Tips from the field: Deploying demand forecasting

Set clear goals upfront and stick to them: "Why do you want to understand forecasts? Typically, it's to focus on production planning or ordering of raw materials."

— Phil Robers, Cap Gemini Ernst & Young

Get management buy-in: "There needs to be a commitment from the organization to implement the product. And there will be requirements to make changes [to business processes]."

— Greg Harris, Bandag Inc.

Take a bottom-up approach: "Involve individuals at the lowest levels. Involve people who are going to be using the system from Day 1."

— Rajesh Varma, Leiner Health Products Inc.

Be prepared: "Don't underestimate the requirement on your IT resources if you're going to meet timetables."

Varma

Start small: "You have to ask yourself, 'Where is the biggest bang?' One should always start with a small-scale data-gathering effort. First, get yourself up and running with the most simplistic data available, historical data. Then, one should look at the accuracy of that data."

— Noman Waheed, Accenture Ltd.

Apply the knowledge: Understanding how to integrate demand planning tools into a company's business process is critical to success. "The complexity of demand forecasting isn't in the algorithms. It's in knowing how to recognize the unique aspects of the situation and knowing how to put it into a company's environment."

— Robers

Requirements first, tools later: Don't develop the process with the capability of the tools in mind. Define a process that's generic. Once you've done that, you can talk about which tool will meet the requirements for your business processes.

— Waheed

Training is everything: Users say extensive training in how to use the vendor's software isn't enough. Planners must understand how to apply the tool to the company's goals and business practices. "The capabilities [of demand planning systems] are miraculous. But if I don't understand forecasting, I can throw a monkey wrench in real quick."

— Harris

Measure results: Unilever measures the accuracy of its forecasting tools and improvements over previous activity but evaluates how well the planners use the tool. In that way, "we can go back and add the training and knowledge where necessary."

— Raz Caciula, Unilever

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