In my backyard I have a garden where I grow fruits and vegetables. I am enjoying seeing the fruits of my labor such as frail buds of a tender green, flowering fruit trees or fruits growing. In my opinion, the real enjoyment of gardening occurs when I am able to share my fruits and vegetables with friends and family so we can enjoy a nice meal together.
Some might argue that gardening is far from the usual supply chain topics highlighted in this blog, and that I should focus more on the forecasting challenges every company faces. However, as you may know, the forecast quality tells us a lot about the condition of a company, the challenges it might encounter and so on; this is no different than the quality of my garden.
1. Preparing the Soil
Any company needs to initiate actions in order to grow, which requires some initial preparation. By defining an organizational basis and processes, members of this organization will be able to grow; new product launches or new market acquisitions require a strong organization and processes. The key to a successful growth strategy is communicating these elements to the forecast team.
2. Plant the Seeds
Once the soil is ready, the company can develop its ideas. Each idea must be analyzed in order to estimate the return on investment; objectives do not only match with the margin evolution. According to the global impacts of our economy, objectives have become difficult for management to define: increase revenue, lower costs, margin, carbon footprint, global warming, erosion of biodiversity or well being are elements that require coordination. These are the metrics a demand planner needs to know and understand to confirm their assumptions.
3. Add Water Regularly
If you want your idea to blossom, the most important step is to constantly feed it with nutrients useful for its development. This nurturing can come from research and development, marketing, merchandising, training, etc. All these pieces of information are key for the demand planner.
4. Clean up Weeds
Learning to stop an activity is as important as creating new ones. This will focus the resources and optimize the processes of your company, making it more agile. The key to this step is to gather information about a specific event, such as the end of a product life cycle, shortage, promotional effects, etc.,for the demand planner.
5. Repeat the Actions Whose Value is Demonstrated & Harvest the Rewards
The previous actions aligned with your objectives can be repeated. They alone confirm the results of your company, but also its behavior compared to others.
By breaking down the steps of gardening, you might better understand that the role of a demand planner is not as simple as it seems. It is not just launching clever calculations, or automating a digit generation sequence on specific dates. It entails collecting more qualitative data rather than quantitative on the whole company’s environment in order to provide one or more relevant assumptions to the board. The only purpose of the calculations is to measure the doubt and allow the board to place some safeties to protect the company from any uncertainty.
We are really close to Voltaire’s thoughts in his book “Candide ou l’Optimisme”: “Il faut cultiver notre jardin,” which means “We must grow our own garden.” Therefore, do not think that your forecast teams are gods, or worse, unable to do, they only show you the situation as it is.