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Do classic models of supply-chain management and demand planning still hold true today? Braitberg thinks they do. "First principles apply toward any environment," he says. "The things to focus on now are being faster and applying them with more depth."
For its part, Cisco is trying to get closer to customers by way of advanced planning techniques. At the same time, says Braitberg, the company wants to deal more directly with those customers.
Technology is a big element in the program. "Systems are a huge part of what we do," says Braitberg. Like any global high-tech company, Cisco deals with "a ton of data," which is growing all the time and extends well beyond its own bills of materials. And the accuracy of that information must be impeccable.
Cisco is working with a number of partners, including applications vendors, to improve the quality of its business intelligence. Collaboration involves the use of data to improve supply-chain performance. It's important that those who furnish the data see a constructive response from Cisco, in the form of "insightful" demand information downstream.
Some of the biggest challenges are internal in nature. As in any big company, functional silos tend to inhibit the sharing of information across the organization. Cisco works to reduce intelligence down to a form "that can be understood by any silo." Says Braitberg: "You take base data and transform it into something that people can understand." In the process, the company strives for "a single version of the truth," a one-number forecast on which all parties can rely.
Cisco has learned a number of lessons in its efforts to improve demand planning, first among them the need to focus on process when conducting planning across the supply chain. Second is the importance of data fidelity. Together these issues formulate "first principles" for the company's ambitious undertaking. Braitberg says the company seeks to focus on "the right thing to do, instead of leaping to the latest and greatest."
To view this video interview in its entirety, click here.
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