As another tumultuous year draws to a close, it goes without saying that our lives have been impacted like never before. And this is no different, particularly for our IBF membership base, as well as other demand planning and forecasting professionals who have had to navigate their companies through this unprecedented time.
This pandemic is arguably the largest global disruption in recent decades, affecting not just what consumers purchased, but when they made purchases, the quantity they purchased and, of course, how they made their purchases in terms of the platforms used.
These behavioral changes have been extremely compressed – what typically takes years to evolve, took place in a matter of months or even weeks.
Consumer behavior is one heck of a thing. Along with supply shortages, one of the key reasons demand has been so difficult to predict is fear. During the pandemic we saw a type of fear known as food insecurity – a primordial reaction to scarcity of food, or at least the perception of it. This wreaked havoc on demand patterns making business planning even more difficult than ever before.
In this new environment where historical data offers little insight into the future, our IBF members were looking to us to learn how to manage supply and demand. As a result, just like many school systems around the world, we created virtual programs to disseminate the knowledge they needed, helping professionals guide their companies to success in the most difficult of times. Plus, as our face-to-face conferences and meetings came to a screeching halt, I am proud to say the IBF was quite prolific in developing new products and services in an effort to help companies and planning professionals remain confident during times of great uncertainty.
IBF Showed Planning & Forecasting Professionals How To Survive The Pandemic
At the beginning of the lockdown, we kicked off our first Virtual Town Hall back in March of 2020. This was a free program with open discussions with top leaders at global brands with the aim of helping our tribe navigate the rough waters of the pandemic when we knew our forecasts were going to be severely wrong.
For that first Virtual Town Hall we had 3000 people attend – an IBF record! Do you think IBF delivered? Actually, we didn’t. At least not on the first attempt. So what happened? Well, if the whole world jumped on Zoom at the same time, what do you think would happen? Think rush hour traffic times 1000. Our webinar system crashed – another victim of changing behavior during the pandemic. (Of course, the irony was not lost on us that a webinar about managing demand was impacted by excess demand). So, what did we do? We asked everyone to send in their questions via email and we recorded the town hall panelists without an audience. And then, we disseminated the recording back to the community which was very well received.
You can see that first Town Hall recording here. It’s as relevant now as it was when lockdown started. Plus, you can watch all of our past IBF Town Halls online and other valuable webinars. It’s all FREE.
Through our monthly town halls, we delivered regular webinars that shared how to make confident planning decisions, step-by-step. Much of it centered around modifying S&OP to react quicker to demand shifts, and the crucial component of planning in good times and bad – cross-functional collaboration.
And of course, delivering forecasting and planning education being a part of our DNA, IBF transitioned its multi-day corporate training seamlessly to the virtual sphere. We delivered our Demand Planning, Forecasting and S&OP/ IBP Boot Camps virtually. We delivered our Corporate Training for enterprise members virtually as well. Essentially, we continued to teach the fundamentals to ensure planners had the tools and knowledge to manage during this difficult time. You can find out more about our Corporate Training.
And I urge you to check out our events page where you can register for upcoming webinars and town halls too.
Plus, with our members holding back on travel, and still having a strong desire to learn and develop professionally, our eLearning platform surged with registrations during the COVID-19 crisis. This platform allows professionals to learn the fundamentals of demand planning and S&OP at their own pace, on-demand. :
The Planning Community Showed Resilience In A Crisis
For those that were furloughed, the IBF gave free access to conferences for those who had lost their jobs. The idea was to keep them active and prepared when they would be welcomed back into the workforce, and to let them know the community was in some way supporting them.
The planning community as a whole wasn’t idling by either – several hundred planning professionals passed through our Certified Professional Forecaster (CPF) program in 2020 and 2021. In a downturn when layoffs are happening and many people are forced to apply for new jobs, this certification is a way to let employers know that you’re at the top of your field and can hit the ground running in a forecasting, demand planning or S&OP/IBP role.
And of course, such credentials give confidence to the professionals themselves that they know what they are doing and can approach planning roles knowing they have the skills to deliver. On that note, IBF has recently improved its Jobs Board, where companies can post their planning and forecasting positions to reach the largest group of S&OP and forecasting professionals in the world. Again, this is FREE! So if you’re looking for your next move, or are hiring, go check it out. We also have our highly popular LinkedIn jobs portal page connecting thousands of job seekers and hiring managers/recruiters.
It wasn’t long before companies realized that a return to growth in this period of unstable demand and supply shortages required planning professionals. We were needed, and continue to be needed, to sort out this mess, and planning job vacancies started appearing again.
Beyond that, we launched the IBF On Demand podcast, led by Eric Wilson, to advance these discussions. It is available on YouTube, Spotify, and whichever service you use for podcasts.
IBF Provided Forecasting Expertise To The Government
We also volunteered our expertise to government agencies as Dr. Chaman L. Jain, Editor-In-Chief of the IBF’s Journal of Business Forecasting and author of our Fundamentals of Demand Planning and Forecasting, IBF’s body of knowledge book, was part of the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) COVID-19 forecasting team, predicting numbers of cases and deaths. Dr. Jain’s forecasts regularly achieved 99% accuracy, which was not too shabby. He continues to provide forecasts on COVID every week at Demand-Planning.com.
IBF Launched Its S&OP Maturity Model Self-Assessment Tool
We also launched IBF’s S&OP maturity model to help companies identify gaps in their S&OP across People, Process, Data, and Technology. You can complete this free S&OP self-assessment on ibf.org, for free. It will give you tailor-made recommendations and resources to help you reach the next stage in your S&OP maturity.
We also relaunched our consulting services, providing word-leading guidance to companies looking to implement or improve S&OP and demand planning/forecasting processes. To gain a sense of what we could do for your company, click here and reach out to us for a discussion.
IBF Launched A New S&OP Certificate
We also launched our S&OP certificate that is a gateway to full CPF certification. It’s a quick and affordable way to show employers that you have a solid foundation in the field. It’s also the only certificate of its kind. They are associated with our S&OP/ IBP Boot Camps, with the boot camp training providing the knowledge required to earn the certificate. Information on the certificate and boot camp can be found here.
IBF Launched A Corporate, Enterprise Level Certification
During the pandemic, we launched our IBF Corporate Certification. This pandemic has really been a stress test on our S&OP processes, highlighting any underlying weaknesses. Corporate Certification validates a company’s capabilities and shows that they can withstand not only pandemics, but natural disasters, new legislation, and other unplanned events.
IBF Launched A New Predictive Analytics Book
This year, we released IBF’s new book, written by Eric Wilson, Predictive Analytics For Business Forecasting, which is now required reading for IBF’s Advanced certification program, ACPF. It is your guide to leveraging advanced analytics in the age of big data. Make no mistake, data is forcing the field to evolve, and this will help you keep pace with cause-and-effect models and proper data management, including use of internal and external data, and structured and unstructured data.
IBF Chapters Continue To Grow
We’re also forming IBF student chapters, the latest being at the University of California, Berkeley, led by energetic and bright young minds. That’s in addition to our existing New York Metro and New England chapters. For more information on attending a chapter meeting (or starting your own!), click here.
IBF Returned To Face-To-Face Events
October 2021 saw our return to face-to-face events with our flagship Orlando conference. It was a much welcome opportunity to connect with old friends and new. At the core of IBF conferences is learning new approaches, new methodologies, and new technologies. That’s not to mention taking advantage of new opportunities to improve the companies we work for and our skill sets, and taking charge of our careers .
Our full schedule of conferences and face-to-face training is available to view here. For 2022 we have events in Chicago, Orlando, Chicago, Las Vegas, New Orleans, Scottsdale, Seattle, and more.
IBF Is Celebrating Our 40th Year Anniversary
2022 marks the 40th year IBF has been fostering the growth of demand planning, forecasting, S&OP/ IBP, predictive analytics and the careers of those in the field.
We couldn’t sit on the sidelines to wait this thing out. Our team at IBF remained intact and we stand ready to serve the planning and forecasting community for our 40th year and beyond.
I want to take this opportunity to thank our IBF members for your support, and all professionals who have contributed their knowledge to a conference, town hall, webinar, article, book, panel discussion, or podcast over the last 2 years during this transformative period. This knowledge exchange is what keeps the community going, keeps myself going, and the field advancing – in good times and bad.