September 27, 2017

Forecasting at Scale

The American Statistician 2017

By: Sean J. Taylor, Benjamin Letham

Abstract

Forecasting is a common data science task that helps organizations with capacity planning, goal setting, and anomaly detection. Despite its importance, there are serious challenges associated with producing reliable and high-quality forecasts – especially when there are a variety of time series and analysts with expertise in time series modeling are relatively rare. To address these challenges, we describe a practical approach to forecasting “at scale” that combines configurable models with analyst-in-the-loop performance analysis. We propose a modular regression model with interpretable parameters that can be intuitively adjusted by analysts with domain knowledge about the time series. We describe performance analyses to compare and evaluate forecasting procedures, and automatically flag forecasts for manual review and adjustment. Tools that help analysts to use their expertise most effectively enable reliable, practical forecasting of business time series.