Last week I presented two opposing views on whether S&OP/IBP can be done remotely (see that article here). Personally, I don’t think remote working is optimal for a highly collaborative process like S&OP.

But the world has changed and we are where we are. With many companies either working completely remotely or with a hybrid approach, we have no choice but to embrace the new normal and make it work. Below are some tips to increase the chances of successful S&OP outside the office.

Maintain Structure & Discipline

S&OP needs now more than ever people understand their roles and responsibilities, why they’re going to show up, and what is expected from meetings. If you have a hybrid environment, schedule the meetings on one of the mandatory days that people come into it the office.

Try to have those face-to-face meetings as much as possible but whether its face-to-face or online, set the cadence and stick to it. Have follow-ups with key people after the S&OP meetings, making sure people understood the takeaways and that they were on board and you still have consensus after the S&OP meeting ended.

Schedule informal touch bases with key people as well to have those ‘water cooler conversations’ because those are equally important – a lot of discussions happen outside of the formal 40 or 50 minute meetings.

Don’t Micromanage the Meetings

Don’t try to overmanage the meetings. Don’t try to be more precise than we need and allow communication to flow and let people express their opinions in the way they need to express them. One of the ways an S&OP process dies is having a too-strong personality that dominates the meeting to the point that it just becomes a reporting function. You want dialogue to happen.

Be Deliberate With Communication

With Teams or Zoom calls, you can’t read cues and understand the audience like you can in the office, so be deliberate with your communication. Ask “Are we on the same page?”. Communication has to be more verbal now because you’ve lost some of that non-verbal communication.

To overcome this communication deficit, look at tools like Slack that facilitate communication and collaboration instead of relying just on emails a meeting once a month. On video calls make it a requirement turn the video on.

Get Your S&OP Champion To Step Up

As they say, cometh the hour cometh the man/woman. If it’s not you, make sure you have that person who really herds the cats and gets everyone doing what they need to be doing.

This person has the communication skills and influence to drive consistency of meetings and get everyone working towards the required output. In this new environment, the S&OP champion needs to rise to the occasion and be the person that really helps run the meeting and helps check the boxes of everything outlined above. This is the person who will double down on best practices and help the team to adapt to the new norm going forward.


Eric will be leading IBF’s Demand Planning & Forecasting Boot Camp in Seattle from December 7-9, 2022. You’ll learn the fundamentals and best practices of demand planning from expert instructors, to help you balance demand and supply and improve metrics such as customer service, forecast accuracy, inventory turns, and cash flow.