(By Wade Smith)
So after several live demos of IBP this week, I’m finding that the questions are totally different from this time last year. Whereas questions in 2015 tended to concern whether or not this tool is really ready for prime time, this year seems to be more about how to get an actual project done and how it solves specific business process pain points. There was no shortage of people who really understood their business partners and the challenges they face everyday to get an S&OP process done each month or how to balance inventory efficiently, so it was exciting to see the possible solutions.
Many of this year’s questions were very specific. “How does IBP handle a demand capture process that has the sales team working with 12,000 materials, and the Demand Planner only knows about 10,000 of them because the 2,000 are new products?” (Short answer: IBP’s common data model forces everyone to sing from the same hymnal and capturing new product launch demand is a seamless process.”)
There were a lot of similar questions this year, each of which essentially asked, “OK, everyone says IBP uses Excel, but is this really Excel or just looks like Excel with no Excel functionality (think BI) or the data is displayed in a grid, so it’s ‘Excel-like’ (think SNP)?” Honestly, if I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard ‘Excel-like’ at this conference … Short answer: it’s Excel Excel … you want to do a pivot table populated with IBP data and then send changes back to IBP, then you are good to go without some Excel gymnastics like VLOOKUP or some scary macro that no one will understand in 6 months. Hard to believe after years of Excel usability promises, but that’s why real live demos are so important to us.
Perhaps the best question I got to hear was “So we’ve spent the last 20 years telling our users not to use Excel for critical business functions and now SAP comes along and enables them?” Short answer: Yep … But they’ve also done it with an enterprise database, security model, and backend that you would expect for an enterprise solution so you can actually enforce a disciplined business process.
We have had the common performance issue questions … How much data can this tool handle? How fast do the solves run? Short answer: We’ve only done a dataset with 10 million records, but IBP handled it as fast as a 100 record dataset. We’re talking <15 seconds for a multi-echelon inventory solve or a supply optimization. And let’s just say there were quite a few audible gasps when the results came back so quickly. We look forward to putting it up against a couple of terabytes in the near future, because that would just be fun to see.
And finally, we received many questions concerning next steps and getting a project started. Since even a 30-minute live demo can only answer so many questions, we like to do a quick call with some key stakeholders to hear current pain points, further understand the state of their business processes, and better articulate the business case. From there we like to do a quick deep dive in our own IBP instance that addresses some of those key issues in a more in-depth demo. After this, it’s usually pretty easy to justify a road mapping exercise and proof of concept/pilot to really shake out a better solution. So basically, in the amount of time it would take a company to have an initial development server setup and maybe setup a few users, we can be well on our way to leveraging IBP.