Arvind Arumbakkam_NlightI recently attended the IBF APICS Best of the Best S&OP Conference that took place in Chicago back in June. When people talked about why they implemented S&OP, they listed the following as their top reasons, not in any specific order:

1) Achieve supply/demand alignment
2) Increase customer service levels
3) Lower inventories
4) Reduced lead times
5) One game plan/organizational alignment
6) Soft benefits such as better communication, teamwork

There are definitely much, much more I am not listing. But the general theme I noticed, specifically surrounding the ‘hard’ benefits were that they were mostly operationally focused. Not that any of these benefits are to be downplayed, they are all valuable contributors to an organization’s growth and profitability.

I also noticed that a majority of the attendees were from the operations side of the business, where the representation from sales & marketing was fairly limited. While many of today’s organizations receive the needed input from sales & marketing to keep the process moving, a lot of us continue to ask ourselves the question – ‘How do I get sales & marketing to be more involved in the process?’

A pan-organizational process is successful when it delivers the needed results, but it is effective only when it delivers value to all the participants. A typical value one sees for sales as participants in S&OP is on-time product availability, improved customer fulfillment, and more. If we look deeper into what intrinsic needs of the sales & marketing teams can be met via a powerful process and data warehouse such as S&OP, we can uncover an entire new paradigm for sales & marketing involvement in S&OP.

Crossing this bridge is not too difficult for a well-developed/more mature S&OP process. Some of the easy avenues where S&OP can fit into the sales process is in areas such as opportunity/sales funnel management. Integrating the discipline and ‘big-data’ approach of S&OP with the opportunity/sales funnel management process is a win-win proposition. In return for providing the structure and discipline, a whole new dimension of demand visibility is added to S&OP.

Taking this further, the sandbox is as big as you want to make it. There are multiple avenues for further integration, where the core theme for all of them is intrinsic motivation. If you deliver a process which has value built into it for the participants, you will receive improved participation, better data and an intrinsic motivation for the participants to be part of the process versus having those taking part because they are required to.

Your sales and marketing teams bring a lot to the table. Delivering them a process where they get what they need to manage their side of the business will transform the way your company looks at what S&OP can do.

Arvind Arumbakkam
Corporate Master Planning
nLIGHT Photonics

Hear Arvind speak more on how to get sales & marketing more involved in S&OP at IBF’S Business Planning & Forecasting: Best Practices Conference in Orlando Florida, November 4-6, 2013