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Strategic management Demand planning 4

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The final article in this four-part series explains how integration and alignment combine to make demand planning your lifeline in the recession By Susan Storch, Principal, Oliver Wight Americas

emand planning, often underutilized in the best of times as a means of improving cash flow and profitability, may become your company’s lifeline in a recession. This four-part series discusses demand planning best practices in relation to surviving, and even thriving, in the downturn and emerging in the best possible financial health. Part 1 explored the high benefit potential in cash and profit of demand planning and laid out the three fundamental moves you have to take to achieve it. Part 2 explained the first move, quickly designing best practices into your demand planning process. Part 3 addressed the second move, equipping people to run at best practice process capability. The final article in this series examines the third fundamental move, integration and alignment. If you have been following this series, you know that the demand planning lifeline has been thrown, a strong line snaking out, guided by capable hands. There was the pitch and now there has to be the catch. Winning with demand planning Remember that the demand plan we have been talking about contains the business’s revenue projections based on planned marketing and selling activities to achieve them. Marketing and sales reached consensus on a plan, and now marketing and sales have to execute the plan — “the pitch and the catch.” This is the third fundamental move: integrating and aligning the upgraded demand planning process with other commercial execution processes and also with product development, supply chain, and finance. Winning with demand planning takes the engagement and synchronization of the entire business in the catch. Given a portfolio of desirable products and services and adequate financing, it is marketing that is the leading link in the chain of events that ends with a satisfied customer. The demand plan sets the drive chain in motion. A tug on the chain and the rest of the linkage follows: money is spent and resources are consumed. This is not to downplay the

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importance of any one function, but actually to emphasize the equal importance of all in the success—or failure—of customer delight, that sweet result that leads to more sales, more profitably delivered. Without follow-through, demand planning is a waste of time. Execution In customer-facing business organizations, demand plan follow-through is spelled “execution.” In the altered dynamics of a recession, customer and consumer behaviors change in unexpected ways. The norm is no longer the norm, and in executing the demand plan we discover where our assumptions were “off.” Explicitly defined actions to create or shape demand may need to be fine-tuned or drastically altered as the reality of customer orders and consumer sales unfolds. Mining this mother lode of learning opportunity is often mistakenly left purely to the puny pickaxe of human memory. Unfortunately, people come and go with greater frequency than recessions, and often because of them (especially the old guys with the longest memories and biggest paychecks). Follow-through starts with timely execution of the demand plan. One company I was working with as the recession hit developed a demand plan that incorporated price increases to compensate for radically escalating commodity prices. Sales had participated in and committed to the consensus demand plan, yet delayed in communicating increases to customers for fear they would take their business elsewhere. Time told the truth, that customers did not appreciably reduce orders, but meanwhile revenues were lost and margins went “under water.” Had the sales force been incented purely



“Integrated business planning is...
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