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The demand planner of the future


In a previous article in this series, my colleague Jörg Junghanns described the effect of increasing demands for customization on the role of the demand planner. He also raised the point that planners are set to become more strategic and less transactional, and in this piece, I’d like to expand on that point.

The supply chain is sometimes seen as a distinct and discrete part of the enterprise, but I would argue that, on the contrary, it plugs into and is affected by just about every part of the organization. That’s why demand planners wear so many metaphorical hats, and why they also have so many metaphorical pairs of hands: they need to think and act with the experience of, and from the perspective of, colleagues across the business.

The value of data

As digital transformation establishes itself across the commercial world, demand planners will need to be able to form a partnership not just with their peers in related parts of the organization, but also with technology, so as to leverage the benefits of augmented or applied intelligence in order to support the human imagination. They will be able to separate the “robot” within, meaning they can identify candidate processes for automation, and focus on the exceptions or on more value-added activities.

As part of an established managed service offering, one of the directions in which we see this going is that the value of the data at the root of business systems will, if anything, grow still greater. The analytics and routine processes applied to that data within demand planning will be run by the business services team, and their results or insights will be used and developed by the planner over a period of time. Of course, before this can happen, a basis of trust about performance will need to have been established.

In the long run, the focus is not so much on reducing planning costs or even on delivering round-the-clock support, but on providing competitive advantage in improving KPIs in areas such as reducing forecast errors, improving service levels, and shortening lead times.

Universal resourcing planners

Indeed, demand planners will evolve into something more like supply chain network planners – or Demand Planner 2.0, as I like to call them – who have visibility across the end-to-end supply chain, and who are not constrained by functional, process, or technology siloes. They will know or have insights into the ramifications of decisions made upstream on downstream processes – for example, the impact on supply or inventory of changes in demand forecast, in real time as well as in future scenario planning.

These are people whose intelligence, insights, and creativity will be harnessed to a degree beyond anything hitherto. They will be analytically minded, making sense of the data, and they will able to deal with ambiguity. Indeed, data science and analytics will be woven in at every step. They will be digitally savvy data scientists who can model algorithms and manage alerts and exceptions, and who can establish parameters that help to automate processes and decision-making planning systems. They will be at ease with, and able to talk the language of, different stakeholders including colleagues in finance, IT, and sales and marketing. They will also be able to work in an orchestrated manner with machine-based processes to optimize overall performance.

A roadmap to success

How can companies chart a route in this direction? A good starting point might be to define the vision for the entire supply chain and the team that will manage it in future, and then identify what planning capabilities would be required to achieve the vision.

Capgemini’s center of excellence model is aligned with this enterprise-wide approach to supply chain planning activities. As the majority of the routine processes will be automated in future, the need for knowledge and for sharing best practice between team members will be critical. This means that the right supply chain talent can be collated to support the entire enterprise, obviating the current need for a planner to be physically present at a particular supply chain node (such as a factory operation, a warehouse, or a retail location).

Indeed, in a digital transformed business environment, the demand planners of the future can operate from the center of excellence – or indeed, from anywhere. After all, by then they will have evolved into universal resourcing planners. Universal – and ubiquitous…

Learn more about how Capgemini’s Demand Planning offering puts your customers at the very center of our solution, opening your channels to new, innovative business models that can lead to increased revenue, profitability, and working capital, as well as enhanced customer satisfaction.

To learn more about how Capgemini’s Digital Supply Chain Practice can increase your competitive advantage by strengthening your business drivers and focusing on your end customers, contact:

Nilesh Kulkarni leads the Digital Supply Chain Solutions team for North America. He is an accomplished supply chain operations and change management leader, with over 14 years of experience in leading strategy and transformation initiatives.

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