*By Carlos H. M. Aravechia

Process, people and technology. These are the pillars that support a quality S&OP in companies. In addition to everything we have seen before, the use of a solid technological platform provides improvements in the quality of the plans generated as well as in the results obtained.

It is common to find companies that use spreadsheets as a platform for the execution of the S&OP. Despite being highly flexible, this technology has serious limitations to create realistic scenarios with the mandatory agility. Good planning requires up-to-date and good quality data. 

In addition, a platform that allows participants to feed the process with regional forecasts or product categories, in an online and collaborative way, takes the demand forecasting process to a much higher level of quality.

The possibility of navigating through different data aggregations, beyond being useful, improves the quality of the statistical forecast and facilitates discussions. In general, a mistake in forecast is smaller when prepared with more aggregated data.

ERP-integrated systems also have an advantage as they work with more up-to-date data. The need to manually extract data from a system to then feed another one used in planning can lead to errors and failures in the process, in addition to a loss of agility.

Most importantly, is it possible to run the S&OP process in spreadsheets? 

Yes, but don't expect to run a robust, agile process that takes advantage of the resources currently available in the technology field. It is important to reinforce here that technology is a great ally, but alone it does not work miracles. 

Some companies put all their chips into technology, aiming to improve the S&OP, but end up getting frustrated with the results obtained. This is because, as we have already seen, a good S&OP depends on the process process people trained

A good alternative for companies that seek to evolve in this matter is to define a route that will bring improvements advancing in a balanced way on three fronts: processes, people and technology, measuring progress and the benefits gathered along the way.

For this, it is recommended that companies submit their S&OP process for a maturity assessment, thus identifying points of improvement in the three dimensions and drawing up a differentiated and personalized roadmap to define this evolutionary journey.

Companies that are still at an early stage, or that do not yet have an S&OP implemented, can start their journey with a greater emphasis on processes and people, initially using spreadsheets as support technology.

Now, for companies that already run such processes at an intermediate maturity level, it is possible to focus on adjusting processes, training people and using an intermediate technological platform, such as the SAP Analytics Cloud (SAC), which brings benefits when compared to spreadsheets.

Finally, we have the scenario of companies that already have mature processes. Regardless of being at a higher level than the companies mentioned above, in the case of these companies, it is still possible to find points of improvement in the processes and in the people’s training while it is possible to carry out an initiative for the adoption of more sophisticated tools, as is the case with Integrated Business Planning SAP (SAP IBP).

A good start for this journey begins with the understanding of the company's current scenario through an assessment and the elaboration of an action plan to evolve in all dimensions, with clear objectives to be achieved - either through a traditional project or an agile project — with adjustments to processes, training of people and adoption of appropriate technological tools.

*Carlos H.M Aravechia is a Production Engineer, Solutions Architect in SCM and operates in the Innovation area at Numen.