There are countless roles today in Data, Analytics and Demand Planning and many different ways you can climb the ladder to the top. However, we see four main analytics and planning career paths. Knowing what they are, and the skills required to be effective in these roles, is important for any ambitious demand planner or data analyst, not to mention crucial for companies that want to leverage these skills. 

The four main roles are:

  • Analytics Development (Data Analyst, Data Scientist)
  • Business Analysis (Demand/Forecast Analyst, Demand Manager)
  • Collaborative Planning (CPFR Analyst, S&OP/IBP Manager)
  • Product and Market Management (Product Analyst, Launch Leader)

1. Analytics Development

Analytics Development oversees the technical aspect of analytics environments and is responsible for producing analytical models for a company’s major business processes. The main roles here are Data Analyst or Data Scientist and the core competencies are problem solving, diagnostics and the ability to visualize links between seemingly disparate things.

These roles provide support across all lines of business and corporate functions. In the case of an organization with a decentralized analytics function, each corporate function may have a Data Scientist or Data Analyst dedicated to producing analysis specific to their business processes. However, those resources (typically) are ultimately under the control of the centralized Analytics and Planning function.

The data and analytics foundation is transferable into many financial or business analyst roles for those looking for a different career path

Most Data Analysts join as graduates with a degree in Mathematics, Statistics, Computer Science or a related field but this can vary. Others transfer from other functions like IT and Finance. Beyond Data Analyst roles, they can progress to Demand Planner and business roles inside the analytics and planning department or move forward to the more senior Demand Scientist position. There are also opportunities to make lateral moves outside the department into more of a data engineering role or to roles within IT. Additionally, the data and analytics foundation is transferable into many financial or business analyst roles for those looking for a different career path.

2. Business Analysis

If Predictive Analytics is both and art and a science, the Business Analyst is the person who brings these two disciplines together. The Business Analyst oversees the process of using analytics, data, insights and experience to make predictions and respond to various business needs. The insight gained by business forecasting enables companies to automate and optimize their business processes. These are more traditional planning type roles such as Forecast Analyst, Demand Analyst and Demand Manager. While they may be analytical problem solvers, they also demonstrate effective gathering and interpretation of information, having to analyze situations and identify implications to make better decisions.

In some companies these roles reside in Finance, Sales or Supply Chain but they really need to be elevated to a more unbiased, centralized function. With specialities that support multiple purposes and enable decision making across the organization, an independent Demand Planning department provides enterprise-wide improvements. Centralizing the function means going from simply providing numbers to providing answers – it responds to business challenges and exploits commercial opportunities.

We have seen successful planners come from history and liberal arts majors if they have the right aptitude

Most Demand or Forecast Analysts join as graduates with a degree in Supply Chain Management, Business, Mathematics, Statistics, or a related field. That said, we have also seen successful planners come from history and liberal arts majors if they have the right aptitude. Many seem to transfer into the position from other functions like Supply Chain and Finance. They can progress linearly to the more senior Demand Planning and Demand Manager positions. Demand Analyst is a great feeder into many Financial or Business Analyst roles, as well as Supply Planning and Supply Chain positions.

3. Collaborative Planning

These roles and resources are devoted to not only the inputs but also the impacts and results of the planning process. Both internal and external collaborative planning roles help develop the required synergies with customers and suppliers (and every function in between). These roles vary depending on the organization, but they include Collaborative Forecast and Replenishment (CPFR) Analysts and S&OP Mangers or Champions. These roles share a common theme of being both data-driven and process orientated – indeed they must combine these two elements to ensure continuous alignment between planning roles and other functions, and between tactical and strategic plans. These roles are usually collaborative and end-result focused. The core competencies of professionals in these positions are: process-oriented, an ability to assume responsibility, and strong communication skills.

Collaborative Planning requires a centralized coordinator from the planning or analytics department who brings everything together

In a collaborative environment, everybody comes together. But given that people and processes are dispersed across the organization in multiple functions, there should be a centralized coordinator from the planning or analytics department who brings everything together. These collaborative roles serve to align all functional areas under a unified set of assumptions to enable and coordinate decision making and bridge any gaps between data, forecast, product and other areas in and outside the company.

These roles can be filled by entry level graduates with degrees in Business, Supply Chain Management, Marketing, or a related field. In this position, knowledge from different functions is often highly valued and positions may be filled by people from the Supply Chain, Finance and Commercial departments. The unique combination of skills and exposure to the Supply Chain, Sales and Marketing and Finance functions make this role ideal for progression into a variety of other different positions. Outside the department itself, other collaboration positions exist in Supply Chain and Product Management, and there are even opportunities at executive level.

4. Product and Market Management

Whereas collaborative roles focus on outcomes, these roles deal more with execution. These roles generally become more specific when it comes to mix of focus, but expand when it comes to their overall responsibilities. Positions include Product or Market Analyst and Launch Leader, the latter overseeing the final leg of new product introduction. These roles may deal with a specific product, merchandising, the market, or marketing campaigns. They deal both with the predictive and descriptive analysis and the actual planning associated with the execution of the plan. People in these positions are process and project oriented and have the unique competency to visualize the total process, identifying problems along the way.

Product Managers work with both predictive and descriptive analysis and the actual execution of the plan

Mature organizations tend towards a centralized position that leads these introductions from a final execution point of view and coordinates the analytics, planning, and deployment process. These project-orientated roles may work closely with Commercial and Operations but report to the analytics and planning department.

Most Product or Merchandising Analysts join as graduates with a degree in Business, Supply Chain Management, Economics, Marketing or a related field, but not all. Some transfer from other functions like Marketing, Sales and Supply Chain. Beyond Product Analyst roles, they can progress into broader collaborative or planning roles. There are also opportunities to make moves into Product Management positions.

Bottom Line: A Centralized Department Is Key To Leveraging These Roles 

A centralized planning and analytics department helps a company see, interpret and act on data and insights. Having specialized roles helps manage assumptions and processes from multiple inputs such as financial plans, market plans, sales plans, and industry information more effectively. To meet the needs of both the employee and employer, companies should look at structuring these key roles and developing a robust Analytics and Planning Department to coordinate the necessary people, resources and strategy.

[Ed: Visit IBF’s job board for the latest vacancies in Data Analysis, Data Science, Demand Planning, S&OP and more.]