8 Steps To An Effective Sales & Operations Plan

Saurabh Lal, Director - Supply Chain, Kellogg South Asia Saurabh, in his 24-year long career, has garnered profound experience in the Manufacturing & Supply Chain verticals, working across companies such as Unilever, Avery Dennison, Future Consumer, and Kellogg Company.

In a business teeming with complexities and different functions working interdependently, Sales & Operations Planning (commonly termed as S&OP) is an interactive process, which brings marketing, sales, and supply chain functions together to work towards a common business goal. The process also gives you on-the-job training on ‘focus’,‘discipline’ and ‘alignment’. S&OP is a powerful technique to achieve synergies between what sales intends to ‘sell’ and what supply chain can ‘supply’. When done right, these tie into the business ambition.

Every organization employs a unique method for S&OP, but what can help managers employ a sustainable model? My experience has taught me that there are a handful of rules to help you achieve the same:

•Keep it Business Oriented:The focus of S&OP must be oriented towards the overall business rather than a single function. In my personal experience, I have seen instances where supply chain managers under utilize a system as effective as S&OP by focusing only on specific aspects, for instance, inventory management. Such an approach could potentially alienate the larger organization which will lose trust in its ability to support business goals.

•Loopin the Leadership:It is always advisable to keep the business’s senior management involved in the S&OP process(indeed Executive S&OP must be signed off by the head of the business). The business head(typically a GM/CEO) must also understand the process flow along
with the value it brings in order to buy into your S&OP model and provide visible support. An effective way to secure the necessary approvals from your management would be to draw examples from similar industries or your earlier launches to make your pitch to management.

An effective way to secure the necessary approvals from your management would be to draw examples from similar industries or your earlier launches to make your pitch to management

•Train without Exception: Train your peers from other functions who are involved or have a say in the S&OP model. The execution of your model will rely considerably on how attuned the team is with the roadmap chartedout. Focus on statistical data analysis techniques, but allow for simpler data gathering and analytics.

•Map Progress from the Getgo: It is critical to keep your progress in check and minimize any deviations in realtime. An advisable way to do so would be to generate an S&OP calendar and keep an S&OP process monitor to check which part of the process is not delivering. This helps in ensuring focus and holding people to commitments on providing data and analysis.

•Prepare Scorecards: Scorecards assist in the quantification of your progress. A scorecard must have standard items like MAPE/Bias but also link to business plans such as the number of quarterly sales plans met or impact on reliability of supply or even the discipline of S&OP meetings.

•Take all Aspects into Consideration: Avoid falling into the trap of going only by statistics and try to balance with realworld inputs from people within the market. Going out into the market and understanding how demand is generated and captured would take it a step forward. Try and integrate the regional or channel sales into your S&OP process. Also, be cognizant of the sales cycle your business operates in and work that into your S&OP cycle. Do not back down from trying shorter or frequent cycles or shorter horizons if your business is dynamic.

•Experiment Till you Succeed: Developing an S&OP model that fits your organization's needs is a laborious process and demands some degree of grit and determination. Do not hesitate to carry out multiple iterations until you arrive at a process that works for your organization. Building a stable S&OP does take time.

•Success Depends on the Team’s Discipline: The success of any S&OP model does not hinge on one individual alone. It demands the entire team’s efforts and absolute self-discipline to stick to the process and adherence to the cadence. If you keep missing deadlines and commitments, then the success of the process will be in jeopardy.