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Running Your S&OP Process in the Time of Coronavirus

Collaboration in a Work From Home World

Even though the workplace was already becoming increasingly technology-dependent, with many employees working remotely, the coronavirus pandemic is certainly fast-tracking all of that. Employees are now becoming experts in the extra features* of tools like Zoom and Webex, similar to how you’ve probably memorized all the words on the signs in your favorite office conference room. As we familiarize ourselves with our new work environments and utilize more of these tools intended to facilitate remote work, let’s also think about the tools we can use to enhance a virtual S&OP process.

*Some useful ones: whiteboards, pointers, the “raise hand” feature, changing/blurring your background, mute all!

The root of Sales and Operations Planning is collaboration: taking people from all different departments and bringing their inputs together to form a single unified plan. When all those people are working in one tool and speaking the same language (because no one likes having five different words for “product family”), cross-functional tasks get done faster and communication is smoother. Working in SAP IBP to run the S&OP process allows different functional groups to use standardized templates to view one consistent data set, and with increased standardization comes more stability and fewer hiccups. This also makes it much easier to troubleshoot and get support from other coworkers using the same tools. In today’s WFH world, that’s even more vital to ensure efficiency in the S&OP process. Let’s just say it’s much easier to modify one planning process compared to five different planning processes.

Planning view templates can be categorized by functional area with one template for each process step as shown here

On the topic of standardization, having a clear communication plan (and sticking to it!) is critical right now. If you’ve already laid out when and how hand-offs, issues, and requests should be communicated across the board, it just takes slight tuning to make the plan work virtually. A strong plan will have a balance of different levels of communication. Lack of a plan can lead to overkill in the form of too many meetings and emails all day long, or worse yet, an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality where nothing gets done because no one knows what they are supposed to be doing.

On that note, the process management features in SAP IBP can help to capture the workflow and allow users to keep track of their tasks. Users can track overall status, understand task dependencies, and use automation capabilities to increase transparency and efficiency in the S&OP process. Using SAP Jam will further enable reminder notifications, chat functions, file sharing, and much more. Users can also go into the SAP IBP Excel UI and check their task list in the same view as their planning workbook. Keeping all S&OP communication and task management within one system reduces the number of external tools used and ensures that all users have the latest updates at their disposal. When everyone is working remote, using the process management features in SAP IBP can cut some of the time that would have been spent in back and forth communication.

This Process within SAP IBP tracks the timeline and status of 4 major steps in the S&OP process

These trying times are forcing companies to get more work done remotely, and while there are a few benefits within that (no commute times, reduced travel expenses, more time with families), it certainly takes some time and effort to adjust. Since days of working remotely are going to continue for the foreseeable future, I encourage you to continue to think about how you can leverage SAP IBP and the other tools you have to create an S&OP process that can hold strong through any circumstance that may come your way.

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