next, Audit Manager Tom McBride (National Audit Office) presented the key findings of a recent review of central government forecasting. In his talk on “Forecasting in Government” and the impact of forecasting errors, he focused on how forecasts are produced and used in practice and where errors are introduced. Moreover, he analysed the significance of the departmental environment for forecasting and the role of the centre of government.

The third talk of this workshop was given by S&OP Director Anita Tadayon (BSkyB). Her presentation focused on the latest efforts of BSkyb towards the development of a Forecasting Centre of Excellence (CoE). Anita talked about the company’s journey from an annual budget forecast to an integrated Forecasting & Planning CoE, covering not just the process and organisational changes but also the cultural and skill requirements. The Lancaster Centre for Forecasting has worked closely with BSkyB towards this target.

The last speaker of the workshop, Steve Morlidge (Founder of CatchBull and ex-Unilever), argued that mastering measurement of value is one of the key design principles, but traditional forecast accuracy metrics fail to measure it in a useful way. He described an alternative approach to identify cost avoidable error, quantify the value added by forecasting and how this can be used to analyse, improve and track performance at all levels.

The workshop concluded with a panel discussion chaired by Professor John Boylan, in which the four speakers and responded to various questions form the audience. 


In total, 48 participants from a wide variety of industries (such as Consumer Packaged Goods, Food and Beverage, Telecommunications, Retail, Utilities, Pharmaceutical, Government, Consulting etc.) attended the workshop. Companies represented at the workshop included Atos, Brakes Group, Brazilian Naval Commission in Europe, BSkyB, BT, Bucks New University, CatchBull, Centre for Workforce Intelligence, Cranfield University, Dulux Decorator Centre, Dweomer Consultants Ltd, Epson, Fresenius Kabi Ltd, GfK, Greencore Grocery, HMRC, IBM, Lindt & Sprungli, Lloyds Bank, LSE, McBride, Ministry of Justice, Momondo Group, Mundipharma International, National Audit Office, Office of Rail Regulation, Openreach, Ovo Energy, Primrose Consulting, Rolls-Royce, Sanofi, Simon Proctor Consulting, SPL, Tesco and Lancaster Centre for Forecasting.


Prof. Robert Fildes (Lancaster Centre for Forecasting) - ‌‌ Issues in Improving Forecasting Quality – What’s Important?

Tom McBride (National Audit Office) - Forecasting in Government

Anita Tadayon (BSkyB) - Building a Forecasting and Planning Centre of Excellence

Dr. Steve Morlidge (CatchBull) - How does forecasting add value to your business and what can be done to improve