Supply Chain Matters recently viewed a joint webcast sponsored by SAP AG and Intrigo Systems, Inc. which focused on the SAP Sales and Operations Planning, Powered by SAP HANA application. By our lens, this webcast brought forward important observations and learnings that warrant some amplification.

First and foremost there is often a need for supply chain teams to step-back and reflect on the original objectives of the Sales and Operations Planning (S&OP) process. By our lens, S&OP bridges declared business goals and strategies with overall operational execution in various tactical and operational timeframe windows.  S&OP at its inception and as it exists today in many industry settings, is a decision-making process focused on a product’s value-chain that requires information and insights to weigh and execute timely decisions that make strategies actionable.

The joint webinar brought forward the realities that we often hear concerning today’s challenges among S&OP teams, namely more time spent on constantly collecting and assimilating data and information vs. this process execute more informed decisions, especially those anticipating likely outcomes of various decisions in the context of the business objectives of added revenues, increased profitability or enhanced customer service. Questions or potential business scenarios can be raised at an S&OP meeting, only having to wait for further offline analysis and assessment.

Supply Chain Matters has featured several previous commentaries related the SAP Sales and Operations Planning, Powered by SAP HANA application which was originally released in the spring of 2012. Candidly, we were somewhat critical at the initial product release milestone, given the expectations and planning milestones that were set for this application.  Since that time, SAP development teams and partners have made considerable strides in adding more compelling functionality as reflected in Version 3 of the current application. In May of last year, our commentary related to the annual SAP Sapphire and ASUG customer conference made note of encouraging words coming from early application adopters and key implementation partners. Viewing this latest webinar, we were pleased to observe that this application now supports an Excel-like front-end, that it is finally coupled to a process dashboard along with capabilities to support scenario planning and profit optimization across the supply network. SAP claims out-of-book SmartOps based multi-tiered inventory optimization integration with an available beta version of analytics drilldowns supported by SAP HANA. The application is now married to SAP Jam social collaboration capabilities and includes support for the mobility based process participants. A brief demo of this Version 3 release was shown in the webcast.

However, as the seasoned SAP user community is well aware, getting up-to-speed and achieving more responsive time-to-benefit supporting a process that spans such a broad level of participation and influence with an application with this current level of sophistication, often requires external assistance. While SAP Sales and Operations Planning, Powered by SAP HANA is a cloud-based application, the needs for managed scope, proven phased implementation of data integration coupled with considerations for change management and proper configuration remain important considerations.

Jeff Boyer, S&OP Solutions Architect at Intrigo Systems noted his firm’s investments in a Scrum framework methodology coupled to customer implementation teams of experienced business and technical consultants who have worked on multiple SAP and S&OP application support implementations. Intrigo has developed a series of industry specific solution accelerators specifically for SAP environments, along with utilizing an agile implementation methodology that divides a targeted 13-16 week S&OP system implementation into four defined Sprints. The initial implementation scope has clear definition as to SAP key figures, planning views and process users. Early assessments prioritize user value requirements and lock-in a go-live date. Proprietary tools and templates are leveraged to accelerate the implementation timeline as much as possible. Jeff iterated in the webcast that testing and validation occurs early and often, with daily Scrum meetings along with reviews held by a project steering committee for exiting each sprint phase. Considerations for project team and end user training, along with knowledge transfer are another component geared to allow the client project team to rollout and support the application among their end-user community.

It is no secret that even SAP recognizes that its applications can sometimes present complex challenges for its customers, particularly when multiple application implementations occur at the same time.  For some time now, this ERP provider has been offering what it has termed as solution accelerators, which are narrowed scope implementations that build upon prior tested templates and solution accelerators.  However, external and highly focused system integrators such as Intrigo Systems can provide more hands-on expertise for customers and quicker time-to-benefit for such applications, especially when it concerns enhancement of a firm’s S&OP process.

Bob Ferrari

Disclosure: Intrigo Systems is a client of our parent, The Ferrari Consulting and Research Group LLC.