Many of our customers initially approach us seeking advice on creating functional S&OP (Sales and Operations Planning) processes. Their questions relate to organizational and procedural issues and often do not involve systems or data issues. However, once we delve into the core issues it almost always emerges that a significant portion of the process challenges relate to the inability to collect and collate data. In the absence of sound data, S&OP planning quickly moves from the realm of fact-based decision making to speculation and guesswork.
We often see S&OP sessions devolve into subjective, opinion-based speculation over what the right response or answer should be. In today’s data-rich world S&OP business decisions need to be on facts. Collaborative forecasts processes and systems need to be in place to deliver timely market feedback. Steelwedge-type “slice and dice” views of the data and changes to the plan need to be accomodated quickly in order to provide executives with strategic feedback. Supply plans and scenarios need to be evaluated in light of profitability and practicality. Executive teams need to understand the financial implications of supply-demand tradeoffs. Decisions need to be made collaboratively yet quickly and on the basis of facts.
It is for this reason that S&OP systems such as Steelwedge have moved to the forefront. Leaders need to make valid decisions based on transparent, fact-based decision processes. Management needs to be able to quickly identify and react to issues. Changes need to be understood and accomodated. Supply plans must be balanced against evolving demand plans.
S&OP can no longer be just a stand-alone process – systems delivering rock-solid planning information must exist as a backbone and organizations must be engaged.