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The Role of Leadership in Sales and Operations Planning/Integrated Business Planning
Home Business Management
By: Colleen Crum Email Article
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What is the difference between a Sales and Operations Planning (S&OP) process that makes a modest difference in a company's operational and financial performance and an S&OP process that, year after year, enables a company to achieve its operational, business, and strategic goals?

You don't have to look beyond the senior leadership team for the answer.

Sales and Operations Planning (also known as Integrated Business Planning) is an executive management process for running the business. The focus of S&OP in the 1980s and 1990s (and still today for some companies) was a management process for aligning demand and supply at the aggregate level.

Today, Sales and Operations Planning has evolved into Integrated Business Planning where all company plans - product, demand, supply, strategic initiatives and resulting financials - are synchronized and aligned at the aggregate level each month. IBP has also evolved into a process for identifying gaps between future projections and the company's business and strategic objectives - providing direction and making decisions on how to most effectively close those gaps.

With Integrated Business Planning, the senior leadership team has a process where every month they understand not only performance to date, but also the future state of the business over at least a 24-month, rolling, planning horizon. They also have a process for ensuring that the appropriate actions and activities are undertaken to achieve the company's business and strategic objectives. The enterprise performance management element of Integrated Business Planning provides the platform for monitoring execution of the company's operational and business strategies and goals.

The above simply cannot happen without senior leadership involvement in the process. Involvement means just that - active, high-profile involvement, and not just lip service support.

The S&OP/IBP Process

Each step of the Sales and Operations Planning/Integrated Business Planning process (product management review, demand review, supply review, financial appraisal, and management business review) has a senior leadership team owner, and ownership and involvement is not delegated. The management business review is the president/CEO/COO's meeting, and the participants are the senior leadership team representing product management, sales and marketing, supply management, strategy and finance. Additionally, key functional support leaders of quality, human resources, public relations etc. are represented.

With the senior leadership team's active involvement in S&OP/IBP, the leadership culture changes. Instead of thinking in terms of what is best from a functional perspective, the leadership team provides direction and makes decisions based on what is best for the company overall. What evolves is the development of common agendas and goals.

When Sales and Operations Planning/Integrated Business Planning is first implemented, a leadership culture that emphasizes teamwork in working toward common goals and agendas typically does not exist. That is because trust, openness, and honesty often have not yet been established.

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Colleen "Coco" Crum is a managing principal and member of the board of directors for Oliver Wight Americas, a global S&OP (Sales and Operations Planning) firm with a 40 year history. Since joining the organization in 1995, she has contributed to advancing the methodology of how to successfully integrate demand and supply processes both inside a business enterprise as well as throughout the supply chain.

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