S&OP: the new era begins today

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What if you walked into a company for a job interview and discovered that they were running their business with telegrams, rotary phones, typewriters, floppy disks, and dial-up Internet? You might think you’d taken the wrong elevator and ended up at the Museum of Outdated Office Tools.

You may be surprised to learn that many companies are running their sales and operations planning (S&OP) processes on the technological equivalent of LaserDiscs and dot-matrix printers. Slow, spreadsheet-driven, disconnected S&OP is on its way out, and dynamic, collaborative, connected S&OP is the new normal.

Gartner agrees!

Collaborative, real-time, cloud-based planning technology is here to stay. We were reminded of this with Gartner’s recent release of the Sales & Operations Planning Systems of Differentiation Magic Quadrant. We’re honored to have been named a Leader, and especially thankful to have moved from Niche to Leader in one Magic Quadrant cycle (which we believe is a rare occurrence.) We believe that this exciting validation of our accomplishments this year is another reminder that the future of planning is being made today.

We believe that this Magic Quadrant showed a clear shift toward higher rating of cloud-based, advanced analytics-driven platforms to solve S&OP challenges. When these platforms are embraced, information siloes fall and the right decisions come more naturally.

So what about the practical steps needed to make the new era of S&OP a reality at your organization? Here are five concepts to keep in mind as you seek to improve sales and operations planning.

Build on the right platform

It’s a struggle to execute connected, collaborative S&OP if you’re mired in email, spreadsheets, and a hodgepodge of on-premise systems. Instead of making wise planning decisions based on real-time data, you’ll be hoping that your spreadsheet isn’t too big to email and wondering “which version is this?” Information siloes will reign, and your time will be spent battling your data instead of insightfully analyzing it. Don’t get dragged into the trap of old systems; embrace the new and start setting the standard for data-driven planning.

Create a constructive feedback loop

There’s often a large group of people involved in S&OP, and that creates an equally large amount of complexity. It’s essential to make sure that all of the people involved know that their work makes a difference and how they can improve in their roles. When a solid feedback loop is in place, the groups involved can see first-hand how their efforts help to create an accurate, unified plan.

Keep an eye on the dashboard

Just like keeping an eye the dashboard of your car can save you a lot of hassle, an accurate, shared dashboard is key to effective S&OP. When all the right planners (supply chain, finance, sales, marketing, and beyond) can see the right data in real-time, S&OP can move forward smoothly and seamlessly. With these dashboards in a cloud-based platform, it’s easy to get executives the data they need right this minute.

Be a friend to finance

Sometimes, supply chain planners may wait till later in the S&OP process because of how their feedback could affect supply, demand, and product plans. But that’s not always the wisest choice. Another way to help S&OP go more smoothly is to design your finance review process to happen in parallel with the other parts of S&OP. The sooner you get finance involved, the greater trust and connections will grow.

Stay with your calendar

S&OP is full of deadlines and moving parts, so accountability to a calendar is paramount. Without a calendar and commitment to stay with it, stakeholders may scatter and make it difficult to gather needed information. Don’t forget that back-up plan when a key planner takes a vacation or changes companies during a key phase of S&OP.

The future of S&OP is today. S&OP is changing by the day, and we believe the days of disconnected, linear processes are quickly fading. When connections are made, and cloud-based, connected platforms are central to those connections, the future of S&OP becomes the reality of today.

S&OP is full of deadlines and moving parts, so accountability to a calendar is paramount. Without a calendar and commitment to stay with it, stakeholders may scatter and make it difficult to gather needed information. Don’t forget that back-up plan when a key planner takes a vacation or changes companies during a key phase of S&OP.

The future of S&OP is today. S&OP is changing by the day, and we believe the days of disconnected, linear processes are quickly fading. When connections are made, and cloud-based, connected platforms are central to those connections, the future of S&OP becomes the reality of today.

Gartner: Magic Quadrant for Sales and Operations Planning Systems of Differentiation, Tim Payne, Amber Salley, Alex Pradhan, 7 May 2019.

Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s Research & Advisory organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, express or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

Anaplan named a leader in S&OP Magic Quadrant

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