Many businesses spend weeks or months laboring over the annual plan or budget, even though by the time it’s finished, the market has changed dramatically and its assumptions are out of date. They forecast based on historic data and the best guesses of functional business leaders and line managers. They don’t change course no matter what competitive or disruptive winds batter them.
But there’s a better way to navigate today’s choppy business seas: rolling forecasts. Instead of being once-a-year exercises, rolling forecasts happen on a regular cadence. Unlike budgets that may have hundreds of line items, rolling forecasts focus on key business drivers. And rather than focusing on the past, rolling forecasts act as early warning systems when you’ve drifted off-course; they help to raise visibility beyond the traditional budgeting “wall” by continually updating your forecast with actuals, so you’ll be able to quickly respond to change.
Why Try Rolling Forecasts?
- Enable agile responses to changing market conditions
- Optimize decision-making for better enterprise planning
- Identify future performance gaps
- Help senior executives manage performance expectations
- Shorten enterprise planning cycles with a more efficient
- model—and direct the extra time toward more strategic activities
Here are 3 steps to consider if you are thinking about implementing rolling forecasts:
Step 1. Automate rolling forecasts with a dedicated cloud-based application. Don’t try to perform them with cumbersome spreadsheets.
Step 2. Model your course on drivers, not details. Rolling forecasts based on key business drivers, rather than masses of detail, are a less onerous process for everyone involved.
Step 3. Use rolling forecasts to sound out multiple “what-if” scenarios. With the right system, you should be able to change a few key assumptions and drivers and instantly see their effect on the overall plan.
Traditional vs. Rolling
Keep in mind that a rolling forecast is aligned to business cycles, rather than the fiscal year. As such, you’ll want to extend past the typical one-year planning horizon and forecast at least four to eight quarters past the current quarter’s actuals to really help senior management look at the future and proactively manage it.
Market volatility is inevitable. That’s why leading companies use rolling forecasts to navigate uncharted markets and disruptive business conditions.