Tag Archives: Collaborative Planning

New Funding to Fuel Growth – An Interview with Steelwedge CEO Pervinder Johar

At Steelwedge, we believe that ongoing investment in innovation is the key to growth. As a result, we are very pleased to announce that the company has secured $22.5 million in fresh capital to invest in R&D and expand our go-to-market strategy.

The round was led by Camden Partners, a private equity firm based in Baltimore, with Mainsail Partners, Shea Ventures and CEO Pervinder Johar also participating. This funding news follows the opening of Steelwedge’s new technology, sales and services hub in Austin, Texas, as well as a host of company milestones. Now 450 global employees strong, we recently landed a spot on the 2014 Deloitte Technology Fast 500 list for a 500 percent revenue growth over the previous four years. In that period we added a number of blue chip customers including HP, Lenovo, GoPro, Nissan and Monsanto, and joined forces with key partners such as Salesforce.com, KPMG and PWC.

Pervinder Johar, Steelwedge CEO

Pervinder Johar, Steelwedge CEO

This week I sat down with Pervinder to get his take on supply chain planning and Steelwedge’s vision for continued momentum:

What’s your view of the current state of supply chain planning?

Because of the incremental approach many long-standing vendors have applied to the development of their supply chain offerings, too many companies are struggling to make real-time decisions using disjointed and patched together technologies that simply don’t work in a holistic way. Years of adding a new module here and a new capability there without any master plan have created these “Frankenstein” systems — large suites comprised of dozens of components that don’t really integrate well. As a result, there are often multiple silos within a company’s supply chain operation, and the information needed to make decisions as well as the relevant context around that information is continually getting locked in one silo or another. This breeds what I like to call “supply chain amnesia,” where important information is lost to other decision-makers down the line.

Why is Steelwedge different?

Steelwedge is focused on curing “supply chain amnesia” by allowing companies to plan and re-plan their entire supply chain, in real-time, in an integrated and collaborative way. Combining Big Data, analytics, mobile and Cloud technologies, Steelwedge is the only supply chain vendor incorporating in its platform the proven, scalable technologies that consumer and social media leaders like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter use. We want our customers to have one place to go to plan their entire supply chains — not just small pieces of it — through a user-friendly interface. We want to enable seamless and open collaboration between internal departments like Sales, Marketing and Finance and between companies and their suppliers, distributors and customers.

I see Steelwedge becoming a dominant player in the supply chain planning market, much like Salesforce.com has become the leader in CRM. This huge potential for growth is why I signed on as CEO and it’s also why I’m investing my own capital in the company during this current round of funding.

How is your previous supply chain experience informing your vision for Steelwedge? 

I served nine years as CTO at Logistics.com and, after its acquisition, at Manhattan Associates, and helped the company become the dominant player in the supply chain execution space. Today, Manhattan’s market cap is approximately $3.7 billion.

And at HP, I helped transform one of the largest and most complex supply chains in the world. In the course of building HP’s supply chain into a competitive differentiator, I engaged a host of traditional and new supply chain vendors in search of the next generation platform. None of them had a truly integrated solution that allowed companies to plan their entire supply chain in real-time.   Smaller vendors were all addressing the problem from different angles, solving only a piece of the puzzle. Large vendors were amassing large collections of un-integrated modules after years of acquisitions and product launches.

So the question in my mind was: who had a platform that could grow to support the next generation of supply chain planning?  Steelwedge stood out. While at HP, HP selected Steelwedge and I was a customer. I understand the software, its value proposition and the immense possibilities for the platform.

We are in a fantastic position to innovate and grow. Some competitors are too large and slow to really innovate without causing substantial disruption to their business model and install base.  Others are too small to have a good financial foundation to make the necessary investment. We are nimble and agile but at the same time we have a blue chip customer base that is co-innovating with us, transforming their supply chains and the way they interact with their business ecosystems. It’s a good place to be.

An Investment in the Future of Supply Chain Planning

Written by Jason Tagler, Managing Member of Camden Partners

Today I am excited to announce that Camden Partners has invested in Steelwedge Software, the leader in cloud-based supply chain planning and S&OP solutions.  With this capital commitment, we are investing in the future of supply chain planning.  There are four main points which highlight why we are incredibly excited about this opportunity:

The future of supply chain planning is in the cloud.  Customer relationship management (CRM), enterprise resource planning (ERP) and human capital management (HCM) are software sectors in which cloud-based companies now dominate.   Salesforce, Netsuite and SuccessFactors are examples of companies that embraced the cloud early in their respective markets and went on to become the clear leaders in those markets.  Likewise, Steelwedge was on the front end of adopting the cloud in the supply chain planning (SCP) market.  Today Steelwedge is the only pure play Cloud provider in the supply chain planning space. We believe this early adoption of cloud technology positions Steelwedge to be the dominant leader in the future of supply chain planning.

The market is huge.  According to Gartner, the market for supply chain planning software is expected to grow about 10% per year and be nearly $5B by 2017.  When IT and Services are included in the market size calculation it triples to nearly $15B by 2017. Today, this large and growing market is primarily being served by legacy and on-premise solutions.  Steelwedge has proven its ability to win large blue chip customers such as GoPro, Nissan and HP, and we believe the company is well positioned to capture greater market share moving forward based on innovative product developments and continued focus on the success of its customers.

Steelwedge is investing in innovation.   One example is the company’s plan to open a state-of-the-art R&D office in Austin, Texas later this year.  The plan includes building an Innovation Lab where product managers and software engineers can work directly with Steelwedge customers to build the solutions of the future for supply chain management.  We believe this initiative will result in breakthrough product innovations to address the biggest challenges in supply chain management.

Another example of the company investing to be the dominant player in supply chain planning software is the company’s cutting edge platform.  Steelwedge’s platform leverages some of the same technologies developed by Facebook and Twitter to accelerate and scale the analysis of big data and present it in a way that can be acted on in real time.  Those technologies take advantage of the distributed computing nature of the Cloud and allow for infinitely scaling computational power, in-memory processing and data storage via generic servers in the Cloud. As global supply chains become increasingly complex, this ability to scale data and processes at a reasonable price  becomes even more critical and a big differentiator vs. other companies like SAP and Oracle that are taking the specialized appliance route.

We are investing behind strong leadership.  As with any investment we make at Camden, the leadership of the team is paramount to a successful outcome.  Recently appointed CEO Previnder Johar brings leadership, supply chain expertise and the experience managing companies through explosive growth.

I am thrilled to join the team in the capacity as a board member at Steelwedge and look forward to having a front seat as the future of supply chain planning unfolds.

Boost S&OP with Top-Down and Bottom-Up Strategy

Rick Blair

Have you lost faith in Sales forecasts?
Does Sales consistently over or under estimate future sales activity?

A multi-billion dollar global manufacturer is struggling. Two divisions of the company are at odds on how best to achieve world-class forecast accuracy. Regional sales account representatives provide forecasts well above historical sales levels. Why? Because inventories made available to each country are insufficient to meet market demand. The result: predict more sales to try to influence supply decisions and receive a greater portion of supply for your region. One division has decided that a centralized approach is best and is no longer considering regional sales input. The other division is moving to a collaborative S&OP approach where regional input is requested, evaluated and incorporated in the overall plan.

Which method do you think will produce a better plan?
Which method will distribute limited resources better?
Which method will yield higher profitability?

Time will tell for this organization. Yet, we can make a prediction today. Experience would suggest that a well-designed, collaborative S&OP process will produce better results. Here’s how we look at how Top-Down and Bottom-Up S&OP drives better results.
1. Bottom-Up Inputs: Bottom-up forecasts are accumulated from many contributors. A distributed sales force may have hundreds or thousands of contributors. Each contributor has a specific area of expertise such as a specific customer, product or geographic area. The contributor enters her forecasts for her specific area of responsibility. Forecasts from all contributors are summed to capture an overall bottom-up forecast.
2. Top-Down Inputs: Top-down projections apply a more centralized view. A small number of forecasters will look at various inputs and generate forecasts. Influencing factors may include market data, economic indicators, and general product and customer trends.
3. Balancing Top-Down and Bottom-Up Forecasts: The beauty of top-down and bottom-up planning is their ability to look at the world from differing vantage points. The folks in the “ivory tower” know important information, but they don’t know everything. The folks in the field have keen insights into their unique areas, but they only see their small piece.

1. Gather Objective Inputs: The collaboration challenge is to capture the small pieces without tainting the field forecaster’s view. In other words, don’t tell the field forecasters the top-down targets. When field forecasters are told what their forecasts are expected to be, they tend to send back values right in line with the top-down values. Such tainted bottom-up forecasts miss the point of gathering field intelligence.

2. Balance Inputs: An effective marriage will capture top-down and bottom-up forecasts separately.

3. Manage by Exception: Look for forecasts with the most significant (unit and/or revenue focused) difference between top-down and bottom-up forecasts. Is there an opportunity the field sees that the top-down approach did not capture? A management by exception S&OP tool will make comparisons quickly to enable users to analyze critical differences and refine the ultimate consensus driven forecast.

4. Provide Feedback: Tell forecasters how they’re doing. Measure forecast accuracy and bias. Track performance at various levels, including individuals. Forecasters who consistently over or under forecast (bias) should know that the organization knows. Such bias may be intentional or unintentional. Either way, behavior needs to change to produce reliable projections to which the organization can deliver.
S&OP really does lead to improved bottom-line results. Break down the walls of distrust and embrace collaboration.


New Documentary Examines the Evolution from “Supply Chain” to “Value Chain”

The traditional notion of supply chain management takes a linear approach to moving goods from the supplier’s supplier to the customer’s customer. Anyone involved in the industry knows that today’s marketplace dynamics are anything but linear. So a “supply chain” becomes a bit of a misnomer. The term “value chain” was popularized in the 1980s and gained momentum in the late 1990s as business became increasingly global.Traditional SC

A value chain involves conversations among multiple partners in the chain that may not be directly “next to” each other. This model has evolved as modern, global business necessitated that manufacturing and distribution become more collaborative and mutually beneficial for all parties.

Value chainTIA NOW, who provides programming on the latest information and communication technology (ICT) insights and trends, recently published a documentary on this topic entitled, “The Value Chain: Building Value in the Chain.” Here’s a description of the film, which explores the evolution of yesterday’s supply chain to what’s now known as the value chain.:

No matter where you are in the supply chain of the ICT industry, collaboration between your suppliers and customers increasingly dictates the success of your new products and services. The value chain is changing with each cycle, from chip maker to end user and everybody in between. So how does increased collaboration help strengthen your company’s position in the marketplace? What is driving a more communicative value chain towards multi-vendor systems and increased demand for heterogeneous technologies and applications?

EJ documentaryEJ Tavella, Chief Evangelist and Vice President Strategic Sales and Solutions at Steelwedge, is featured in the documentary as an expert on supply chain management in the Silicon Valley.

EJ discusses the old way that businesses managed their supply chains, stating, “When you looked at most of the people I worked with in the Silicon Valley, they thought of their supply chain as one of their golden jewels. They didn’t want to share information. They wanted to make sure that how they did it was specific to their business. They would share information, but share it sparingly. You’d see companies that would specifically give one set of plans to a supplier because they wanted them to perform to that, while they had their own set of internal plans.”

Drawing on the depth of experience of numerous supply chain experts interviewed in the film, the documentary goes on illustrate how the value chain concept has driven more cooperative business processes, to the benefit of everyone involved. You can view the documentary here.

Steelwedge has championed supply chain collaboration for more than a decade, developing technology that extends your planning process to your partners and customers to provide an outside-in perspective. Steelwedge customers can securely share forecast and supply planning assumptions with key partners to dramatically improve everyone’s planning accuracy.

Have you been in the industry long enough to experience the shift from “supply chain” to “value chain”? Share your thoughts on the evolution in the comments!

Game On! Sony Plans for Biggest PlayStation Launch Ever With Steelwedge

Sony PS4In the world of video-game consoles, the Sony PlayStation is undoubtedly leading the pack. In January 2014, PlayStation 4 (PS4) sales were nearly double that of its nearest competitor. The release of new game consoles comes years after their preceding versions, so significant planning goes into the launch by their manufacturers.

Sony Computer Entertainment America (SCEA) launched the much anticipated PS4 in November 2013. There was high complexity inherent to readying the system in time for the make-or-break holiday season; allocating to the right reseller channels; assembling the right combination of accessories and game bundles; and ensuring the product launches at right price point. Sony used Steelwedge integrated business planning software to connect all the crucial people,  processes and data to help it navigate their biggest launch ever—delivering an anticipated approximately 5 million units in the coming months—without cannibalizing the ongoing PS3 business.

The Steelwedge services team helped fast-track Sony’s internal planning process with the
implementation of the Steelwedge solution in a phased approach. The first phase incorporated demand planning and an executive engagement phase of the total sales and operations planning (S&OP) life cycle.

Phase two involved synchronizing Sony’s new forecasting strength via supply planning and collaboration with Sony corporate suppliers and telescopic planning. Telescopic planning is a Steelwedge feature that enables easy movement between weekly and monthly planning periods, allowing Sony a much closer, more frequent look at impacts to its supply and demand.

“Without the insights we gained from Steelwedge on channel and bundling optimization and well as potential PS3 cannibalization, we wouldn’t had as powerful a launch plan,” said Sree Vaidyanathan, SCEA’s  Director of Business Applications. ”Months ahead of the launch, we sold out $1.7 million in pre-orders. We are planning to sell approximately 5M units of the new PlayStation 4 console by April, and we are more confident in that forecast due to Steelwedge.”

Increased visibility from consensus planning at SCEA translates into better:

Profitability. SCEA forecast accuracy improvement from 60% to high ~90% immediately
drives better profitability—ensuring the right goods at right time and right place. Now,
Sony has enough data insight to push platform and SKUs to channels, more intelligently.

Market Share. Better consensus planning, powered by Steelwedge, helps SCEA make better supply/demand tradeoff decisions, due to more reliable data. The faster to market, the better the market share potential.

Scalability. The cloud-based solution from Steelwedge allows Sony to power its process
in scope with its evolving market.

Risk Mitigation. The proven, secure Steelwedge platform limits Sony’s IT exposure to
risks around data, business continuity and security.

To learn more about Sony’s implementation of Steelwedge, read the full case study here. Do you have any best practices to share around using the S&OP process to enable a successful product launch? Share your insights in the comments section!

Why won’t Sales participate in our S&OP process? Five tips to get Sales in the game

Change is a challenge. Implementing sales and operations planning (S&OP) is a massive challenge. We put recurring processes in place with meetings scheduled months in advance. We gather vast amounts of data and force it into predefined buckets. And we expect diverse functional groups to talk with one another and arrive at a consensus plan. But despite the most diligent efforts, every practitioner of S&OP—even those who are even best in class—encounters obstacles to true collaboration.

So, what’s blocking collaboration? Each functional group may have differing responses to these questions, based on their priorities:

  • Are we planning in units or dollars?
  • What’s our planning horizon?
  • What level of detail is needed?

In the table below, goals differ between functional groups. Sales wants to maximize revenue, thinks in dollars and is focused on the near term. The Operations group wants to know what to manufacture, when it’s needed and where it needs to go. Operations is focused on minimizing operating costs, thinks in units and is looking at the medium term. Meanwhile, Finance is trying to maximize profit, manage cash flow, thinks in both units and dollars and is focused on a much longer horizon.

Goals of Sales, Finance, Operations

So then, is it surprising that Sales does not want to participate? Here’s what we’re asking from Sales:

  • Provide your forecast much further into future
  • Tell us specific products you will sell
  • Tell us number of units of each specific product
  • For each product specific unit projection, tell us into which months they fall
  • And, by the way, if you don’t sell to meet your forecast, we’ll have a conversation about that, too

So what’s a salesperson to do? Well, the first inclination is to resist. “I gotta be out in the field, lookin’ my customer in the eye. I don’t have time to give you a detailed forecast.”

As an organization that sees the value of sales and operations planning, we must conquer the “Get me outta here” reaction. Mandating sales participation may be necessary, but that’s not enough. The organization needs to allow salespeople to do what they do best…sell. That means making S&OP easy and helpful to Sales.

Here are 5 tips for bringing Sales into the S&OP partnership:

  1. Provide a starting point. Salespeople are much better adjusting a forecast than creating one from scratch. The starting point can be a statistical forecast based upon historical demand.
  2. Make it easy to enter forecasts. Allow salespeople to enter their forecasts in a user-friendly tool. The tool should allow users to view actuals and forecasts at desired level of aggregation. That is, allow roll up of values by customer, by region, by product family or other levels as defined by planning hierarchies. Then spread the aggregate forecasts across the all other levels using sound business logic. The planning tool does the heavy lifting, not individuals.
  3. Share the value of a better S&OP plan. A more accurate consensus plan will translate into better customer service levels and improved customer satisfaction. Yes, it really works, and increased satisfaction usually bodes well for increased sales.
  4. Set realistic and achievable sales targets. S&OP requires one plan that the organization agrees to execute against. Sales should use the same approach to set sales targets. Stretch goals are fine provided it’s clear that these go above and beyond the S&OP plan.
  5. Put the thumbscrews away. Measuring forecast accuracy is a great way to learn from the past and make improvements. It should not be the means by which to call out underachievers. If a salesperson’s actual sales are significantly and consistently under or over forecast, look into what may be driving that behavior. Does the company demand stretch goals and set commission plans at levels that are unlikely to be achieved? Is the salesperson reluctant to share leads for fear of being held accountable if she does not close the deal?

Sales participation is critical for S&OP success. Make it easy and non-threatening and the challenge may become less massive.

Avoid the Most Common S&OP Mistakes: Here’s Our Top 5

Knowing is half the battleIn the wise words of G.I. Joe, “Knowing is half the battle.” And in the battle for sales and operations planning (S&OP) success, knowing where the potential pitfalls lie will serve every company well. Some of those pitfalls were recently outlined by Steelwedge Vice President of Industries Danny Smith in a Manufacturing Business Technology article entitled “The 5 Most Common S&OP Mistakes And How To Avoid Them.”

Recognizing that knowing what not to do is just as important as knowing what one should do, Danny described the following mistakes that companies frequently make in their sales and operations planning initiatives:

1) Lack of executive ownership. The biggest problem I see is the executive leadership team not owning the S&OP process. If executive leadership isn’t fully engaged, the process won’t be as successful. If they aren’t engaged, find out why. Maybe you aren’t giving them the things they need to run the company: forward-looking, global visibility; timely, concise information that is digestible to them (e.g. their KPIs) and that is actionable; the ability to ask “what-if” questions so they can put boundaries around their risk. A good technology platform can help tremendously here. After all, the best people and process can only take you so far. Technology serves as a lever to speed up the process and shift the focus from calculations to analysis.

2) No cross-functional engagement. The whole point of S&OP is getting the entire organization moving in the same direction. That’s hard to do without the involvement of all the key stakeholders in the process. Research around S&OP failures right after the global downturn showed that a third of the respondents didn’t have Sales engaged in the S&OP process. That was the good news! Almost half didn’t have Operations or Finance engaged. Lack of a way to translate between different functional views of information tended to leave one or more participants out of the process. Sales would input revenues by account, Operations would need demand in units by product, and Finance wanted to see net margin. To really make S&OP work, you need to have the same information, but expose it to each stakeholder in the form they need and understand. Even if you start with a quick win/small project, extend the scope to just across the functional boundaries to provide the needed translation.

3) Focusing only on one consensus number. An S&OP mantra for years has been getting to a “one number plan,” but this simplifies things too much. And worse, it limits the value of S&OP for executives. Executives are paid for predictability. It’s their job to identify and proactively mitigate risk – to avoid the danger before it’s a reality. S&OP can be a great tool to help (i.e. GPS telling you to avoid a route due to traffic) but only if you don’t fall into the “one number” trap. Instead, you need to plan in ranges – worst case, best case and expected – all along the S&OP process. The ability to identify the impact of things not going to plan is priceless. As Eisenhower once said, “Plans are nothing; planning is everything.”

4) Complexity! Follow the “keep it simple” principle, especially with metrics. I’ve seen companies become paralyzed trying to make the right decision when they have to evaluate hundreds of metrics; the complexity prevents them from being able to ask the right questions. Pick your big 10-15 metrics (see Figure 1) and go with them. Track them, make performance transparent so everyone understands where they are, and learn from them.

Figure 1: Simple KPIs

Figure 1: Simple KPIs

5) Lack of documentation. How do you learn from your mistakes? You have to capture all the institutional knowledge and assumptions that go into your plans. Provide a mechanism to capture this information from every participant, and make it easy for them to contribute. For example, if you collaborate as a group using social media, automatically capture those chats and the context and embed it into the plan assumptions so you can understand the context of decisions or changes six months later. Remember, those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Do you agree with Danny’s top five S&OP mistakes? What lessons have you learned in your journey to sales and operations planning success? Weigh in with your “war stories” 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?

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!

“Scenario Modeling: What Don’t You Know About Your Business?”

MetroPCS knows a lot about its 9.5 million customers. With churn of smart phones and handsets shrinking annually, this  leading provider of mobile service is all about predicting demand and understanding each of hundreds of features and functions that will sell the best across a portfolio of phones.  But it wasn’t until MetroPCS worked with Steelwedge that if found out that it’s business was not bound by seasonality.

Check out MetroPCS’ video story on scenario modeling to see how they tapped cloud-based planning solutions from Steelwedge to get a whole new perspective on their business.  Ask yourself:  “what don’t I know about my business?”