Category Archives: Integrated Business Planning

Is Your Sales Pipeline Connected to Your Demand Plan? It Is Now With and Steelwedge!

sales_pipeline_bridge_lpWhat happens when you pair the leading provider of cloud-based sales and operations planning (S&OP) solutions with the enterprise cloud computing leader? Your employees, customers and trading partners get connected in a whole new way.

No one is more enthusiastic about enterprise cloud solutions than we are here at Steelwedge, except perhaps our partner, Steelwedge understands the power of partnership, and that’s why we’re so pleased to be an official ISV partner.

As development and testing of our new solution wraps up (Stay tuned: Sales Pipeline Bridge will be available on the AppExchange in early 2014!) we are preparing our customers for the integrated business planning (IBP) journey of a lifetime.

The Sales Pipeline is the “Missing Link” in Your S&OP Process (view the video here!)

Every company would love to have a scenario where they use a single system that:

  1. Reviews all sales pipeline data
  2. Provides alerts for significant pipeline changes
  3. Systematically manages and links sales, marketing and operations plans

The hard truth, however, remains that most companies have separate and manual tools and processes that put them at risk for inaccurate forecasts, delayed—or worse yet—lost sales, and lost productivity. What they need is a planning tool that enables them to extract, understand and operationally act on the critical information in their sales funnel

Collaboration at its Best

Steelwedge 100% cloud-based S&OP solutions are used by customers across the globe and across industries. Sales Pipeline Bridge enables a new and unparalleled level of S&OP collaboration by incorporating critical sales opportunity information from into the planning process.

After all, who knows better about what—and when—customers will buy than your sales team? No one.   They are your first line of sight into customers and prospects. They know where the opportunities arise, the competitive landscape and what challenges your product can solve.

Sales Pipeline Bridge systematically captures that critical sales opportunity information from, transforming it into a view that is meaningful for Finance, Product Management and Operations alike. Silos? Gone. Fragmented systems? Eliminated.  Better performance and forecast accuracy? Check!

The Final Word

Dynamic, competitive markets have changed the game. We all live with this challenge every day. Our new AppExchange solution will not only keep customers in the game, but help them play to win.

For more information on Sales Pipeline Bridge, click here.

What kinds of challenges do you have connecting your sales pipeline data to your demand plan? Let us know in the comments!

Do You Have Planning Insight? Collaborative S&OP Requires Easy Access to Data and Analytics

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 Role of Statistical Forecasting in S&OP

The collaborative nature of sales and operations planning (S&OP) begs the question: Do we need a statistical forecast? Is the “best-fit” engine a dinosaur that ought to be relegated to the past? Many companies ask these questions as if there is just one answer—yes or no. Progressive companies understand that statistical forecasts add value if used in the right way.

Statistical forecasts serve as a starting point based upon non-biased historical patterns. Salespeople are great at adjusting forecasts based upon their market and customer knowledge. Asking a salesperson to create a forecast without a starting value builds in bias from the start and often creates frustration for the salesperson who wants to devote time to pursuing leads rather than creating sales projections. In an effective S&OP process, collaboration builds on the statistical foundation.


But not all statistical forecasts produce a great starting point. Stable historical demand patterns typically produce more reliable statistical forecasts. Conversely, highly volatile demand patterns may produce unreliable statistical forecasts. The key is to identify which will add value. Products can be grouped as being good or bad candidates for statistical forecasting based on volatility and importance. Planning strategies can be assigned based upon segmentation using volatility and importance criteria. Good candidates are statistically forecast while bad candidates use planning approaches such as like item curve fit modeling for new products and reorder point for low volume or erratic demand items.

Statistical forecasting still has a place. To learn more about when and how you should use statistical forecasting, check out our new videos:

What Is Statistical Forecasting?

Statistical Forecast Analysis

A Best Fit Engine for Forecasting

How is your company using statistical forecasting? Let us know in the comments section.


Partner Perspectives: Got Agility?

Partnership, as defined by Wikipedia, is “an arrangement where parties agree to cooperate to advance their mutual interests.”

I believe the fundamental reasons people and organizations establish partnerships, including software vendors and channel partners, have not changed. It’s collaboration for mutual benefit and, most importantly, to drive value for our customers.

Always the pragmatist, I did some research to prove the mutual interests claim. Indeed, I found this to be true. Here are just a few examples for anyone who doubts collaboration in partnership yields mutual reward.

Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis: Can’t have a funny guy without his straight man. They took that act to the bank.

Peanut Butter and Jelly: I have had my share of peanut butter sandwiches. I’m pretty sure the addition of jelly to the mix was the basis for the expression 1 plus 1 makes 3.

Lewis & Clark and Sacagawea: Collaboration at its greatest. Partnership between rock star explorers and interpreter/guide extraordinaire opens doors to travel to the Pacific coast. They also brought back information about European dealers connected to global markets. A primitive supply chain in the making!

While motives to partner remain the same, the landscape to do is constantly disrupted by global economic forces, new technologies, big data and this thing called the cloud.

So how do software vendors and partners maintain equilibrium, even thrive, in this volatile environment? Some don’t. Those companies who are unable, or unwilling, to adapt may find themselves “stuck” in an old business model that is no longer in demand.

But agile organizations—VARs, consulting firms and service providers who have stayed in the game by reinventing themselves—will be here for a long, long time. These companies understand the new world of cloud solutions, big data, subscription software and a customer-centric approach to…everything.

They embrace the challenge of migrating an on-premise solution to SaaS. They transform themselves from reseller to full-service provider, or from implementation team to consultant and trusted advisor. They get “social” and understand that it’s not just big data, but what you do with that data. They never stop learning because they know change is coming.

(Shameless plug alert…)

sw partners graphic

And they align with technology vendors, like Steelwedge, the leading provider of cloud-based integrated business planning (IBP) solutions, who provide them the ideal platform on which to build their business.

I invite you to meet some of our partners here. If you are interested in becoming a Steelwedge partner, or would like more information regarding the Partner Program, fill out this online form.

Thanks for reading. Have an opinion, comment or question? Chime in!

Are You Ready for 5 Stages of S&OP Maturity?

Two weeks ago, at its annual Supply Chain Executive Conference in Phoenix, Gartner rolled out the latest evolution to its sales and operations planning (S&OP) maturity model. Part of the reason: a majority of manufacturers were getting “stuck” at Stage 2 maturity: balancing supply and demand. Indeed, we hear about this conundrum every day in our sales and consulting engagements. The vast majority of companies use Excel and manual efforts to power their S&OP. While no one ever abandons Excel, those who try to power through maturity with only Excel or a collection of disparate, unconnected solutions, usually hit a brick wall when it comes time to driving collaboration and scale in their plans.

Gartner’s new model attempts to help companies “smooth out” the journey, now with five steps instead of four. It looks at the strategy as a move from inside-out supply driven planning to more outside-in or demand-driven value networks, guided by updated information across multiple touch points from customers and prospects. Gartner has identified 7 key building blocks for IBP: Vision, Strategy, Governance, Organization, Processes, Technology and Performance Management.

At Steelwedge, we’re helping our customers advance their planning maturity with enabling technology to more easily connect, mine and analyze all that data from one platform. Here are a few ways we’re doing that:

1. Planning Analytics

Steelwedge created a single unified data model for global scenario management across the supply, demand and finance as well as extremely rich collaborative capabilities supported by Enterprise-Enabled Excel and online analytics, as well as mobile delivery.

With Insight, you will learn about what you don’t know and determine what to do about it. Through exception based dashboards that analyze planning as well as transaction data, planners and analysts can get near real-time visibility to trends and make proactive decisions.

2. Big Data

The amount of data companies use in their S&OP processes process has grown exponentially in recent years, and that data has become far more granular as a means to define problems. During the past decade, Steelwedge has witnessed its customers go from managing 200-400 total planning points (TPPs) to more than one billion TPPs. To address these challenges, Steelwedge has purpose-built each component of its integrated business planning (IBP) platform to be high-performance. These components are both in the hardware as well as software layer, keeping in mind the turnkey approach of the cloud. Each communication layer in the cloud—network, storage, memory, edge caching and CPUs—are designed for high speed

3. Cloud

Even though cloud was not called out as a specific enabler for IBP at the Gartner event, we continue to believe that it is a game changer. It is our opinion that it is impossible to companies to advance to Stage 5 maturity without a cloud-based solution. For Stage 5, there needs to be a coordinated enterprise and network decision-making capability. There needs to be the ability to quickly on-board partners to the planning process, collaborate in both structured as well as unstructured manners and to do planning in a distributed environment. These capabilities are only provided by a cloud solution.

4. Multi-Enterprise Planning and Orchestration

Cloud-based planning solutions also simplify multi-enterprise planning and orchestration. With such complexity, integrated, single platform solutions are critical. Outsourcing operations has resulted in companies having asset-lite as well as assetless operations where coordination and orchestration becomes the key driver for sales and operations planning rather than asset utilization. In these environments, network-related data is critical to conduct S&OP on both a regular and an ad hoc basis.

5. Enhanced Social

Steelwedge has pioneered an S&OP-specific structured collaboration solution through its One-Click Planning as well as its Enterprise-Enabled Excel platform. Companies are demanding unstructured collaboration as well in today’s highly networked environment. This implies that there needs to be the ability to provide a social layer on top of the current structured collaboration solution.

In summary, the integrated business planning journey need not be like a holy grail quest, if powered with connected process strategy, empowered teams and flexible technology. But it is significantly smoother if the roadmap has holistic components from the beginning.

If you haven’t already seen it, here is the latest Gartner S&OP Maturity model. How far is your company on this journey? Have you hit a brick wall? We’d love to help

Is Your Global Planning Like Whack-a-Mole?

Join us on Wednesday, May 29 at 9:00 AM PDT/12:00 PM PDT for “Is Your Global Planning Like Whack-A-Mole?,” a compelling addition to the Steelwedge 2013 Agility Webinar Series.

The sheer velocity of change in business complexity, global volatility and available data is making the prospect of managing regional and global planning a more elusive mission. It’s like hitting a whack-a-mole with a mallet—only to have another pesky problem pop up somewhere else.

This session will explore how to tie together smart strategy and integrated software to capture and scale a process that can out-flex even the gnarliest of planning challenges.

Join sales and operations planning (S&OP) author and educator, Tom Wallace, and Steelwedge Vice President, Nari Viswanathan, to learn how to:

  • Do more with S&OP beyond “just” supply/demand balancing
  • Go global with smart strategy and scalable technology
  • Turn your big data into big insights
  • Build an agile enterprise and outmaneuver volatility

Click here to register. We hope to see you online for the webinar!

How Disruptable Are You?

Like it or not, doing business well is about ensuring you have “shock absorbers” to deal with inevitable disruption to your sales and operations plans.

At Steelwedge, we are laser focused on how we can deploy disruptive technologies and leverage them through our cloud solution, to make supply/demand decision-making remarkably faster with more insightful scenario planning options.   We put disruptive technologies to work so that we can help our customers handle the disruption that is part of doing business in a complex, interdependent work.

This week, JMP Securities announced its annual Top 100 best privately held software companies. We’re delighted that Steelwedge was included in this list—not only for the honor of the award, but also for how JMP framed its key criteria for inclusion:  the ability to drive displacement and growth in the market.

JMP analysts looked at a new generation of SaaS software companies that are opposing and supplanting the older generation of technologies.  They highlighted Plex for manufacturing/ERP, Box for content management, BigMachines for configuring price quotes, and Steelwedge for supply chain. What we all have in common, the passion for changing the status quo and delivering better agility in a disruptable world.

How well does your business handle distruption? We’d love to hear from you.


Partner Perspectives: The Shift to the Cloud

We live in a more complex and interdependent business environment than ever before. Companies large and small must navigate a sea of economic, political and environmental change, and respond to that change without compromising the delicate balance among supply, demand and profitability.

We know that customers work with Steelwedge because our cloud-based integrated business planning (IBP) solutions enable them to plan, perform and profit in a volatile, ever-changing business environment. We also know they work with us because of our people. We recognize that technology is one part of the equation for success, but people and process play a significant role in enabling that technology.

This is precisely why we’ve built a team of the most experienced, capable S&OP professionals and partner with the industry’s best.

A State of Flux

Consolidation, continuous changes in technology, shrinking IT budgets and a host of other forces have left customers, vendors and partners alike in a state of flux. We are seeing rapid adoption and transition to the cloud-based technology with software as a service (SaaS), infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS) and more. As a result, customers demand faster time to value, lower total cost of ownership (TCO) and “cloud ready” partners.

As CRN recently reported, channel partners must reinvent themselves as the market shifts from traditional on-premise enterprise software to cloud solutions and services. In the article, Gartner’s Tiffany Bova says, “Innovation by the channel is a must… If you don’t innovate, you probably won’t survive, not because you did anything wrong, but because the market doesn’t need you anymore.”

So the days of simply offering a product to customers are long gone. Customers expect partners to be solution providers who deliver the right technology solution, best practices and ongoing support.

In the cloud.

The message is simple: Partners who don’t adapt will be left behind.

Enter Steelwedge

The Steelwedge Partner Program is built on our 100% cloud-based Integrated Business Planning Platform. Organizations that partner with Steelwedge have the tools, resources and support to expand their footprint, assemble the RIGHT solution for their customers and offer a faster time to value delivery model—all through the cloud.

In the coming weeks and months, you’ll hear a lot more about the new Steelwedge Partner Program and our ecosystem of Alliance, Channel and Technology partners. In the meantime, please click here to learn more.

Where in the World Is Steelwedge?: April 2013 Conference Schedule

Steelwedge is hitting the road as the spring conference season begins in earnest. We hope to see many of you this month. Let us know in the comments what your conference schedule looks like. Here’s where you can find us in April 2013:

SCOPE Spring: Supply Chain Operations Private Exhibition

April 14-16, 2013, Atlanta
Click here for more information.

Nari Viswanathan, Vice President of Product Marketing and Management at Steelwedge, will present with Tom Wallace, Fellow, Ohio State University’s Center for Operational Excellence. “Global Planning: Whack-a-Mole or Wonderful Opportunity?” is scheduled for April 16, at 10:00 am EDT and will address these questions and opportunities:

  • Does global complexity deliver a new challenge each time you solve the last one?
  • Is your planning tapping the data explosion in your company?
  • If you are doing S&OP, are you using it for “just” supply/demand balance?
  • Learn how to go global with smart strategy and scalable technology
  • Turn your big data into big insights
  • Build an agile enterprise: Outmaneuver volatility

Steelwedge will also be exhibiting at SCOPE in Booth #412. Stop by to see us!

S&OP for High-Tech Summit

April 16-17, 2013, San Francisco
Click here for more information.

EJ Tavella, Steelwedge’s Vice President, Strategic Solutions, will present “Putting Your S&OP Data to Work: Beyond the Supply Chain” on April 16 at 12:30 pm PDT. In his presentation, he will discuss the following:

Effective S&OP is all about synch. Bringing the right people and processes together for smart decision making. At the center of this equation is data: demand data, risk data, pricing data, costing data, inventory data, new product data, etc. If you’ve done it right, your S&OP initiative has given you a goldmine of data that should be enabling executives in and out of your S&OP team to gain insight for planned and on-the-fly decision making…across so much more than supply chain.

What is your planning data telling you? If it’s not able to answer the following types of questions, you are selling your business short:

-How is our sales funnel impacting our demand plan?

-What is the inventory risk if we are below plan?

-What is the revenue risk if we are above plan?

-Are our channels ready to back up our product launch goals?

This session will look at the insights that agile companies are demanding to run their business in a dynamic global environment, and the steps you can take to ensure you are better able to deliver them in your company.

Steelwedge also serves as a bronze sponsor of the S&OP for High-Tech Summit. Be sure to visit us at Booth #4, and follow the conference action on Twitter by using the hashtag #SOPHTSF.

Integrated Business Planning Summit

April 25-26, 2013, London
Click here for more information.

Steelwedge will be exhibiting at the Integrated Business Planning Summit in Booth #6. With more than 25 speakers and over 150 delegates, the event is the largest gathering of business executives leading integrated business planning initiatives. You can find out about the latest conference happenings on Twitter with the hashtag #IBPLDN.


Integrated Business Planning for Agribusiness

Is there anything more critical to the global economy than its food supply?
Agribusiness companies bear the significant responsibility of feeding the world in the midst of incredible volatility. While facing the universal challenges of a sluggish global economy and increasing competition, agribusiness companies encounter incredible risk from climate instability, natural disasters, and growing global markets.

Learn more about the challenges that agribusiness face–and the ways in which Steelwedge helps to overcome them–in our new best-practice paper “Integrated Business Planning for Agribusiness.”

The multiple uncertainties that agribusiness companies encounter requires them to more frequently review and adjust supply plans, demand forecasts, and inventory positions. At the same time, they must implement approaches that reduce costs without sacrificing quality and customer satisfaction. To remain successful, agribusiness companies need to eliminate siloed processes that restrict their ability to closely collaborate with suppliers and quickly respond to demand fluctuations.

We’d love to hear from agribusiness professionals about their approach to integrated business planning. Please share your thoughts in the comments below. And don’t forget to check out Integrated Business Planning for Agribusiness“!