S&OP: The Tug of War Between Cutting Costs and the Pursuit of Growth


tug of warToo many priorities. It’s a problem most of us face at some point in both our personal and professional lives. Organizations are no different. Executives in Sales, Operations, and Finance across industries will tell you they have too many priorities and face challenges like:

  • Choosing the right priorities—those that align with corporate strategy and financial objectives
  • Finding the resources and technology to support those priorities
  • Cannibalizing important growth initiatives under the guise of saving costs

By all accounts, IT spending is on the rise. That’s great news for vendors and customers alike. However, after the economic downturn six years ago, organizations find themselves in a constant tug of war between growth and controlling costs. Two conflicting priorities indeed.

Because the avenues to growth are many and roads to success few, companies need the right process, the right partner and the right technology to enable both more now than ever.

When it comes to sales and operations planning (S&OP), it’s keenly important to understand the connection between strategy, the decision-making process and behaviors that bring strategic vision to life. Add the context of delivering growth in unpredictable circumstances while controlling costs, and you’ve got quite a balancing act on your hands.

On July 15 and 16, Chris Turner, co-founder of StrataBridge, will take some of the tug out of the war during a webinar in which he will discuss S&OP in the context of balancing control vs. growth—with a look at the prospects and pitfalls of balancing global, regional and local planning and decision making.

Please join us for this webinar to learn how to optimize your company’s approach to drive growth, whether you are new to S&OP and demand planning or you are evolving your strategy and process.

Click here to register for the North America session on July 15 at 10amPDT/1pmEDT.

Click here to register for the EMEA session on July 16 at 3pmBST/4pmCEST.

How do you balance control with growth at your company? Share your challenges and best practices in the comments!

Got Cloud? The Most Advanced Supply Chains Do


What do companies who have an advanced supply chain do differently than their less mature counterparts? A recent report from Gartner (in partnership with Supply Chain Digest) provides one clear insight into a competitive differentiator:

The more advanced a company’s supply chain is, the more likely it is to have acquired cloud-based systems.

The results from the survey of nearly 500 supply chain professionals show that 18% of level 1 supply chains (least mature) are using some type of cloud/software as a service (SaaS) solution for supply chain management, versus 57% for the most mature level 4 companies.

SCM Cloud AdoptionGartner anticipates significant expansion in both “private” and “public” cloud deployments, however it still expects that by 2021, approximately 60% of all supply chain software deployments will be traditional license models–a small decline from current levels. Supply Chain Digest editor Dan Gilmore disagrees, writing, “I believe Cloud will take a bigger share by then, as I have argued in the past.”

Another recent report from SCM World demonstrated that cloud solutions improve supply chain performance. SCM World identified Sales & Operations Planning (S&OP), Transportation Management Systems (TMS), Spare Parts Management and Store Shelf Optimization as the most cloud-friendly supply chain processes with the most capability to deliver the network effect throughout a supply chain. According to the report, “the network effect is maximised for functions that are best served when a large number of suppliers and/or customers benefit from rapid access to information that can streamline business.”

Rapid access to information is the fuel that drives collaboration within the supply chain. It’s no surprise that 46% of the SCM World respondents said that greater supply chain collaboration leads to problems being solved twice as quickly. Because cloud-based platforms facilitate more effective collaboration,  companies with large-scale supply chains are adopting cloud solutions in increasing numbers in an effort to increase agility and improve response time to their most challenging problems.

As a the leader and pioneer in cloud sales and operations planning, Steelwedge has been advocating for years that S&OP belongs in the cloud. So, we’re always pleased to see reports that validate the success of cloud applications for supply chain and S&OP. What do you think? Will cloud solutions for supply chain management expand more rapidly than Gartner predicts? What else does the future hold for supply chains in the cloud? Let us know in the comments.

Steelwedge Sales Pipeline Bridge: Now on Salesforce1 AppExchange


AppExchangeIt’s an exciting time for Steelwedge, our partners and our customers. Cloud computing is on the rise. More and more companies are not only adopting cloud technologies, but making cloud a strategic priority. As the leader in cloud Sales and Operations Planning (S&OP) solutions, Steelwedge understands better than most how the cloud, coupled with social and mobile collaboration, can transform your business. Simply put, we get it.

With that backdrop, I’m very pleased to announce the launch of Steelwedge Sales Pipeline Bridge on Salesforce1 AppExchange, the world’s leading business apps marketplace. Steelwedge Sales Pipeline Bridge systematically captures the sales opportunities in users’ Salesforce1 Sales Cloud and intelligently filters and transforms sales data into a view that is meaningful to finance, product management, operations and executive management. With Steelwedge Sales Pipeline Bridge, companies can align sales pipeline-based and demand history-based forecasts, enabling them to quickly identify and respond to changing market conditions and improve revenue predictability.

The combination of Steelwedge and salesforce.com, two powerhouses in cloud technology, empowers businesses to connect with customers, partners and employees in a whole new way. Exciting times indeed!

Just today, ZDNet posted an article entitled, “CIO priorities are different around the world, but the cloud is one consistent factor.” It’s a great read and reiterates that, irrespective of industry or geography, cloud technology is top of mind for CIOs trying to take their businesses to the next level. While shrinking IT budgets, consolidation, and continuous changes in technology are here to stay, I believe that cloud helps companies face these challenges head on—protecting profits and delivering agility all at once.

But don’t just take their word for it (or mine!) This infographic, posted recently by CloudTech, demonstrates in one powerful picture, the explosive growth of cloud computing and what’s to come.

  • 2008: Global cloud computing industry estimated to be worth $46 billion. By the end of 2014, it’s predicted to be in excess of $150 billion.
  • More than three quarters of respondents to a recent Forbes survey use some form of cloud computing and 86% of those companies use more than one type of cloud services.
  • Last but not least, studies predict that more than 50% of all information technology will be in the cloud in the next five to ten years!

My take? If you’re not in the cloud, your competitors are probably eating your lunch—or will be soon. But don’t panic, the time is now to make the transition. Take a look at your business, educate yourself, and join forces with Steelwedge and salesforce.com to connect like never before.

You can find more detail on the Sales Pipeline Bridge solution in my previous blog post or visit http://www.steelwedge.com/solutions/sales-pipeline-bridge/ .

As always, questions and comments are most welcome. I look forward to hearing from you!

Why Are So Many SAP and JDA Customers Still Using Spreadsheets for Supply Chain Planning?


SpreadsheetIn a recent article authored by Lora Cecere, she stated that nine manufacturing clients she worked with in the span of a week are all still using spreadsheets for planning—despite the fact that they’ve spent millions on the implementation of SAP and JDA supply chain planning software. So why are few companies using planning software they’ve invested so heavily in?

Per the article, very few companies can use the optimizers within the SAP planning software to run their business. That’s because, according to Lora:

“The software from SAP, with the name of SAP APO, doesn’t meet the line-of-business needs for optimization and visualization. While it met the market requirements for IT integration (and is one of the strongest supply chain planning systems of record),  it has failed to meet the greater business needs for the line-of business user. Yes, the systems are integrated, but the plans are not sufficient.”

Lora went on to describe the situation with JDA, referencing the fact that JDA forced an upgrade when it re-wrote the planning software to a new architecture seven years ago. This presented JDA customers with a clear impetus to migrate to other software, and many did. Lora stated:

“Over the course of the decade, I have watched many JDA implementations be replaced by SAP. The primary JDA solutions still in use are JDA’s transportation software (purchased from i2 Technologies) and the warehouse management software (purchased from Red Prairie). Line-of-business users have found the consolidation of the company difficult. Most of the companies that I speak to are angry that the acquisition has not yielded more.”

Despite the fact that SAP is the market leader based on sales volume, it isn’t providing the kind of leadership or innovation that the user community expects, according to Lora. As a result, frustration has grown, and the opportunities for competitors to step in have increased. Supply chain planning has only increased in importance amid escalating demand volatility and global market complexity. This serves to magnify the marked difference in planning software capabilities. A “rip and replace” approach is not one that most companies want to take, but they want “a system of differentiation that planners could use.” Competitors, then, have an opportunity “to build something that can lay on top of the SAP architecture that can better meet the needs of the line-of-business user.”

All of this has netted one major result, according to the article: the market for SAP supply chain planning software has waned. Lora explains:

“The company has been pushing a Big Data and HANA message, but to no avail. There are few takers.  SAP has also written several applications on the HANA architecture (a database purchased with the Sybase acquisition) that offers the promise of greater scalability and usability. The promises have not translated into a viable product. The company has also stated that the current supply chain planning software, SAP APO, will be re-written on SAP HANA by 2020 making the current software obsolete and requiring a forced upgrade. The user community is not happy. They are pushing back.”

Amidst all of this, major changes have taken place among the leadership at SAP and JDA. Vishal Sikka, the longtime head of technology at SAP has departed the company. Given that Vishal drove the HANA strategy, and he left while SAP is pushing HANA, the impact is significant. And, JDA announced two weeks ago that its CEO, Hamish Brewer, was asked to step down after a 20-year run.

Lora calls for the leaders to innovate, noting:

“There are new kids in town. The market is flush with new best-of-breed vendors. They are not hampered by maintenance upgrades and legacy board issues.”

Steelwedge is proud to count itself among the best-of-breed vendors driving innovation in the planning software space. And, we’re not so new. We have a decade of domain expertise backing our single, cloud Integrated Business Planning (IBP) platform. Steelwedge solutions for sales and operations planning (S&OP) are trusted by many of the world’s leading manufacturers because of our easy-to-use interface, easy-to-access cloud applications and easy-to-configure platform.

What have your experiences been like with planning offerings from SAP, JDA, or other large software companies? Are you still using spreadsheets to handle the heavy lifting? Let us know in the comments.

S&OP Analytics: Reports vs. Dashboards


This blog post was authored by Kaushal Dave, Product Marketing Manager, Steelwedge.

Your sales and operations planning (S&OP) data needs to make sense, and knowing the difference between an S&OP report and an interactive S&OP dashboard—and when each should be used—can help you organize your data in a way that is both comprehensible and accessible. While Steelwedge reports and dashboards are both capable of turning collected data into useful information, they radically differ in functionality and usability.

Reports are a traditional way of summarizing data such as scenario comparison or revenue reports by geo or products, etc. Providing information based on detailed S&OP data generated from a specific search, reports tend to be detailed and complex in nature. And while they may include some visual components such as graphs or charts, they are typically text-heavy and designed to be displayed as a document or printed for distribution.

Steelwedge Excel Dashboards, on the other hand, are much more interactive in the way data is presented. Relying on visual indicators and macro-based techniques with drilldown and slicing capabilities to display an array of information—which often include condensed S&OP reports—dashboards allow online user participation to create a simple, easily accessible interface that can be accessed by virtually anyone anywhere.

Steelwedge’s Insight Excel Interactive Dashboards display only the most vital information on different phases of S&OP (Product Management, Demand Review, Supply Review, Executive S&OP, Integrated Reconciliation, Management Review and more) gathered from a big data set. And while they may not be as detailed as reports, this interactive dashboard can provide quick answers to some really big questions from just one glance.

Insight graphic

Steelwedge Insight Excel Dashboard – Sample

But even with the introduction of new interactive dashboards, Steelwedge reporting still plays an important role in delivering useful information. Knowing what kind of information you’re looking for helps you determine when to use a report and when to use a dashboard so you can successfully measure your company performance and drive your business forward.

Key Features of Steelwedge Insight Excel Dashboards

  • Data filtering using top and bottom X ranking for any geo, product, BU or country, etc.
  • Cockpit view to see all KPIs in a single place
  • Integrating the excel “Slicer” capability with dashboards enables users to perform quick filtering, root-cause analysis and data discovery

The key to making data useful in an S&OP process is not looking at every single data point, but instead, determining and focusing on key performance indicators that are truly meaningful to your plan. Steelwedge Insight Excel analytic dashboards based around those KPIs, when configured to your needs, can make even the most complex data consumable and useful.

Identifying meaningful insight with huge amount of historic and forecast time series within your supply chain can not only be helpful for you, but can also make the information you’re providing more easily understandable to others within your organization. Your top executives don’t have time to analyze various reports, statistics and spreadsheets. Pulling the relevant information together into one place, with key data at the forefront, makes your data more valuable and helps executives make better decisions.

The Steelwedge Insight Excel Dashboard, which is now a part of the S&OP Insight module within the Steelwedge solution, allows:

  • Faster decision making on large data sets that require visibility into consensus what-if analysis
  • A shared view of a situation to align executives on needed actions
  • Insight for each phase of their S&OP cycle, in a single Excel view

For more information on Steelwedge S&OP Insight, click here.

How are you currently using S&OP reports and/or dashboards? Let us know in the comments!

Gartner Supply Chain Executive Conference 2014: Creating and Sustaining Excellence


Steelwedge is proud to serve as a Silver Sponsor of Gartner Supply Chain Executive Conference 2014, which will be held May 20-22 at the JW Marriott in Phoenix. The theme of this year’s conference is “Creating and Sustaining Excellence in the Supply Chain,” and over the years, the conference has earned its own reputation for excellence. Widely considered to be the world’s most important gathering of senior supply chain executives, the Gartner Supply Chain Executive Conference gives attendees the opportunity to deliver the greatest business value for their enterprise over the coming decade. The 2014 role-based agenda will identify tried and true strategies, drawing on 10 years of Gartner Supply Chain Top 25 research. You can find Steelwedge in Booth #214 at the conference.

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Steelwedge is also hosting a lunch round table session at the Gartner Conference on Wednesday, May 21, at 12:30 pm in Grand Sonoran H. This is an exclusive opportunity for attendees to enhance their participation at the Supply Chain Executive Conference.

Session information:

Fast track to S&OP Maturity: The HP experience and salesforce.com insight

Sales and operations planning has existed for 30-plus years, but most companies get stuck at an early stage of Gartner’s Five-Stage Sales and Operations Planning (S&OP) Maturity Model. This session will offer real-world insights on breaking through to higher levels.

• Hear from HP about how S&OP and collaborative demand planning technology improves its business results

• Learn from salesforce.com how to translate sales funnel information in CRM into demand planning insights

• Learn how people, process and technology can align around S&OP

Speakers:

  • Pervinder Johar, Supply Chain CIO, HP
  • Shubber Ali, Vice President Strategic Innovation, salesforce.com
  • Glen Margolis, Chief Executive Officer, Steelwedge Software

This session has limited space and is only available to a select number of Gartner Supply Chain Executive Conference attendees. To register, click here.

If you’re attending the Gartner Supply Chain Executive Conference, don’t forget to stop by Booth #214 to speak with Steelwedge. In the meantime, let us know in the comments section what you hope to take away from the event!

Kemira Selects Steelwedge for Global Demand Planning and Supply/Demand Balancing


Kemira logoSteelwedge is proud to add Kemira, a chemicals company serving customers in water-intensive industries, to its prestigious customer list.

Kemira chose Steelwedge to support global demand planning and supply/demand balancing based on the solution’s user-friendliness and flexibility to support the end-to-end S&OP process and cross-functional collaboration. Steelwedge’s expertise in implementing S&OP for global supply chains was also a critical factor in Kemira’s selection. This, together with scenario generation, will provide greater capability understanding when processing increased volume requests as well as delivering a single set of agreed numbers to drive the monthly planning process.

The solution will be rolled out to approximately 500 users throughout EMEA, Canada, US, Mexico, APAC and South America within Kemira’s Paper, Municipal & Industrial, Oil & Mining Segments.

“Steelwedge’s technology will increase the overall transparency of our S&OP process and continue our journey towards improved demand planning and sales-demand balancing,” said Raymond Kok, Senior Manager Global Supply Chain Planning Processes/Supply Chain Management. “The improved forecast accuracy from Steelwedge will provide both input for our financial planning cycle and enable inventory reductions. Being cloud-based means it can support our global roll-out and manage the complexity we have and the scalability we need.”

John Sookias, Steelwedge SVP Global Sales & Managing Director, EMEA added, “We are delighted to support Kemira in its ongoing S&OP journey and to deliver the benefits of  more detailed financial planning information on a global basis and  a more collaborative demand planning process through Steelwedge Sales Pipeline Bridge.”

Does Your Planning Process Leverage Your Sales Pipeline Intelligence?


Bruce Richardson, Chief Strategy Officer, Salesforce.com

Bruce Richardson, Chief Strategy Officer, Salesforce.com

Undoubtedly, companies have a lot of good information in their CRM systems. But they often don’t know how to best use it to manage their entire business, from Sales to Supply to Finance. What they need is a planning tool that enables them to extract, understand and translate the knowledge captured in the sale funnel, along with other demand signals, into actionable insight on how to deliver on-target results.

This topic will be addressed during a Steelwedge-sponsored SupplyChainBrain webinar entitled “What Do Cloud, Your Sales  Pipeline and Your Demand Plan Have in Common?” on April 22, 2014 at 12:00 EDT. Salesforce.com Chief Strategy Officer Bruce Richardson will provide guidance on how to fill the “missing link” in the sales and operations planning (S&OP) process—leveraging the intelligence contained in the sales pipeline to inform the consensus demand planning process.

During this webinar, Richardson will explain how companies can:

  • Provide visibility and insight into significant pipeline changes, assumptions and expectations
  • Aggregate pipeline information for supply/demand balancing and operations planning decisions
  • Translate pipeline confidence into accurate revenue and margin projections for better Integrated Business Planning

The webinar will conclude with a Q&A session during which attendees will have the opportunity to submit live questions to the speakers. Click here to register.

Featured Presenters:
Bruce Richardson, Chief Strategy Officer, Salesforce.com
Ed Lewis, VP, Product Marketing, Steelwedge Software

Program Moderator:
Robert Bowman, Managing Editor, SupplyChainBrain

We hope you can join us for what will prove to be a compelling and informative session. In the meantime, let us know in the comments section if—and how—you’re leveraging sales pipeline data in your planning processes.

Driving Superior Business Performance Through Supply Chain Innovation: SCMI Spring Symposium


Steelwedge is proud to participate in the University of San Diego’s 3rd Annual Supply Chain Management Institute Spring Symposium, which will be held April 14-15, 2014 at the university.

Ed Lewis, Steelwedge

Ed Lewis, Steelwedge

Ed Lewis, Steelwedge Vice President of Product Marketing and Planning, will serve as a panelist on a discussion entitled, “How Technology is Enabling and Driving Supply Chain Innovation.” The panel will address how competition in supply chains is always increasing, forcing companies and supply chains to search for new technologies and innovations that lead to superior performance. Topics of discussion will include new supply chain technologies, potential technology innovations, and key factors influencing the adoption of supply chain technologies in order to achieve superior business performance.

Other panelists include Angel Mendez of Cisco Systems, John Urban of GT Nexus, Inc., and Mark Utter of Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. David Pyke of the University of San Diego will serve as the moderator.  The panel discussion takes place on Tuesday, April 15 at 12:45 pm PDT.

About the SCMI Spring Symposium:

There is little doubt that creating and sustaining an innovative supply chain can lead to superior business performance. This includes gaining competitive advantage, increasing market share, and creating greater levels of profitability.  SCMI’s Spring Symposium is a thought-provoking event focused on the power of innovation. Attendees will have the opportunity to learn how other business leaders are leveraging innovation to drive superior business performance.

The event will address various areas where creating an innovative supply chain can lead to superior business performance. Some of the subjects that will be discussed include:

  • Incorporating Innovation into your Supply Chain Strategy
  • Creating a Culture of Innovation
  • Strategic Sourcing & Procurement
  • Supply Chain Collaboration
  • Creating a Sustainable Supply Chain
  • Supply Chain Technology
  • Green Supply Chains
  • Outsourcing, Near-sourcing, Re-shoring
  • Talent Management
  • Managing Supply Chain Risk and Complexity

For more information on the SCMI Spring Symposium, click here.

Will we see you at the event? Let us know in the comments!

Why S&OP Belongs in the Cloud


sales and operations planning softwareHurricanes and tsunamis. Diverse and aggressive competition. Volatile financial markets. Fickle consumers. Uncertainty is clearly the new norm.

Gone are the days of rigid business plans and fine-tuned demand forecasts. Today’s businesses need unprecedented organizational agility to quickly recognize, recalibrate and respond to shifting demand in the face of volatility.

Integrated business planning (IBP) – the next phase of S&OP maturity – aligns sales, operations, finance and other functional areas into a single line of sight, from plan to performance to profit. But how do you achieve the accessibility, collaboration and immediacy needed to act on a unified planning view at the speed of business?

The answer lies in the cloud.

According to Gartner, cloud computing-based solutions, across S&OP and all of supply chain management, are quickly becoming the requirement. Case in point: integrated business planning. IBP requires that executives (and systems) across functional areas – e.g. sales, marketing, operations, supply chain, manufacturing, finance– have the tools and processes to work together. Only a cloud-based platform can quickly deliver on this promise, and here are four reasons why.

#1 Executive Buy-In

IBP requires a connected, collaborative view of S&OP processes across the enterprise to answer pivotal questions, such as the variance between revenue forecast, budget and compensation target by service line; or expected quarterly revenue by business unit. The lynchpin to this connected approach is executive buy-in from all functional areas. Many cloud solutions today allow you to quickly prototype micro applications. This ‘try before you buy’ approach offers a no-risk, hands-on evaluation that can help prove the system’s value and break down resistance to change.

#2 Any Time, Anywhere Access

To truly engage today’s professionals in the process, you need a platform-neutral approach that works on both enterprise and modern mobile platforms, inside and outside of your corporate network. With the cloud, you can leverage existing system investments and easily merge multiple data sources – whether it’s from legacy on-premise ERP, CRM or finance applications or with Software as a Service applications like Salesforce.com – and deliver them on demand to anyone in your organization, anywhere in the world.

#3 S&OP Ecosystem Connectivity

Organizations are dealing with increasing variety and volumes of “big data” coming from internal, partner, customer and social sources. For S&OP, the big data management requirement is exacerbated by the need to look at revenue, product, SKU and component information across a variety of geographies, operating divisions and time horizons, and then roll up that data for review at quarterly, monthly and even weekly increments. This, in turn requires a significant boost in processing power and analytics to make sense of the data for faster decision-making.

Connecting all of this data into planning and understanding how shifts in supply and demand will impact operations calls for scalability and flexibility that traditional on-premise solutions can’t deliver from one platform. With a single IBP platform in the cloud, you ensure a level of always-on elasticity to meet your data demands as they grow. Plus, the cloud’s pay as you go model enables you to scale as your business demands, not as your procurement dictates.

#4 Predictive Analytics

Not only is processing power important for developing actionable plans based on vast amounts of input data, but it’s a critical consideration to allow for contingency planning – a key driver for agility, and the heart of true IBP. Strategic, “what if” scenario modeling enables you to explore a myriad of business scenarios that impact the bottom line. Creating ad-hoc modeling to understand not only supply/demand trade-offs, but also the customer and financial implications of those moves would be cost-prohibitive without the elastic computing power of the cloud.

Final Thoughts

With the shift away from traditional annual or quarterly calendars, S&OP conversations and technologies need to be different. The cloud provides an ideal foundation for modern business plan decision making, allowing you to sense for signals of change and take a tighter look at interdependencies that impact departmental and corporate processes.