When a large company plans to deploy S&OP there are a lot of things to keep in mind, key among them the ‘people’ aspect of change management.

When gaining stakeholder buy in for S&OP, I tell people that we do not deploy the process for the sake of the process, instead we want to achieve something, and this something has to be measurable.

For example, a company may wish to improve delivery performance and customer response time by having E2E transparency of demand and supply. Or to reduce production costs by balancing production using ongoing input from sales. It is very important to know why we do S&OP as it will help optimize resources and build a better deployment strategy.

When implementing S&OP, organizational change will occupy a good half your time and effort. We can buy a tool for tactical planning and we can sit down and design the process in just a few days, but only with the right organization in place will we ever be able to make this process work.

Describe Roles & Responsibilities

Here comes the question of how to transform an organization to support a complex process such as S&OP. Organizational rollout has to start from the top down: Business leads must be the first to understand the necessity and the purpose of S&OP. With their sponsorship, the Project team is created – the team that designs the process and drives the necessary changes in the organization.

Inside the planning function we have to prepare a description of the standard roles and tasks for each role at any given point in time. This includes small details such as who prepares the unconstrained demand plan and who approves it, who evaluates WorkCentre load and who proposes the planning scenario for the factory.

Appoint an S&OP Champion

S&OP deployment needs a champion, someone to sponsor the idea and demand results from entire organization, not only the project team. It is very important that this champion understand and explain to everyone that S&OP is not “just” a supply chain tool, but a process that aligns demand and supply with business strategy, Finance and product portfolio to make the right business decisions.

When this becomes clear to stakeholders it becomes much easier to break silos between different business functions and to cascade the importance of S&OP further to the Local Leaders, who will support and navigate the deployment in their regions and secure buy in of their key people.

Now that we have established the leadership and communication, we now need to appoint Facilitators. Depending on the size of the organization they can be global or local, or both, and include people who are eager to build new things and share the information with others in a clear and structured way.

Since creating an S&OP process structure and building a community is a complex job, it is recommended that at least some of these team members are dedicated full time to the implementation project. The more time they spend working on details of the process and the tool, the easier it will be for stakeholders to buy into the new vision and move into execution mode.

Engaging & Training People

Very often we underrate this step in the process deployment and it can cause slowdown or misuse of the S&OP idea. Often when introducing something new, you come across those who embrace it straight away and then there are those who are reluctant to adapt to change. And that is exactly why an onboarding program is needed. It will make people feel comfortable with the new process and the tools. Here are several points to keep in mind for onboarding:

1. Decide Who Needs Training: Decide whether to train all people or have only super users. Will we have face-to-face training or online? Who prepares training materials? What is the best timing for training keeping in mind that teams should be onboarded before the process is in place but not too early.

2. Beta Test the Training: Make sure to get trainers’ resources upfront and run a pilot with an interested and supportive team – this will help to collect useful feedback and upgrade training materials before wider training rollout.

3. Free Up Employees’ Time: Talk to team leads to free up employees’ time for training – we want participants to be focused. It’s better to have three training sessions to accommodate a variety of people and schedules than a “one fits all” single session.

4. Hold Q&A Sessions: It is absolutely necessary to have a follow up and Q&A session. Give learners some time to taste the S&OP process, try the tool and then schedule a follow up. Show support and care, and repeat if needed. It is also a good idea to test follow up sessions to identify problematic areas before rolling out to larger groups.

5. Organize the community: Bring people from different business units together. Let them talk to each other, help each other, and share and create together. Share updates on development and new ideas with S&OP Managers, S&OP Planners, and Demand Planners. An E2E planning process will only work when it is bound by people with the same vision and priorities.

Changes Don’t Happen Overnight

Regardless of how well training is prepared, changes in people’s mindsets will not happen overnight. There will be complaints, errors, and fallbacks to legacy methods of planning but as long as we are consistent in our  communication and approach, the new reality will take hold.

When preparing documentation and introduction for different parts of the organization, make sure to explain that S&OP is a business process binding together Finance, Demand planning, Operations etc. and must be understood as business decision making forum right from the start. Be prepared to train not only direct participants of  the S&OP process but also Finance, Business leads, Product Managers, Procurement and other business functions. They all have to deliver their own onboarding to keep up with the changes and opportunities triggered by S&OP implementation.

People will always be the main driving or stopping force when something new is introduced. S&OP process success in the first few years depends on how well organizational onboarding is prepared and performed so it is highly recommended to invest significant time and resources into it.


To learn the fundamentals of business forecasting and demand planning, join us for IBF’s Chicago Demand Planning & Forecasting Boot Camp from March 15-17, 2023. You’ll learn how to forecast demand and balance demand and supply from world-leading experts. Click here for more information.