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Sales Planning: Big Data Provides the Answers

Analyst Insight: We have come a long way from the days where gut feel and years of industry knowledge ruled the day and drove critical decision-making. "Water Cooler Talk" seems a thing of the past, but to effectively work together, businesses must replace it with a new process. Face to face cross-functional team discussions are critical in helping teams learn to work together and communicate effectively. Welcome to sales and operations planning (S&OP). – M. Scott Moon, principal, Tompkins International

Sales Planning: Big Data Provides the Answers

To effectively navigate today's uncertainty, you need to be armed with today's tools and approaches to unlock the power of the collective team. Working in functional silos is the kiss of death hindering your ability to quickly and effectively respond to the increasing demands of your customers. The S&OP process is the structured process that facilitates team collaboration and problem solving.

Have you armed your team with the new "Water Cooler Talk" mechanism? Does your team effectively talk through issues and define the fundamental strategic building blocks for success?

In a recent survey conducted by Business News Daily of today's CEOs regarding their concerns in managing their business, the top items included:

• Pursuit of the best associates (offering flexibility, expanding employee benefits, and finding new employees)

• Managing market uncertainties (the presidential election, obtaining capital, and cyber-security and hackers)

• Reputation management

• Delivering to customer expectations (moving fast enough and genuinely connecting with customers)

• Managing growth expectations

Big data provides the answers. Each company has to determine their approach to unlock the insight. Make sure you have a strong strategy to attack your data and use it to help you make quick, responsive decisions that drive a long-term strategic vision.

Armed with data and science, fundamental issues (e.g., what does out of stock mean?) should be evaluated and reviewed. While, this sounds like a simple question, the traditional assumption that should be analytically reviewed to ensure these assumptions hold true today. For out of stock, for example, one should challenge the assumption that it is triggered with zero on-hand. If zero is not the answer, then what value of inventory alters a customer’s interest in a specific item and transfers their purchase to another product?

If you dig a bit deeper into the concept, you start venturing into behavioral science. Topics like name recognition and physical product positioning (e.g., on a page on the web, within a retail store, etc.) begin to creep into the discussion. You begin to question the impact of product name recognition concerning when an item is considered out of stock. Conversely, if the product does not have name recognition, does having too much product on the shelf discourage consumption and cheapen the value of the product?

While, every company collects hoards of data concerning their business, very few have developed sophisticated data-mining tools to quickly and effectively mine this data on a regular basis to help manage the business.

The Outlook

An effective big-data process will help use facts to help challenge the fundamental assumptions of your business. It may lead to new learnings and insights. With online shopping increasing as much as it has, one should challenge their fundamental paradigm to ensure practices of the past still apply today.

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