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Cisco's ambitious efforts extend from multiple tiers of suppliers all the way to the end customer. IT program manager Partha Chakraborty describes the journey that the company has taken.
Cisco defines its customer value chain as extending "all the way to our upstream suppliers." A key focus, says Chakraborty, has been applying the resources of the company's IT organization to that end-to-end process. That's one way in which Cisco is meeting demands from customers and channel partners for improved service, more predictability of product flow, and greater flexibility.
The effort from the IT side began with a focus on demand planning. The idea was to improve that area with the help of judgmental and analytical capabilities. The exercise would lead to the generation of "one single statement of demand for the organization," says Chakraborty. Cisco's customer value team would work with key customers and channel partners to obtain better visibility of demand changes.
Cisco has also been striving to get a better picture of demand on the supply side, with an eye toward reacting more quickly to changes in the market. The company is reaching up multiple tiers in order to match true demand with system constraints.
More recently, Cisco has trained its sights on sales and operations planning (S&OP), in response to greater supply and demand volatility caused by the economic downturn. The goal, says Chakraborty, is to align sales, supply chain and finance for a more agile organization.
There's still work to be done on improving the quality of demand data at point of sale. Better and timelier information can aid the company in its efforts to improve the quality of forecasts, in cooperation with service providers and channel partners.
Like any global high-tech company, Cisco has a complex supply chain. But Chakraborty says the company is working to simplify processes wherever possible. In particular, it aims to unify computing, networking, storage and software in one collaborative platform. "We're trying to leverage that to enable virtualization in our data center," he says, adding that the platform is hosting all of Cisco's demand-planning applications.
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