Common Sales and Operations Myths Part 4 — Spreadsheets are King

Sales and Operations PlanningThis is the fourth in a series of posts that investigates some of the myths or mistruths I have heard over the last 20+ years concerning Sales & Operations Planning (S&OP). The topic of today’s post is one we hear often and industry research shows it is not going away fast enough. The reliance on spreadsheets and other less sophisticated solutions to manage the S&OP process.

Myth: “You Don’t Need Software to Operate your S&OP Process”

Implementing a repeatable S&OP process that delivers results is not simple. If it was supply chain professionals would not still struggle with this process some 30 years after it was first introduced.

This myth has been partially perpetuated by a few S&OP consultants who advocate that an effective S&OP process can be managed using spreadsheets or a spreadsheet-based tool. If all you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail. The use of spreadsheets could support a pilot S&OP process and might even work for a very small, relatively simple business. However, spreadsheets were not designed to provide the flexibility and functionality required to operate a typical S&OP process.

Reality: “Lack of a Robust Planning Solution Leads to Disappointment”

While a limited scope S&OP pilot process can be adequately managed using simple tools like spreadsheets, email, and PowerPoint a high-value S&OP rollout cannot be achieved without implementing a dedicated solution designed to facilitate the S&OP process. (See also: Is the Crisis in Demand Management Being Exacerbated by Spreadsheet Dependency?)

Aberdeen reported that 65% of the time spent on a S&OP process run on spreadsheets is spent on gathering data. It is probably even worse than that because there is also significant time spent collating that data, manually analyzing it and then creating graphs and tables that are used in presentations and reports. It is very difficult to conduct multiple “what-if” scenarios using spreadsheets and if you do they would be very basic and most likely unconstrained from a supply standpoint. Another time intensive component of running a S&OP process is the facilitation of the process itself, sharing data in the right format, aggregation, units for each key user, getting feedback back from each user in a timely fashion, and running the series of coordination and consensus meetings required to get to a balanced and aligned plan. Spreadsheets can’t help facilitate the process and using email is very cumbersome. Whereas a dedicated S&OP solution can streamline and automate the process through embedded collaborative workflow and rules-based exception messaging.

The checklist below highlights the critical solution capabilities required to support a comprehensive high-value S&OP process. You would be hard pressed to associate these capabilities with a spreadsheet.

S&OP / IBP Solution Capabilities Checklist:

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