A few weeks ago, I launched a new blog series on sales and operations planning (S&OP). In that introductory post, I outlined a number of important topics that I plan to explore in more detail throughout the summer. To make sure everyone is on the same page, I want to review the basics, the foundation, which is… what exactly is S&OP? I’ve seen and heard so many different answers and perspectives in response to this question. Therefore, I think it is important to share what I feel are some leading practices and also how leading organizations think about S&OP.
First of all, S&OP is indeed a process by most academic definitions (Merriam-Webster Link), as it follows a series of steps and activities with a particular cycle or cadence. And there are certainly meetings that occur throughout the process, but S&OP is not a meeting. S&OP is so much more than a process or a meeting. Yes, I’ve seen organizations that think they are ‘doing S&OP’ because they have a monthly meeting, but in fact they are actually missing the point of S&OP.
If one thinks about the purpose of S&OP, it is to ultimately match supply and demand, while balancing the cost (supply) and service (demand) tradeoffs of the supply chain. But as most of us know, addressing or solving this tradeoff is not linear in any way. Organizations face a recurring flow of supply chain imbalances that require decisions. S&OP serves to guide that decision making across the organization, making sure everyone is well informed and that trade-offs are analyzed and addressed properly. As a result, S&OP can be thought of more as an operating model to help organizations make better business decisions.