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Intuit shares key best practices for balancing supply and demand

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TurboTax, QuickBooks, Quicken—they’re all practically household names. And they’re all provided by one company: Intuit. Many small businesses use the company’s QuickBooks software to manage their numbers, while others may use Quicken to keep track of their personal spending. And come April, when it’s time to pay Uncle Sam his dues, many will turn to TurboTax.

Have you ever wondered how your local Costco or office supply store always seems to have enough of Intuit’s software in stock, even in the midst of the tax season? As Brent Orr and Roy Cowing from Intuit explained at Anaplan’s Hub 2015 conference, it all comes down to managing data as well as simple economics: balancing supply and demand.

Intuit is a $26 billion company, with over 7,000 employees globally. While best known to most people because of their software sold in stores, the company’s biggest revenue driver actually comes from their online and cloud business in which they sell directly to customers.

With the product mix and decentralized nature of the organization, Intuit faced several challenges, including:

  • Balancing supply and demand in its direct and retail store sales
  • Improving its forecast error rate to reduce the amount of buffer inventory
  • Managing and coordinating how data is shared across the enterprise
  • Reducing the amount of time collecting and reconciling data and actually analyzing forecasts

For instance, the supply chain side is concerned with tracking SKUs so they can account for the number of units and optimize inventory, whereas Finance is concerned about forecasted revenue generated for each retail partner.

Another example is when it came time to do the monthly planning, a lot of hours were needed to prepare the data; in fact, about 75 percent of the planners’ work consisted getting the data ready for forecasting and analysis. And all of this—the tracking, the data compilation—was mainly done in spreadsheets.

The result? Intuit’s forecast led the company to stock up on more inventory than needed in order to create a buffer.

Balancing supply and demand with the right planning apps

After explaining what challenges Intuit faced in forecasting and sales planning, Orr and Cowing delved into how implementing the right enterprise-wide demand planning solution helped them achieve the results they wanted.

They explained how using the right enterprise-wide planning solution allowed them to:

  • Enable different business functions to coordinate, update, and share data across the enterprise in real time
  • Reduce margin of error by moving away from disparate spreadsheets to a collaboration on a single platform
  • Make weekly adjustments to forecasts with confidence, thus reducing the amount of buffer inventory required

Instead of just gathering and preparing data, using Anaplan enabled Orr’s and Cowing’s teams to do more analysis to produce higher-quality plans—resulting in increased collaboration with sales partners, as well as increased revenue and optimized inventory levels for the company.

What challenges does your company face in balancing supply and demand? Share your experiences in the comment section below!

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