Len Tashman, Editor, previews the Summer issue of Foresight
Clarity and effectiveness of communication are key to success – so says a recent survey by the National Association of Business Economists (NABE), which reported that industry leaders and hiring managers considered communication skills to be the single most important attribute for the promotion of business economists. While we are not aware of a similar survey among demand forecasters and planners, we do have ample reason to believe that the importance of communication skills cannot be exaggerated – this according to the perspectives of numerous Foresight authors from the world of industry and commerce.
Now, Niels van Hove, forecasting practitioner, consultant, and behavioral coach, argues persuasively for the establishment of an effective communications process as a prime element in the imple- mentation of a firm’s strategy. In his article, An S&OP Communication Plan: The Final Step in Support of Company Strategy, Niels explains that exaggerated – this according to the perspectives of numerous Foresight authors from the world of industry and commerce.
[t]o effectively support strategy execution, S&OP communication needs to do more than fix operational issues. Formal horizontal communication
—information flow across functions at the same level in the business hierarchy—is no longer sufficient; S&OP has to support two-way vertical and informal communication in support of a strategy, not just to inform employees but to align, engage, energize, and refocus them.
Perhaps the greatest concern we have today about future employment prospects is over the impact of exponential advances in artificial intelligence and robotics. Ira Sohn, Foresight’s Editor for Strategic Forecasting, says Step Aside, Climate Change – Get Ready for Mass Unemployment. Ira surveys opinion on this issue with emphasis on two important new books published in 2015: Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future by Martin Ford, and Humans Need Not Apply: A Guide to Wealth and Work in the Age of Artificial Intelligence by Jerry Kaplan. These strategic thinkers paint a troubling picture for job markets, and recommend policies for adaptation that fundamentally alter the prevailing ethic of “work for your pay.”
Bridging the Gap Between Academia and Business
The feature section of this 42nd issue of Foresight addresses the very apparent disconnect between (a) the needs of business forecasters and planners, and (b) the research undertaken and published by academics in the Our Spring 2016 issue concluded with an “editorial” by Sujit Singh, Forecasting: Academia vs. Business, which we reprint here for your convenience. Sujit’s piece has attracted considerable attention, and in this issue we now present commentaries from both sides of the aisle, which probe further into the basis of the disconnect and what can be done to help bridge the gap.
If there is one point of near universal agreement, it is that while considerable fault lies with academia’s inattention to the realities of the business world, companies put up their own formidable obstacles, as John Boylan and Aris Syntetos see it in their lead commentary, It Takes Two to Tango.
Some persuasive examples of how academics have begun to address issues of importance in indus- try were offered at the recent International Symposium on Forecasting in Santander, Spain. The presentations in the Forecasting in Practice Track demonstrated how recent research offers great promise for advancing the tools of the trade as well as enhancing the drive to improve forecast accuracy and other key performance metrics. Here were the nine presentations in the Forecasting in Practice Track:
- Trust in Forecasting
- Building a Demand Planning Function
- Forecasting, Supply Chain, and Financial Performance
- Simplicity in Forecasting
- Forecasting and Inventory Control: Mind the Gap
- Demand Planning for Military Operations
- Challenges in Strategic Pharmaceutical Forecasting
- Beyond Exponential Smoothing: How to Proceed when Extrapolation Doesn’t Work
- Forecasting Temporal Hierarchies
Santander is one of Spain’s enticing alternatives to the Cote d’Azur. Situated on the Bay of Biscay and bordered by Bilbao and the Basque country to the east with the Pico de Europa mountains and Cantabrian coast to the west, Santander graciously offered up the Palacio de la Magdalena as the conference venue. Built a little over a century ago by the local government of Santander to provide a seasonal residence for the royal family of Spain, the Magdalena Palace was converted to host educational courses in the 1930s and now serves as a major meeting and conference facility.
Further evidence of progress in bridging the research gap between academia and business comes with the upcoming Foresight Practitioner Conference, Worst Practices in Forecasting: Today’s Mistakes to Tomorrow’s Breakthroughs. Held in partnership with and at the venue of the Institute for Advanced Analytics at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, the presentations apply many lessons derived from academic research and business experience that we hope will motivate business forecasters to move forward and away from dysfunctional practices.