When you break down the concept of sales and operations planning (S&OP) to its most fundamental elements, its importance to any business becomes clear: If you sell more than you make, or if you make more than you sell, you’re in trouble. Demand planning is all about finding that balance so your business can reach peak efficiency.

“Traditional S&OP is a rigid process,” says Eric Wilson, director of planning at Escalade Sports and thought leader at The Institute of Business Forecasting (IBF).

Adapt or die

That ability to be agile begins with demand planning and an effective S&OP framework, which Wilson says can have a direct impact on the bottom line.

“Obviously, AI and machine learning are more than a catchphrase now,” Wilson says. “They are at the forefront of not only company investment but technology providers’ investments as well, so when you look at all the different emerging technologies that could enhance and digitize the supply chain, AI and machine learning are on the top.”

"The complexity that we’re seeing in businesses now has increased the need to be more agile and responsive.”

Digitizing the supply chain

Wilson sees these technologies being applied in a variety of ways. “Some companies are looking at their predictive analytics and focusing on the ‘Amazon effect’ and bringing in new data that planners haven’t really looked at before — like website clicks, page rankings, text analytics and sentiment analysis.”

Clearly, the key to better sales and operations planning is the right technology in the right hands.