In today’s interconnected and ever-changing global business environment, navigating the challenges of complex operations, big data, and comingled technology solutions is harder than ever. Couple that with economic, political and environmental volatility, and you have a recipe for disaster. In a nutshell, doing what you have always done, running your supply chain like you always have, will no longer work.One can find volumes of research and data that support the need to implement best-in-class supply chain practices, a solid and sustainable sales and operations planning (S&OP) process and the right technology to support both.
Yet many businesses struggle with change. While transformation is indeed hard, successful companies are establishing, investing in and and sticking to a best-in-class approach to their business operations. Others flail, constantly battling leadership turnover, lack of process ownership, missed objectives and more.
I dare use an overused cliché to make my point. “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.”* Folks, it’s time for change. The alternative? Be left behind.
On October 22, 2013, Peter Bolstorff, author and process expert, will present a unique and interactive diagnostic webinar entitled “S&OP Health Check: How is Your Pulse?” Peter will discuss S&OP sustainability, explore what causes S&OP to perform better in some years than in others and provide and interactive S&OP Health Check assessment for you in real time. (We like real time—we are a cloud company, after all!)
Sometimes all you need is a good, experienced partner on your side. One who looks out for your best interests, provides much needed guidance, and lays the groundwork for you to become that best-in-class organization I described at the beginning of this post.
Please join us next week for this one-of-a-kind webinar. Don’t wait, register now here.
*Quote attributed to Albert Einstein
Steelwedge recently hosted a webinar featuring sales and operations planning (S&OP) expert Tom Wallace entitled “What Great S&OP Feels Like!” We received a record number of questions before, during and after this webinar. Tom was gracious enough to take the time to answer some of those questions here.
Q. In your view, what specifically are the most important things to measure that drive organizational impact and bottom-line profits?
A. To some extent, this is a function of the company’s operating environment and strategy, so one list will probably not support all companies. That said, here goes:
- Customer service measures such as order fill, customer lead times, % perfect orders and the like.
- Operational efficiencies: performance at the plants, suppliers, DCs, and so forth.
- Flexibility and agility: short lead times, ability to service high mix effectively, reaction time to demand spikes and supply crashes.
- Cost containment and reduction.
- Effective asset management: inventories, receivables, order-to-cash cycle, etc.
Q. I just took over supply chain at my company, and I am in the process of implementing S&OP with four meetings held every fortnight (projects, demand, supply chain, pre-S&OP) and one monthly executive S&OP meeting. Do you think this is too much? Coworkers are enthused.
A: This strikes me as perhaps a bit much; even with the co-workers’ current enthusiasm, you may be running a risk of burn out. And I wonder if it’s necessary. For example, one pre-S&OP meeting per month is what most successful users do. Further there’s one set of activities in the demand planning phase. For example, once the consensus forecast is set, it’s put to bed unless something major happens that affects the forecast significantly. Ditto for supply planning.
Q. What have you seen as the most significant issues that cause S&OP initiatives to wane over time?
A: The most significant issue is when there’s a change in the leader of the business. The new leader arrives, knows nothing about sales and operations planning, doesn’t want to learn, and proceeds to dismantle a smoothly running process. Other potentially difficult issues include, for divisionalized companies, a change in a high-level position at corporate: CEO, COO, CFO.
Also a threat is allowing the S&OP process to gradually degrade over time. After a while, it may become fairly dysfunctional and people lose interest. The solution: measure its performance routinely and fix things that start to slip.
Q. Should large corporations initiate the S&OP process by allowing each division or product to produce its own internal data and establish internal organizational structures to properly support the resource planning side? Or should a fully integrated information technology system be implemented to allow for standardization of data and processes aid in resource development?
A: I’m seeing more and more examples of larger companies directing their business units to follow a standard set of actions for sales and operations planning. This doesn’t mean identical steps, but to do each of the major pieces (demand planning, supply planning, etc.) using similar processes. Your point about a “fully integrated information technology system…to allow for standardization of data and processes aid in resource development” is possibly a good choice, but I wouldn’t slow down the implementation of the basic S&OP processes. If it will slow things down, do it later. If it won’t slow things down, you might want to go for it—keeping in mind to implement at the business unit level, using a pilot approach.
Chances are you’re collecting volumes of data to manage your business. Most companies today amass veritable mountains of digital details on how their business has performed in the past in the form of reports, customer feedback, trading partner metrics, and KPIs. They also collect sales and operations planning (S&OP) data on how it should perform in the future via demand plans, supply constraints, and statistical forecasting metrics. But are you adept at culling through this data at any time to optimize where you are NOW?
At Steelwedge, we have a perspective that your planning data ought to be able to tell you, anytime and on any device, the impacts of supply/demand tradeoffs based on your current business reality. That insight powers S&OP and comes from a blend of both historical and forward-looking planning data for real decision-making context. And your entire team must be able to access that data in a single plan of record to enable truly business-transforming collaborative S&OP.
Simply put: business parameters change and plans—and people—have to flex with them. Check out this video about Bob and his quest for better S&OP insight. Only his animated form is two-dimensional. His business planning needs are not. Seem familiar?
We’d love to hear from you about your journey to get better planning insight. Can you keep your business plan on course even when you know it will occasionally go off road?
The day I sat down at my desk to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) to write this post resembled most weekdays when I am not traveling. Walk with the dog at 5:30 am, then feed her and our twenty-two pound cat. Coffee. Juggle roles as channel partner, software vendor, customer, kid taxi and herder of cats—proverbial and otherwise. (Note: I love my job; no two days are the same.)
After a full day I arrive home to find my amazing husband has prepped dinner between his conference calls, so I just pop it in the oven and make some sides. He is picking up our fifteen year old from an afternoon activity. I repeat of the morning routine with the dog and cat, we have dinner together and catch up on our days.
On the best of days, I find that maintaining a healthy equilibrium between work/career, family and leisure is an effort. Like many women in tech, my inclination is to do it all, and do it all at 150%. Making time for myself, usually low on the list of priorities, teeters in the balance.
On this particular day I went to sleep feeling especially good, having completed most of the things I hoped to accomplish before the day was out.
The phone rang at 11:00pm and I was out the door at 11:05 pm. My mother, who lives a few miles from us, had a medical emergency and we spent a very frightening night together in the emergency room. Fortunately, she has fully recovered and is doing well today.
Something my mother said to me around 3:30 am gave me pause for thought and reflection.
“I’m so sorry to do this to you. You have so much on your plate and you don’t need this.”
My response was simply, “Don’t be silly. I wouldn’t be anywhere else.” And I meant it.
Many of us, as women in technology, work very hard to set a good example for our younger peers with similar career aspirations. We do a tremendous job laying the groundwork for the next generation of female executives. We are clearing the path and breaking glass ceilings not because we are women, but because we are qualified, experienced professionals making a real contribution. We demonstrate every day that you can have a successful career without sacrificing your family life. And we continue to shift the ratio of women in the board room from one dominated by men to one that fills those seats based on qualification, not gender.
However, as I have seen often for myself and among my female colleagues, there can be a great price to pay for trying to do it all at 150%. The laws of physics and math (and words of wisdom from grandmothers everywhere) prove that you cannot be everything to everyone all of the time.
Today, after many years of performing this juggling act, moderately well and with an incredible amount of stress, (some justified, some self-inflicted) I maintain the same level of activity but with a healthy approach and perspective that serves me and those around me well.
Women rising in the ranks of technology will face many of the same challenges I have mentioned. There are some simple things you can do to help you on your path to a success. And remember, success is how you define it, not how someone else does.
Do your best.
It sounds simple but sometimes it’s not. Don’t take shortcuts. Do go the extra mile. It shows and will come back to you tenfold.
I believe we are all responsible for our own success, and happiness, for that matter. Own what you do and who you are. The good, the bad and the ugly. Avoid blame, even if it is someone else’s fault. Seek resolution instead. Blame is a waste of time and accomplishes nothing. There is certainly an aspect of luck and timing in career and life, but by and large, I believe it will be what we make of it.
Set your priorities and know your boundaries.
I love lofty goals. Aim high! However, do so in the context of your professional aspirations, experience and personal commitments. Stay grounded in what is important to you not just for today, but for tomorrow.
Relationships matter. Remember, it’s about the people.
Oftentimes, especially in technology, there is an obsession with the solution being delivered, closing the deal or bashing the competition. Avoid these pitfalls. At the end, of the day we work with people, we buy from people, and relationships are an enormous component contributing to the success of a project (not just the technology). So focus on your customers, colleagues and partners. Always. If you have good technology, it will be the foundation for a long, happy relationship.
Find a mentor or role model.
Ideally, select someone you respect, with similar goals and challenges, and with whom you can interact face to face or by phone. Someone who is willing to share her perspectives and experiences and offer you guidance. However, your mentor doesn’t even need to be a willing participant! In the absence of such a person, choose a strong, independent, self-sufficient woman or public figure you admire. Learn everything you can about how they achieved their goals. Become a sponge for information that will help you move forward to reach your own.
Be kind, honest and respectful.
Enough said. If you use integrity as your compass in everything you do, you will shine.
Years ago, the woman sitting in the hospital room with my mother would have been right by her side. Taking care of her. But all the while worrying about what was happening at home, concerned about the next day’s deadlines that would not be met and in an overall state of anxiety.
Thanks to mastering some basic skills, keeping my priorities straight, and a lot of years of practice, I was indeed right by her side. Laser-focused on one thing only—my mom. The deadline was extended, I delivered good work, and the house did not fall apart.
That’s the balancing act. We all have one, so master yours. Tell us how you do it in the comments.
Steelwedge is a sponsor of CSCMP’s Annual Global Conference October 20-23 in Denver. The event features a session entitled “Women in Logistics and Supply Chain Management: Supply Chain Redesign.” Selected results of the 17th annual survey of female CSCMP members will be reported, including questions about redesigning the supply chain. The panel will discuss the survey results and address how they approach supply chain redesign. This session should provide an interesting insight into how the women of supply chain management view supply chain redesign. Will we see you at the conference?
This week, I had the opportunity to be the featured guest speaker for the ongoing Steelwedge Software 2013 Monthly Webinar series. My topic was considering the use of predictive analytics capabilities to supplement the decision-making capabilities of the S&OP process.
In the webinar, I provided four important takeaways for our audience:
- S&OP needs to move toward more timely decisions and better prediction of events and business outcomes.
- The converging forces in business management. Supply chain and IT are aligning toward greater awareness and support for more predictive decision-making capabilities.
- Leveraging the combination of predictive analytics and constraint modeling capabilities for S&OP can provide positive outcomes for your business.
- Of all the factors, understand and plan for the need for augmented individual and team skills to be able to leverage these capabilities.
During our webinar, we conducted some live polling of the audience. Many of the audience members reinforced a desire for their S&OP teams to become more predictive to business outcomes, but at the same time, are just beginning to become educated on predictive tools and their use.
We received a number of insightful audience questions, some of which we briefly addressed, but unfortunately we ran out of time to respond to all of them. In this blog posting, I will respond to these questions.
Q: What questions should I be able to answer with advanced analytics that I couldn’t answer without it?
Response: A sampling of the type of questions that advanced analytics can potentially answer are:
- Defining the most appropriate segmentation of the supply chain(s)
- Determining most profitable product and/or customer segments and how to best respond to customer needs for these segments.
- Incorporating both near real-time structured as well as unstructured planning and fulfillment related data and information into a set of alternatives for the S&OP to consider in a response plan.
- Determining the best possible time to seek either additional fixed or variable production capacity.
More importantly, innovators in these capabilities describe the ability of an analytics equipped team to serve as “the honest broker” in determining what is and what is not feasible in the context of given financial, operational or service goals. These capabilities further allow the S&OP team the ability to more clearly assess quantifiable impacts of various decisions.
Q: What skills should we be investing in for our team to insure better analytic insight?
Response: Dr. Chris Caplice, Executive Director of MIT’s Center for Transportation and Logistics recently published highlights of a discussion among 13 leading-edge supply chain organizations regarding their experiences with developing in-house analytics capabilities. Some of these organizations had well developed teams while others were in the process of building teams. Some of the key insights summarized were:
- Having a proper balance of well-rounded technical and business skills.
- Fluency in the language of business and the ability to effectively communicate cross-functionally-crunching the numbers is but one part of the job
- Ability to sell concepts and services to internal groups
- Knowing specifically how questions should be asked- asking the right questions and framing the right context
I would also hasten to add an intimate knowledge of the firm’s supply chain and its capabilities.
Q: What is the benefit of advanced analytics for planning over a BI tool?
Response: In my view, today’s BI tools can alert S&OP team members to potential problems but the former tools tended to restrict the ability to dig deeper into both root cause and potential means to resolve an unplanned event, shortfall or disruption. Advanced analytics adds supplemental capabilities to dig much deeper into the data, determine the exact sources of a problem, and simulate various possible response options in the context of stated business, financial margin or customer service goals. During his portion of the webinar, Ed Lewis of Steelwedge provided us a demonstration of this capability.
Q: Is there a trap in following analytics without the visibility of how the metrics are determined/calculated?
Response: This is an insightful question and I’m pleased that it was asked. In the initial deployments of advanced supply planning systems (APS) many of the initial implementations were stymied because both planners and operational teams did not fully understand the data sources and business rules that the metrics and/or plans were derived from. This fueled the notion of a “black-box” that teams distrusted.
I believe that as a community, we have learned from this experience. Further, we have more robust data drill-down and visualization capabilities that allow teams the ability to explore for themselves how metrics were derived and calculated. In a lot of cases, teams had to rely on IT and database experts to do these types of queries, and the unfortunately lacked intimate knowledge of supply chain and demand fulfillment processes. With analytics, we have the potential for a much more empowered user and analyst.
All of that stated, we tend to know that senior executives will always challenge the assumptions related to a series of potential decisions. Newer analytical capabilities allows even these executives to explore the assumptions and conclusions.
Q: Should we use a 5 step monthly S&OP process if we have advanced analytics with more real time insights for changes?
Response: That is, of course, an individual team choice but I can’t help but conclude that as S&OP teams work on building something similar to the information architecture I described during the webinar, supplemented with more predictive capabilities and insights, the process is bound to accelerate in cycle. I especially believe that when you factor Step #1 Data Gathering and consider elements of Steps 4 & 5, the Pre-Meeting and the Executive meeting, that there is bound to be some time savings and acceleration of the overall process.
I want to conclude this blog posting by expressing my thanks to both the Steelwedge team, and to the audience, for their positive feedback regarding gaining insights from our session. Let me also reinforce some of my final recommendations:
- The goal is enhancing S&OP decision making needs, not the capability nor the technologies themselves.
- Tailor analytics capabilities to help support most important S&OP process priorities. Seriously consider a centralized team to support these capabilities.
- Begin in small managed scope, learn, and expand.
- It is critical to strive for high data quality and well understood information taxonomy.
- This is not about rip and replace of existing legacy backbone systems but rather an insertion of augmented analytics capability.
Best wishes on your initiatives and don’t hesitate to contact me if you need further assistance.