Starting My Career In Demand Planning
A few years ago I found myself reviewing an Institute of Business Forecasting & Planning – IBF presentation that I was going to give the next day when I realized that I had used the word knowledge about five times in just the first few slides. I sat back for a moment and realized that I really didn’t know what knowledge meant? I had some vague understating; but what did it really mean? I took a quick trip to Wikipedia for a definition; “The term knowledge is used to mean the confident understanding of a subject with the ability to use it for a specific purpose.” While I was there I looked up another word; “novice: a person who is new to a field or activity.”
Demand Planning Is Easy, Right?!
This caused me to even ponder more on how we go from novice to knowledge! I did not start my career planning to be in the field of demand planning. I actually started off in public accounting and then found my way to cost accounting then into information system and then into operations and supply chain management. While I was working in supply chain, I went through the APICS certification process, where I read about forecasting and demand planning. When a job in demand planning opened up down the road, at a point in my life when I needed a new job, I figured demand planning; how hard could this be? At my new job my book smarts said, put about three years of sales history into some forecasting software, sprinkle a little magic dust and out comes a forecast!
I created my first forecast that way. However, being all smart and smug about what I thought I knew, I then proceeded to spend the next year figuring out how to fix all of the things I had done wrong. I was a novice. I wasn’t even smart enough to know what I didn’t know! I sort of knew what to do, but had no clue why I was really doing it and what to watch out for. I think it’s kind of like golf, everyone thinks they can do it; you take a club and hit a ball into a hole…. how hard could that be?? This is the point in my career where I started looking for some real education on how to do demand planning & forecasting the right way and this is when I came across the Institute of Business Forecasting & Planning – IBF.
Be Wary of Fancy New Systems
Nine years ago from today, I started my demand planning journey from novice to knowledge. I started off on the cheap ordering some conference proceedings and then finally went to my first IBF conference. I was learning from all of the mistakes that I had made, but needing to keep my job for a few more years; IBF really put me on the fast track to a better understanding of what I was really supposed to be doing! I found the combination of insights from consultants and real life experience from practitioners really made the difference. Going back to my golfing example, in golf you need to have different clubs for different situations, and know how to read the course. However, for the most part, I’ve always tried to steer clear of consultants as they seem to be always trying to sell you a “new golf club” that you don’t understand how to use, which cost a lot of money! But, to the contrary, I have actually become more tolerant with consultants, especially through my experience with Mike Gilliland a frequent IBF contributor and IBF Board of Adviser. He seems to care more about sharing his great knowledge of demand planning than selling you anything. (There! I went and used that word knowledge again as when it comes to Mike, he knows how to get the ball in the cup. Plus, he knows how to apply his skills in a way to get those desired results!)
Today when it comes to my view of demand planning, I rely on using a few golf clubs very well. I don’t do a lot of fancy things, just keeping it simple. I do the things I can understand. Another key thing about golf and demand planning, not all of the courses are made equal. Before you pick up a golf club, you must understand what you are up against; get a lay of the land and understand what the hazards are. My first year on the job, I admit, I was embarrassed. Luckily, I was a quick learner with a lot of help from IBF and many dedicated professionals who were willing to share their knowledge of the “game!”
To fast track yourself from novice to knowledge, getting help from organizations like IBF really help for demand planning & forecasting. It would be great to hear how you got into demand planning and forecasting? It would also be great to hear your stories of going from novice to knowledge in your demand planning, forecasting, and supply chain experience….. the people and organizations that have helped you understand the game and take “stroke off your score!”
Wells Dairy Inc