5 Tips to Getting the Most out of IBP’s Control Tower

(By Mike Raftery)

IBP Control Tower – the reporting arm of SAP’s Integrated Business Planning solution.  It’s not so much a module as it is a concept.  Should you buy it? That’s up to you and your friendly software rep.  Should you embrace it as a process? Absolutely.

Personally, I see control tower as a concept in process, not a software module.  Think of ‘Control Tower” as a way of running a supply chain to ensure that control is in place to head off problems before they become crises.  It is a methodology to ensure that the critical data needed to run a supply chain is identified, captured, analyzed and mitigated.  Wash, rinse, repeat.

Specifically, in SAP’s IBP infrastructure, the control tower concept is so easy to realize that it is easy to take for granted.  Excel based, full data integration, web based dashboards – these all make the control tower concept easy to take for granted.  However, if you focus your processes around harnessing this technology to drive continuous improvement, it will pay dividends time and time again.

Here are 5 tips to getting the most out of IBP’s Control Tower.

  1. Measure – Capture

You can’t track what you can’t see.  So be sure to think long and hard about what matters to you.  It’s not about what mattered yesterday, or what mattered to the last guy; it’s about what matters to you.  The beauty of SAP’s IBP infrastructure is the HANA Connect Interface.  SAP has realized that other software packages exist (!).  The benefit of IBP is that you can pull data from just about anywhere.  You want plan to actuals, annual budget to current spend, data from disparate systems collected over a series of mergers?  No problem.  The important thing is to make sure that you identify and capture the data needed to track what you need to track.  Bring it into IBP and then you can have fun with it.

  1. Monitor – Identify

Manage by exception.  This is key to efficiently and effectively managing a large and complex supply chain.  Nobody has the ability or the desire to review every… single… solitary… material.  Or at least they shouldn’t want to do that.  The answer is to set up alerts that do the sifting for you.  “Show me when inventory is 20% over target, list the customers that have actual sales 40% more than consensus, identify business units missing forecast revenue by 10%.”  These are the things you look for, and maybe not every time are these all issues.  But sometimes they are, and you’ll feel better knowing that you know when they are issues.

IBP’s alert, case, and task management structure makes it very easy to find these exceptions, assign them to the right person and track progress all from the glorious convenience of the internet.  However, if an alert sits idle in an inbox, does it really exist?  Incorporating these structures into the business meetings and updating PowerPoints and regular metrics are the last mile that make all this technology really work.  Alerts are just a technological gimmick on their own; make them the conduit for your business and see the difference immediately.

  1. Adjust/Scenario

IBP’s biggest strength (arguably APO’s biggest weakness) is the ability to run multiple scenarios effortlessly and compare them side-by-side.  It sounds small but to show the “option 1, option2, option 3” impact in both dollars and units is more powerful than any PowerPoint slide could ever hope to be.  Run the options and have the data heading into the meeting.  That’s control.

  1. Execute

The unified planning area of the IBP architecture makes it easy to integrate what-ifs with execution.  Take the feedback and make it a reality.  That doesn’t mean let it linger in an inbox, or attempt to translate a strategy from excel to a planning system.  It means that the plan becomes the reality.  Promoting scenarios allows for instant realization of the plan.  The unified planning area means that the data is consistent.  Plan it, do it.

  1. Make it Your Own

Finally, whatever your control tower is, make it your own.  One phrase I love to use is that, “indicators are where you find them,” which means, don’t limit yourself to a certain methodology or a specific calculation. Each business has its unique indicators which mean something different to each user.  Embrace these differences and make them your own.  This is your control tower, make it work for you, run your business from it and the benefits to efficiency and productivity will be real soon enough.

Ready to see what IBP’s Control Tower can do for you?  Connect with us any time.  We’d love to chat.  Or if you haven’t already, check out the other blogs in this series.

Part 1: 9 Ways to Make the Most of Your Least with IBP’s Response & Supply.

Part 2: IBP Demand Sensing: How Can I Make My Forecasting Team Less Wrong?

Part 3: How to Plan Your Supply Chain Without a Rat’s Nest of Spreadsheets.

Part 4: 3 Ways to Release Your Cash With IBP Inventory Optimization.

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