Do you feel that the information and knowledge that you have collected is overlooked? You’d expect the intelligence you possess would give you a seat at the decision-making table, especially in this day and age when analytics are imperative to businesses. If you are not in that position, then there are dynamics in place preventing that from happening. Here is a framework that can help you gain the influence you need to ensure Forecasting and Demand Planning are growth drivers in your company.

I will present this framework at IBF’s New Orleans Conference (April 23-25), where you will see the progress of one forecasting team at Merck and Co. that addressed their dynamics to ultimately achieve substantial financial impact to the company. But here is a quick framework that you can use right now to gain greater respect and influence within your organziation.

How Does Your Forecasting Team Add Value?

If I asked you how your department achieves positive financial impact for your company, how would you respond? When I asked the Forecasting team at Merck this question, they couldn’t provide an answer. That raised the first flag. I knew straight away there was a blocking dynamic at play. Over the course of my time at Merck, I revealed three dynamics that are crucial to getting your voice heard, and putting your team in a position where you can present analysis in a way that creates positive financial impact.

Dynamic 1: Deciding What Process To Own

The first important dynamic that surfaced was the answer to the question “What do you want to own as an outcome of your work?” This forced the team to begin thinking about how their work impacted the company. This was a new perspective not really considered previously. Historically, their approach was “How can we do our job of providing forecast reports more effectively?”.  Fair enough response, right? After all, it is the job of Forecasters to forecast accurately and in a timely fashion. But when we introduced the financial impact aspect to the question, it inevitably involved new ideas like improving visibility for the team, involving high-level executives and developing new skill-sets like inquiry and advocacy. Deciding what they wanted to own, even if it was small, was a step forward for everyone involved.

Dynamic 2: Identifying Stakeholders

The second dynamic was identifying the stakeholders that needed to be involved. When you start with what you want to own, the stakeholders can become evident quickly and they include people higher up the ladder than you. When you are not used to dealing with senior executives, the experience can be either exhilarating or scary. However, by starting small and dealing with those individuals who are important to accomplishing the goal of what you decide to own, this becomes manageable. You may even enjoy this process.

The hidden dynamic in this step-up is bringing forward the necessary confidence to engage them and build rapport. This relationship building is necessary to accomplish the goal of what you want to own. This is often easier said than done as key stakeholders may have to make their own changes for you to achieve your goal of owning and developing your process so the better interpersonal relationships you have with the key players, the better.

An important step is mapping out the stakeholders and understanding how they are involved in the process of giving you what you need, whether it be resource allocation or manufacturing decisions. Having a working understanding of how the two of you will work/communicate throughout the process leading up to the decision is critical. This will dictate the degree of trust the involved parties will have in your final deliverable (forecast reports, demand plans etc.) and, maybe more importantly, the degree to which you will actually participate in the decision making itself.

Dynamic 3: Managing Negative Impacts On Your Work

The third dynamic was a framework to follow that involves specific aspects that jeopardize forecast accuracy and effectiveness. Such situations occur when there is a shift in strategy, resources or there are biases brought in by other functions whether it is sales, marketing or research. Unforeseen biases carried into final presentations can be devastating to the impact and outcome of the decision. These situations need to be surfaced prior to the deliverable or presentation.

Elements of trust and understanding need to be built as part of the framework in which you create your forecasts. Without this, you run the risk of having the decision fall back to gut instincts which is not what any serious forecasting team should be doing. Typically, those involved in analysis lack the awareness or inclination to establish relationships, particularly higher up the ladder. But this is an absolute must to drive the impact of your work. My IBF workshop in New Orleans will lay out how to sell your forecast and get it the respect and influence it deserves. After all, Forecasters and Demand Planners need to manage both people and analytics to drive greater impact for your findings.

Side Benefit: Career Path Acceleration

These dynamics are the pillars of the process to drive increased impact in your company and they will also have a positive impact on your career path. This approach of deciding what you want to own, identifying key stakeholders and then communicating the value of your analysis shift how you are dealt with in the organization.  Included in the framework is the need to develop some skill-sets in dialogue and qualities in leadership in order to effectively manage the personalities that you will encounter along the way. All of this is contained within the context of owning a specific outcome, which makes it much easier to focus in on and develop. All of this inspires respect, credibility and visibility for you as an individual. People who can follow this framework position themselves for promotion, both in and outside of the Forecasting/Demand Planning function.

I’ll be presenting with Randy Wilp, Executive Director of Global Commercial Forecasting at Merck. Come hear us discuss the story of how his forecasting team at this multinational giant gained the respect and influence their analysis deserves. Register now for the IBF Predictive Business Analytics And Forecasting And Planning Conference in New Orleans (April 23-25). I look forward to seeing you there.