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Flexible supply chain planning—without IT

Time seemed to fly as we prepped for the launch of our Sales and Operations Planning (S&OP), Demand Planning, and Supply Planning apps for the Anaplan Hub event in Singapore in March 2015. I was excited about unveiling the ability to connect Sales, Marketing, Finance, Supply Chain, and executives on a single planning platform. For me, this was a dream come true because I had never imagined that a fully connected S&OP process or an end-to-end supply chain planning process could become reality—but Anaplan had delivered. The three apps were launched in March 2015, with press and social media cheering it all over the globe.

Over the last year, I have presented our end-to-end supply chain planning solution to over 90 companies, which range from $200 million to over $40 billion in revenue, across 9 different industries and in 13 countries. The discussions have been about a wide variety of supply chain topics, including how technology can help companies plan at a strategic level, along with enabling them to go down to deeper tactical and execution-level granularity.

So what knowledge can I share from these conversations? I learned that there are common pain points when it comes to the supply chain planning process, and the one that came up most often was the need for supply chain experts to have control over their planning and modeling tools. With Anaplan, business users and planners can directly make adjustments without having to depend on IT. The business can truly own the solution and quickly make changes, such as adding another level of granularity within the planning hierarchy, defining or redefining new scenarios (“what-ifs”), or editing a forecast accuracy measurement technique.

These are just some of the basic yet extremely powerful things that everyone wants to do with a planning tool. However, because of the inflexibility of legacy systems, most companies end up reconciling data back to Excel. We hear a lot about “digital disruption” in technology—but in reality, most solutions are still delivering a black-box tool that requires vendor or IT involvement and takes a lot of time to configure for even basic functionalities.

Real digitization happens when you have a business-led solution (as opposed to IT-led) and a platform that allows for implementation sprints, starting with a small use case–specific solution that can evolve into a large enterprise-wide solution. Therefore, real digitization is only possible with a customer-centric solution, not a vendor-prescribed one. From a planning perspective, it’s about having a solution that has Excel-like flexibility and immediacy so that you can test, learn, adopt, and change plans as business objectives and market dynamics change around you.

In my next blog, I will share what companies are asking for from a functional and domain standpoint when it comes to supply and demand planning and how Anaplan caters to these needs. In the meantime, check out the supply chain apps from Anaplan and its partners on the newly updated App Hub.

Kaushal Dave is the Director of Product Marketing and Supply Chain expert at Anaplan, where he travels the globe working hands-on with supply chain teams to build technology solutions for supply chain planning.

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