How to implement S&OP software in your IT landscape?

Nick Verstraete
Oct 30, 2018 1:14:42 PM

Sales & Operation Planning software can be very useful to support the S&OP process, but only on condition that the application is well integrated into your organization’s IT infrastructure. If you — as part of the Supply Chain department — aspire a next step in planning maturity, then it’s useful to know which aspects you need to take into account when selecting an S&OP tool.

Some of your IT colleagues will have a say in the selection process of the S&OP software vendor. To convince them of your requirement, it’s equally important to be able to empathize with the expectations and needs of IT. But what are the issues that keep your IT colleagues awake at night?

The continued rise of Enterprise Architecture

Enterprise Architecture (EA) is a discipline that found introduction in the 90’s. These days, most of the IT departments use it actively to keep an overview on their complete IT landscape. Moreover, via a good EA, they define the chalk lines for their IT infrastructure, bearing in mind the defined business outcomes of their organization and the need to respond accurately to market changes. In my opinion, business departments, like Supply Chain, would have more efficient software selection and implementation projects if they were more aware of the goal of EA and the impact on decision-making of software selection.

To illustrate with an example: your organization’s Enterprise Architect can define a clear policy about on-premise or cloud software. Some IT departments like to keep control and will demand on-premise software by default, while others prefer a minimum intervention and steer towards cloud software. When selecting your S&OP vendor you could already be thinking about these preferences and proactively addressing your potential S&OP suppliers about it.

One of the main reasons that EA is winning ground, is the fact that the IT landscape is becoming more complex. The monolithic systems of the past are more and more replaced by a variety of applications servicing a specific niche. A big challenge for IT is to fluently integrate the different systems. A S&OP vendor, like Arkieva, that can offer a data connector to integrate with other tools, will be one up.

Self-service S&OP?

Recently, I've been seeing a distinct shift in the analytic and programming skills of employees working in Supply Chain. It has parallels with the trend towards more self-service Business Intelligence we noticed about a decade ago, whereby creating new BI reports was no longer done by IT resources but also by the (key) users .

What we're now getting from customers is more demand to implement the S&OP platform (or parts of it) themselves.

Is self-service S&OP the next best thing or rather an utopia? The truth will lie somewhere in between. I do not believe that simply downloading the software & implementing it independently as a customer is a realistic scenario. Implementing an S&OP tool will be a joint exercise between the Supply Chain department and the chosen, specialized implementation partner. An IT tool is a way to enable process optimization, but will not lead to better results by itself. On the other hand, I do think that we should respond to the current need and, acting as a coach rather than as an implementer, can be part of that. However, it’s important that Supply Chain departments are aware that the implementation of an S&OP tool will, in the first instance, require more effort, from both themselves and the implementer. IT too must certainly be involved in all the discussion – a discussion that ultimately deals with the degree of control. IT must go along with the fact that they give part of the control out of their hands. This can be a big hurdle to take! A good argument for self-service: the closer the implementation role is to the user role, the greater the likelihood that it will actually be taken care of and that user adoption is maximized. The role of IT is to ensure that the solution is not in the minds of a few and remains sustainable. It’s important that both parties agree on some key criteria, such as ease of maintenance, because often the maintenance ends up with IT.

Attention to the implementation methodology

Scalability is also a keyword in the IT dictionary. Tools should be easy to roll out to multiple regions or sites. That requires a predefined template which can be used later on too. Who’s involved with the template definition? And who’s responsible for handling extra questions from the regions? If there’s a solid project management and if IT and business are aligned already about the S&OP software vendor and implementation approach, the chances of success will increase. The fact that the business makes efforts to understand IT and their specific language will, without doubt, pay off during the S&OP software implementation.

Does my blog trigger you to learn more about how to ensure that your S&OP tool will be well-integrated into your company’s IT landscape? If so, come along to my presentation "integrating new software in your existing IT architecture" (in Dutch) at ICT & Logistiek (Dutch), to be held at the Jaarbeurs venue in Utrecht. I will present it on Thursday November 8 at 11.30h.

Broader supply chain interest? My colleagues will be presenting too (in Dutch):

  • How to select the best S&OP solution for your situation?’, by Adriaan Vet, Account Manager Solventure Netherlands — November 7, 13.45h or November 8, 12.15h
  • Strategy-driven S&OP’, by Prof Dr. Bram Desmet, CEO of Solventure — November 7, 14.30h
  • Masterclass Sales & Operations Planning’, by Prof Dr. Bram Desmet, CEO of Solventure — November 8, 14h-17h
  • Demand Management: help! Sales is not doing what I want’, by Michel Van Buren, CEO of Solventure Netherlands — November 8, 10.45h

Where does your S&OP journey start?

The S&OP cycle consists of six major building blocks. Mature organizations should tackle all of these steps of the S&OP process. The key to success is to start of with what you have and build from existing processes. Let your organisation grow gradually step by step. Which one do you pick?


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