I Can See Clearly Now: Integrated Business Planning In The Cloud For Midsize Companies

Richard Howells

I was in the airport last week when somewhere in the background I could hear a song I hadn’t heard in years: I Can See Clearly Now by Johnny Nash. I’ve been humming it for days.

Here’s what Johnny Nash has to say:

  • I can see clearly now, the rain is gone
  • I can see all obstacles in my way
  • Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
  • It’s gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright) sunshiny day

Could these be the words of a business planner imagining a day of total supply chain visibility?

I hope not. When recording artists start giving lyrical voice to their supply chain aspirations, it’ll be a sad day for pop music. But as for me, I’ll take my inspiration where I can get it!

I can see clearly now

Seeing clearly is the most important thing that a planner or any decision-maker can do. If you don’t have real-time visibility across your supply chain, you can’t sense and respond to supply disruptions. You can’t see surges in demand. You can’t predict a spike due to impending weather patterns or a local event.

I can see all obstacles in my way

One obstacle standing in the way of visibility has always been business silos. Whether your planners are wearing the long hair and corduroys of the ’70s or the business casual attire of today, they’ve always needed to see into the market, across lines of business and across company boundaries in order to accurately forecast demand and coordinate the resources to meet it.

Today, of course, the challenge is only exacerbated by globally dispersed supply chains, market complexity, increased competition, and customers with expectations for getting exactly what they want – immediately.

Gone are the dark clouds that have me blind

In Johnny Nash’s song, his ability to see clearly now is due in part to the fact that the clouds that blind him have now gone away. Ironically, it is the cloud – as in cloud computing – that facilitates visibility when it comes to business planning.

This is especially true for midsize businesses. Recently, IDC released an analyst connection document that focuses on planning in midsize companies. This piece makes the point that midsize businesses are under as much pressure as their larger counterparts to continuously improve business performance and deliver first-rate experiences to their customers.

What’s unique about midsize companies, however, is a comparative lack of resources to follow through. Here is where cloud-based integrated business planning is helping to level the playing field. With cloud platform solutions, midsize companies can do the planning, run the analytics, and generate the insight needed – all at a cost that is manageable.

The subscription model on which cloud platforms are based, moreover, means that upgrades and functional enhancements are taken care of by the solution provider. Instead of focusing on implementation and maintenance, this means midsize companies can focus on planning execution.

It’s going to be a bright, sunshiny day

Today we have the tools and technologies to make supply chain planners shine. An IBP approach is built on a platform that supports a consolidated view of data that all participants in the planning process agree is the single source of truth. The fastest, most effective way to achieve this visibility is to make data available in the cloud.

IBP puts the emphasis on integration. Not that business units need to put their desks in the same room, but planners need integrated insight – the kind that reaches across these units.

With data in the cloud, data and processes can flow more seamlessly across the design-to-operate lifecycle. This lifecycle extends from product design and all the associated planning required for meeting demand to manufacturing the product, delivering it, and operating it (or, perhaps, maintaining it post-sale).

None of these phases can run in its own silo. The pace of business today requires seamless interaction across these phases – with access to data in real-time and the ability to form and execute plans quickly.

With comprehensive data at the ready, you can then interrogate your data for greater insight using advanced analytics. You can also get predictive. Using machine learning algorithms to detect patterns in, say, demand data, you can prepare your organization more effectively for what’s coming next.

Nash’s song was released in 1972. Interestingly, this is the same year that SAP was formed. Was there something in the zeitgeist back then about visibility? Perhaps. At SAP, we’ve been helping our customers see their businesses more clearly ever since.

It almost wants to make start singing again – but trust me, nobody wants to hear that! Instead, listen to the song here.

And for more information on business planning for the midsize businesses, take a look at the IDC Analyst Connection.

About Richard Howells

Richard Howells is a Vice President at SAP responsible for the positioning, messaging, AR , PR and go-to market activities for the SAP Supply Chain solutions.