I recently attended the IBF Best Practices Conference and Leadership Forum in Orlando this past fall. Prior to my current role, I was a 15 year veteran practitioner and conference presenter in forecasting, S&OP, and planning. I’ve had the privilege of attending many presentations from experts all over the globe discussing S&OP, demand planning process development, metrics, etc… Without a doubt, the knowledge I’ve gained from the IBF has helped me not only advance my own body of knowledge in the field, but it has also provided me with a unique set of tools that could then be shared with colleagues and company leadership.

At the IBF in Orlando, the impressive roster of presenters was, as usual, an excellent group of planning leaders set to cover topics reflective of today’s professional. The industry representation was nothing short of incredible, especially for those attendees looking to expand their knowledge of various topics and issues across numerous industries. There were consummate professionals and experts in the field from companies such as L’Oreal, Coca-Cola, Motorola Mobility, Tastykake, Hershey’s, and Tempur Sealy International just to name a few. Collectively there were hundreds of years of experience all in one place and very willing to share their experiences and expertise.

During the Executive Leadership Forum on the first day, it became clear that this conference was going to be a bit different than those of the past. I soon noticed that there was an underlying commonality between speakers I hadn’t seen in previous conferences. It was something nearly everyone could identify with and had to address at some point in their company’s journey in forecasting as well. This continued throughout the conference and I finally realized what was linking nearly every presentation, speaker, and company together. It was big data.

Today’s companies, unlike those of 25 years ago, are faced with having massive amounts of data that most companies don’t even know how to maintain let alone analyze. It soon became very clear through the conference presentations that big data, along with predictive analytics had already started to have a pivotal impact on how demand planning utilizes data. With data collection exponentially growing every day, most presenters were optimistic about its positive impact on their company, impact to the bottom line, and most importantly how vital that data would be to demand planners. Based on the presentations I attended as well as the conversations with the group of attendees, the big data movement is here to stay and most companies want to stay ahead of the curve.

A short time ago, IBF research was beginning to see this inclusion of big data into the S&OP process. They quickly concluded that the theory of including and utilizing big data would differentiate companies by giving them the edge in their respective markets. Furthermore, feedback from the IBF conferences clearly demonstrated that this theory has already become a practical approach for some of the world’s most successful companies. Armed with this new movement towards big data inclusion, IBF responded and began recruiting experts in predictive analytics, big data collection, etc for its first one of a kind Predictive Business Analytics conference to be held in April, 2015 in Atlanta, GA.

In such a rapidly changing data landscape, countless professionals in the field will benefit from the insight of the IBF regarding big data and analytics. I for one look forward to interacting with and learning from the world’s best data analytics professionals.

Additionally, IBF’s quest to remain the premier organization for demand planners and forecasting professionals is evident by their continuous refinement of their knowledge offerings through their association with experts across the globe and demonstrated through the IBF conferences, chapter meetings, trainings and certifications, and the Journal of Business Forecasting (JBF).

For more information, please contact the IBF directly at knowledge@ibf.org