The S&OP Unplugged video taken from IBF’s Best Practices Conference is now available for free download – available in full for a short time only. This special recording features thought leaders in the Forecasting , Demand Planning and S&OP fields, and reveals critical issues such as the imminent (and dangerous) skills gap, finding the ‘hidden gold’ in unstructured social media data, and rethinking product exits. This first episode focuses on the skills gap and solutions to hiring and retaining talent. Below are some of the key highlights and special guests sharing knowledge.

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The Thought Leaders

Special guests featured in the video are:

Sara Park, VP Planning and Logistics Capabilities, Coca-Cola

Mark Covas, CPF, Director of Consumer Demand Planning, Johnson & Johnson

Eric Wilson, CPF, Director of Planning, Escalade Sports

Todd Gallant, ACPF, VP, Integrated Planning, Deckers Brands

Joe Eschenbrenner, ACPF, Director of Demand Planning, PUMA Group

On Confronting The Skills Gap in S&OP Before It’s Too Late

One of the key issues discussed is the critical issue of a skills shortage in forecasting and demand planning – one that is set to bite sooner rather than later. As volatility and uncertainty become standard features of today’s markets, greater importance is being placed on the forecasting and planning functions. That means more investment in planning teams, and subsequently more job openings.

ERIC WILSON: “A lot of the baby boomers who didn’t leave in the recession are leaving now and we have supply chain jobs that are coming in and nobody to fill them. It’ll be a 4:1 ratio in the next few years. It will definitely become an issue because we see a workforce leaving.”

A lot of different functions want the skillsets we have: Marketing, Finance and Sales…I just lost one to Sales.

On Retaining Talent

Talent retention remains a key concern, with companies keen to develop the careers of young supply chain professionals and provide opportunities for growth to stop them from leaving. Providing a pathway for them to succeed, however, is proving difficult:

ERIC WILSON: “A lot of different functions want the skillsets we have: Marketing, Finance and Sales…I just lost one to Sales. How we retain the skillsets we need without just being a feeder for other functions?”

TODD GALLANT: “How do we the keep managers advocating for them, and making sure they’re bringing up young people into the executive level, when they [managers] don’t fully understand the profession yet?”

JOE ESCHENBRENNER: “You need career fulfilment, a career vision, and a career path that’s defined. You need to be a positive organization that creates a positive, fun atmosphere, because we work really hard. When people want to come to work on Monday, it’s harder to leave that organization, and when you create the opportunity to move up in the organization, that’s your opportunity to retain them.”

JOE ESCHENBRENNER: “The stress and pressures at a certain level are different depending on the company, and they’re also not always visible to the rest of the organization.”

MARK COVAS: “You have to show there’s a way to move forward and up…where you show all these wonderful opportunities that exist based on the capabilities we’re building in you. The fear I have seen is ‘I’m going into a black hole, is there a path out of here?’”

They may not have that knowledge today, but they have that ability to learn. Maybe they didn’t go to school for it, but they have the intellect for it.

On Developing Existing Talent Within The Company

The session revealed a need to bring in and develop people within the company but outside of the forecasting and planning functions. The absence of graduates coming into the role forces companies to train staff from the Customer Service and Finance departments to fill the skills gap. Whilst the need was made clear, there were doubts surrounding how that development would happen:

TODD GALLANT: How do you develop the talent you already have, taking people from Customer Service roles and Finance, what do you do with them? The thing I like about the Customer Service people we brought in is that they’re eager, and they have communication skills, know how to read people, and influence. But honestly out of the 8 or so people, [brought in from Customer Service] 2 or 3 are really struggling with the analytics.”

JOE  ESCHENBRENNER: “They may not have that knowledge today, but they have that ability to learn, maybe they didn’t go to school for it, but they have the intellect for it.”

 If I had to pick between analytics capability and communication, I’ll take communication – if they have learning agility.

On Changing Demand Planning and Forecasting Into a Dual Role

Analytics skills are in short supply, with companies facing great difficulty in finding people with both the analytical and communication skills required for the role. There is potential for natural communicators and collaborators who are not trained in analytics to learn it, given sufficient cognitive ability. However, it’s more challenging for quantitative mindsets to learn the collaborative and communicative aspects:

MARK COVAS: “If you do break up those roles, where do you find the talent? It’s difficult to find people with the capabilities – the analytical capabilities and social capabilities and team building ability. Is that a dual role? Do you have an analytical type of person and bring in a salesmanship capability type of person to sell the forecast?”

TODD GALLANT: “We had one guy who came to us with a lot of analytical capabilities – half the team cannot understand what he says but he’s learning from them in terms of how to sell a forecast, and they’re learning from him.”

ERIC WILSON: “Back against the wall, If I had to pick between analytics capability and communication, I’ll take communication – if they have learning agility.”

MARK COVAS: The technology now also allows people who have strong communication and collaboration [and not analytical capability] to succeed in that role. On the other hand, I am trying to fill a statistical forecasting role right now, and I found someone who is very competent in analytics, but doesn’t have the competencies to collaborate. Putting him that role would be setting him up for failure.”

Stay tuned for episode 2, featuring insight on Demand Planning and Big Data.

This recording was taken at IBF’s Demand Planning and Forecasting Conference in Orlando, FL.. To attend our upcoming events, see the 2018 schedule for demand planning and forecasting conferences.

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