I am not a big fan of “2 in 1 shampoo” where the cleanser and conditioner are blended into one bottle. They say that it saves money because you only have to buy one product to get clean, soft, shiny hair.  While it may cost less, it just leaves me with limp hair and an itchy scalp. The reality is that in combining the two products into one, you do not get the full benefits of either. It seems to me that we often create another “2 in 1 shampoo” situation when we combine Demand Planning and Supply Planning into one role. Just as shampoo and conditioner have distinct functions, Demand Planning and Supply Planning are distinct disciplines that deserve equal and dedicated attention.

This is most important when developing an S&OP process and deciding who will be the S&OP leader. When I meet people who are S&OP leaders, they rarely have a title that reflects their role. Most of the time they were hired for a Supply Chain job, and then when the company decided to implement S&OP, it landed on top of their already full plate.

In an ideal world Demand Planning, Supply Planning, and S&OP leadership have their own jurisdictions.

Someone who is responsible for supply cannot fully engage in Demand Planning because the noise and urgency of Supply Planning activities will always win. I believe that we need to separate these into distinct roles. In an ideal world Demand Planning, Supply Planning, and S&OP leadership have their own jurisdictions. However, at this point in the evolution of supply chain management, that is rarely the case. Until such a time, the next best thing would be to have an S&OP Manager who is also in charge of the Demand Planning process.

What Does An S&OP Manager Do?

In addition to oversight of the Demand Planning team, the role should be the champion of the S&OP process. This includeS the education and training necessary for change management with the entire company. This person will engage all levels of the organization and guide each functional area in understanding of how they impact the S&OP process. The role assumes overall administration of scheduling all S&OP meetings and preparing the documentation.

This leader will also artfully facilitate each S&OP meeting to ensure that they stay focused on the horizon and not get lost in detail. The S&OP leader may also spearhead technical initiatives to enhance data analysis, such as implementing planning software, and be a passionate advocate for data integrity.

Keenly perceptive and intuitive, this person must also be articulate enough to mediate as necessary.

Skills Required To Be S&OP Manager

Not just anyone can be successful in this pivotal role. It requires exceptional communication and inter-personal skills. This person has to be a chameleon as they work across the organization and understand what motivates and matters to each team. This will earn respect of team members and build trust necessary to break down the silo walls.

A strong intellectual curiosity is needed, along with the tenacity to keep digging until the root cause is exposed. Keenly perceptive and intuitive, this person must also be articulate enough to mediate as necessary. With so many people involved and watching, it is imperative that the leader is organized and follows up in a timely manner. Finally, this role requires a person who can think both strategically at a high level and tactically as well.

The S&OP Manager Must Command Respect

In addition to these “soft skills”, the S&OP leader must have professional credibility. They must have an excellent understanding of the S&OP process including all aspects of Demand and Supply Planning. Certifications from IBF and APICS are the best way to demonstrate that this leader has a firm grasp of essential knowledge. General business acumen is also required.

It is often preferable to promote someone from within who has good handle on your business. However, it is better to find someone with the soft skills and abilities mentioned here and teach them your business rather than the other way around. Not everyone is able to develop this high level of emotional intelligence, and the success of your S&OP process is too important to gamble on an unproven leader.

Invest The Time & Resources In This Crucial Role

It may seem more expedient and cost effective to assign the role of S&OP Leader as if it were just another project. I implore you to resist that temptation and create a dynamic role that focuses on proactive planning and collaboration instead. Devote the necessary resources to maximize the effectiveness of both demand and supply planning. Remember that “2-in-1 shampoo” will most likely not give you the results you are seeking, and in this case you are risking much more than just a bad hair day.

[Ed: For S&OP Manager jobs and other roles in Forecasting and Demand Planning, visit IBF’s jobs board.]