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09 May The Six Stages of Grief in Transitioning from APO to IBP

(By Susan Wooldridge)

You’ve done it! You have finally successfully separated your planners from their spreadsheets and gone live with APO-DP. What an accomplishment!

Then two days later, you open your email and you’re hit with the news: “SAP will phase out APO and replaced it with IBP.”  Wait… What’s IBP?

IBP is SAP’s Excel-based planning tool: a spreadsheet-based solution. How painfully ironic.

Here are the six stages of grieving the loss of APO.

Stage One: “Denial”

Excuse me? That can’t be right. You just installed APO!

You search online and everybody is talking about it. The media, the forums, the consultants… No way. They all must be wrong. McDermott must have said something that the rest of the world somehow misunderstood and misquoted. Right?

Stage Two: “Realization”

You pick up the phone and call your SAP Client Partner. Unfortunately, she confirms that this is not a joke. And over the next couple of months, “IBP” seems to be all you hear about.

In the meantime, SAP has stopped improving APO. This wouldn’t be so bad except for the fact that ever since your go-live, you and your planners have found yourselves living with a system that under-delivers to your expectations.

It started with data queries. The day after your consultant rolled off, you asked your team for a little data about forecasting models and quickly discovered that getting it out of APO is complicated. It is like the hardest Sudoku puzzle you’ve ever tried to solve. Your people were matching “GUIDs” through “VLOOKUPS” from several “hidden tables” that were only discoverable by sleuthing through “structures.”

While your Super Users are working through this Sudoku puzzle, the next issue surfaces: poorly performing statistical models. Your best planner explains to you that even though APO comes with 31 statistical models, many of them are actually just duplicates of each other. Not only that, but the best fit model keeps choosing the wrong model! “But don’t worry too much,” she says… because she just calculates better numbers in a spreadsheet and copies them into APO anyhow.

“Don’t worry?” Honestly?

And now the icing on the cake: your supply planners start complaining about weird forecasts. Your demand planners become offended and insist that their numbers look great in APO. Passive aggressive behavior ensues until both sides refuse to talk to each other. Before long, the supply planners are building their own forecasting spreadsheets, rendering demand planning and APO irrelevant.

The culprit? Erroneous data. Poor realignment policies. Inappropriate master data management. Oh, and by the way – it is all your fault because you did not read those 42 OSS notes that your consultant had forwarded to you six months ago. Really? Does this really need to be this hard?

In great frustration, you ask your IT Director, “Why couldn’t APO just be spreadsheet based to begin with?”

Your Director smartly responds: “You mean like IBP?”

Stage Three: “Anger!”

Argg! You pace. You go to the gym and double your workout. You spend your Friday afternoon at the shooting range. You eat a pizza. Yes, a whole pizza. People sometimes do that in this stage.

Then you place a few phone calls to your peers at other companies. You learn that your hurdles are not uncommon, and you are encouraged to press forward and work through the issues. They tell you that your planners will probably never completely stop using spreadsheets, but it will get better.

As you set your phone down at the end of the day, you begin to accept the fact that SAP might have very good reasons for replacing APO with IBP.

Stage Four: “Acceptance.” Congratulations, you are here.

Stage Five: “Embrace”

You decide to attend SAP’s SAPPHIRE NOW conference to see if you can learn more about the APO to IBP transition. Here, you encounter a few companies that have implemented IBP. They seem pretty happy.  Well… they seem happier than you are in any case.

You visit a booth that promotes IBP and start the interrogation. The first thing you want to know is: “What about extracting data? Do you have to use GUIDs and VLOOKUPS and those kinds of things?”

The answer seems surprisingly straightforward: “Well, no… IBP is spreadsheet-based so everything is usually already in a spreadsheet to start with.” And then they demonstrate your “APO Sudoku” query right there in their IBP demo system. And it only takes 35 seconds!

Encouraged by what you see and hear, you spend the next forty-five minutes posing scenario after scenario to your new-found IBP BFFs.

As you delve further, you realize that SAP seems to be investing heavily in IBP: they are publishing new releases every three months! And the solution appears to be easier to maneuver, easier to work with and easier to understand. The best part is that planners seem to like it! It becomes clear that SAP has addressed many of your unresolved APO problems, too, but there are still gaps.

By now, you have come to peace with your APO system, but you realize that IBP is probably a better solution. Or if it isn’t, it will be soon. Your transition into Stage Five, “Embrace,” is complete. This also means that you no longer question “if” you should implement IBP, but rather “when?”

The last stage is “Recovery”

In this last stage, you diligently investigate the impact that an IBP implementation would have on your IT department. You calculate how long the project would take and how much would it cost. And finally, you fully recover from your APO loss by partnering with good consulting experts who help you implement IBP.

If you need guidance through any of these stages, give us a call! We can help you compare the functionality between the two systems, help you better understand the transition process, and the gains and gaps. And we can partner with you to successfully implement the IBP solution.

For more information, stop by the SCM Connections booth (786C at SAPPHIRE NOW).  Or check out our presentations


We’re also doing live demos of integrated business planning at our booth.  To set up time with the SCMC team onsite at Sapphire or Gartner, contact us here.