What Planning in Excel Says About You As a Human Being

(By Mike Raftery)

Despite the best efforts of supply chain software vendors, consultants and CIOs everywhere, Microsoft is still winning the supply chain application war. Without a doubt, excel is still the most (over) utilized supply chain planning tool out there despite all of our best efforts. However, be careful, using excel to plan might say more about your work style and priorities than you know.

So what’s the big deal? What’s wrong with using excel? Nothing on the surface. It is infinitely configurable, easy to use, and format. The calculations can be made to do exactly what you want them to. And if it does not work you can always fudge a cell here or there to get the results you want. You can export the results, paste and save with relative ease. The problem is that it only works for an organization of 1, that’s you.

When running an integrated supply chain of any size, it starts to get more and more complicated with each additional person involved. This is where excel starts to break down. What works great for an individual in excel is limited to the user and the laptop to which they are attached. Even when users pull data from a system like APO or ECC into excel, the decisions they make from that data are left in a vaccum. Analysis is left to the user alone, and breakdowns start to occur as those decisions are not reflected through the organization.

While planning in excel is useful and even easy in most cases, it is important to remember that you are not an organization of one. In order to respect the decisions and the data needs of those users upstream and downstream from you it is important to keep in the system as much as possible. It is not so much for your specific benefit, but for the benefit of the entire organization to realize the synergy of the integrated platform.

The stereotypical example is where user A pulls data from a planning book in APO into excel. They spend the day fine tuning the production plan in excel until it is perfect. Meanwhile, another User B depends on that production plan is using what is in the system, which now does not reflect any of the decisions made in excel. That User B has now wasted an entire day on bad data, and the decisions that User A spent so much time making, will not impact reality at all. Frustration sets in, and people start working exclusively in silos because none of the data can now be “Trusted”.

So be a good corporate citizen, respect your colleagues time and efforts and make the data in your integrated system as accurate and timely as possible. Sure it’s not as flexible as excel, but your organization will run much better as a result, and your coworkers will appreciate it as well.

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