Strategic Sales & Operations Planning-The 5 Ws (and 1 H)

360 Visibility Blog, azure, cloud, Office 365, Dynamics, Microsoft
4 min readReading Time: 4 minutes

Ain’t nobody surfacing from the recession unscathed. Among the casualties: a company’s ability to accurately plan for a future that’s less certain than ever. Near-past revenues no longer provide much clue as to what’s on the horizon. And a firm’s ability to align demand forecasting with its various cross-functional areas, with – ultimately – its financial objectives, is critical.

Strategic sales and operations planning (S&OP) is the newest old concept for manufacturers hungry for an integrated business-planning process that will help them deal with ever-more complex operations, mounting customer demand and the imperative to trim costs.


Part process, part application (but ideally both), S&OP is, at its most basic, a method of sales forecasting that brings production in line with demand.

But here is a concept that’s evolved vastly in the quarter century since it dropped and today’s version is eminently more sophisticated. Ideally, this cross-functional planning process marries a company’s strategic, operational and business plans in a way that offers organizations a multitude of views into their firm and aids them in their efforts to make decisions that maximize opportunity and mitigate risk.

With it, managers can review supply-and-demand projections, and ruminate not only on the resulting financial impact, but whether the anticipated progression of events is in line with the company’s big-picture business plan.


Everyone. Indeed, among S&OP’s most prominent selling features is the ability it affords for collaboration across multiple business inputs—both within and beyond the organization.

An S&OP solution that involves multiple functional departments in the drive toward a single consensus plan — and that appreciates the impact of changes made throughout the value chain on a company’s financial and operational objectives — is the most useful of all.


Across the board. Too little participation from key corporate stakeholders does no one any favours.


As soon as possible. A supply chain management survey recently conducted by AMR Research for Infor found that 88% of respondents are already using or planning to deploy an S&OP solution in the coming year.


The economic tumult of recent times has left a lot of companies with the realization that they cannot perform adequately without introducing a coordinated, synchronized business-planning system.

A well-tended and technology-enabled S&OP process:

-Ensures that a firm’s sales, purchasing, manufacturing and capacity-planning practices are in synch with the most recent iteration of its business plan.

-Smartly identifies the best allocation of company resources.

-Forecasts finance, marketing, sales and supply-chain functions in a coordinated fashion.

According to research from Aberdeen Group, managers who engage in successful S&OP programs enjoy healthier financial results in terms of customer-service levels, forecast accuracy, profitability and cash-to-cash cycle times.


First, assign an S&OP planning team. Next, have them take stock and produce a demand forecast that’s measured against anticipated manufacturing, inventory, sales, HR, production, finance and logistics limitations.

Wherever possible, facilitate cross-functional comprehension by translating data into a language everyone — whether on the shop floor or the executive suite — can understand.

Stir as needed and monitor progress going forward.

Oh, and the inclusion of technology is crucial. Sales and operations planning is a process, after all, that’s best realized through smart technology.

A scattering of spreadsheets simply doesn’t provide the level of detail, collaboration, accountability or monitoring that a mature S&OP plan does. Enlist help.

Marco D'Ercole
Marco D'Ercole
An Alumni of St Michael’s College School, York University and co-founder of 360 Visibility Inc., Marco is an industry recognized expert at building and aligning an organization’s technology with their business strategy in a cost-effective and often innovative way.
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