Wrap-Up: A Visibility Layer For Digital Business Planning

Martin Barkman

Part 6 of 6 in the “Rethinking Digital Business Planning” series

Many of the themes addressed in this blog series on digital business planning have to do with visibility and insight into data across the supply chain network. From sales and operations planning and response management to inventory optimization and demand sensing, gaining visibility into what’s happening regarding supply and demand is key to success for organizations in the digital economy.

To achieve this, digital business planning envisions a centralizing visibility layer – a cockpit or dashboard – to better understand, analyze, manage, and respond to supply and demand events. Aggregating various supply chain data sources, this layer enables insight into current performance as well as projections into the future.

The visibility layer should be designed to support as many digital business planning activities as possible. The following key capabilities are critical.

Role-specific customizability

No planner can possibly consume all of the data in the supply chain. Each planner needs access to targeted KPIs and key functionality specific to his or her role. The visibility layer, then, needs flexible configuration and user-designed personalization. This drives productivity by helping planners focus on what’s important to them.


Part of the goal of digital business planning is to automate wherever possible. Automation requires monitoring. The best way to monitor is with alerts that warn planning experts of issues – potential or immediate. This approach enables management by exception. Processes run on an automated basis and planning experts’ time is reserved for managing exceptional issues as they arise.


The complexity of supply networks makes it difficult to fully understand the potential ramifications of decisions. The visibility layer should support planners with the ability to run what-if scenarios. This can speed quality decision-making based on solid data analysis.

Business network collaboration

Today’s value chains are more multi-dimensional than ever before. At the same time, markets constantly evolve. Supply chains need to be designed for change and collaboration. With access to business networks, organizations can discover, connect with, onboard, and manage new partners on a global scale. This increases operational agility and speeds execution.

Predictive analytics

With a single source of truth for supply and demand data, organizations can start to do sophisticated analysis using artificial intelligence. Machine learning algorithms, for example, can match historical data to live data, detecting patterns that correlate with potential issues or new opportunities. In a fast-moving global economy, the ability to see what’s coming can give organizations first-mover advantage.

Bringing it all together

The opening blog in this series says, “digital business planning seeks to reintegrate supply chain planning and management into the enterprise as a whole so that it is no longer a sub-specialty off to one side of the business.” The visibility layer plays a key role in the interest of this objective.

Real-time access to supply network data is the foundation of fast and accurate S&OP processes. Simulation technology plays a key role in response and supply planning. The leanest supply chains use machine learning technology to optimize inventory, and the analysis of comprehensive and aggregated data plays a key role in demand sensing. All of these capabilities are supported by a visibility layer that empowers planners to do their jobs better under complex and constantly evolving market conditions.

If you have enjoyed this series on digital business planning, see the IDC infobrief Digital Business Planning is at the Heart of Supply Chain Transformation.

Martin Barkman

About Martin Barkman

Martin Barkman is Global Vice President for Digital Business Planning with SAP, SE. In this role, Martin leads the strategy and go-to-market for SAP’s Digital Business Planning solutions. With these solutions, companies transform supply chain planning from a siloed, people-centric, manually intensive, and operations-focused process to a pivotal business planning function that enables companies to be more customer centric, predictive, and automated with visibility across the entire supply chain network. Martin works closely with customers to elevate supply chain capabilities in the area of sales, inventory, and operations planning; demand management and demand insights; and response and supply planning. Prior to joining SAP, Martin was the CEO of SmartOps Corporation, which he sold to SAP in 2013.