Without an intelligent solution to support demand planning strategies, companies today risk being left behind their competitors who are able to operate at a speed and scale much greater than that provided by more traditional and static planning methods.
Today, however, there are so many demand planning solutions available that finding the best one for your company can seem daunting. Because of this, companies may settle for solutions that aren’t best-fit or don’t provide all of the features they need.
But as Eric Wilson, Director of Thought Leadership at The Institute of Business Forecasting (IBF), put it in his expert analysis on the subject:
“...contrary to popular belief, it is not good enough if a system provides 80% of what you require. You do not need to settle. There are enough options out there for you to get what you need.”
In the sections that follow, we’ll take a deeper dive into demand planning software and the steps you should take to find the very best-fit solution for your organization.
- Demand planning is key to aligning sales goals with market demand and a company’s ability to meet that demand.
- Demand planning software provides intelligent features like AI-driven forecasting, wide scale integration, granular segmentation, and data visualization.
- Choosing the best solution for your business requires a deep understanding of unique business needs.
- Reviewing industry lists (such as those provided by Gartner and G2) and scheduling product demos are important steps for making the right purchase decision.
What is demand planning?
Demand planning is the process of projecting future demand in order to align marketing, sales, and supply chain chain strategies accordingly. It is a key part of sales operations (S&OP) as it bridges the gap between sales goals, actual market demand, and a company’s ability to meet that demand with appropriate inventory management and supply chain execution.
Like most other business functions, demand planning has become technology-driven, relying on intelligent data capabilities and high levels of automation. Gone are the days of annual or quarterly demand planning done manually on spreadsheets — today, companies use demand planning software to achieve agile operating capabilities and continuous real-time insights.
The benefits of accurate demand planning are manifold — lower costs, greater efficiency, better collaboration across departments, and a more data-driven business model are just a few of the most impactful.
What does demand planning software do?
Demand planning software allows companies to execute demand planning at the speed and scale required by today’s pace of business while providing a singular source of data truth across all stakeholder functions — supply chain, marketing, sales, finance, and more.
With a quality demand planning solution in place, companies can facilitate better collaboration across teams, feel more confident in their forecasting accuracy, and ensure every department has the information they need to execute effectively.
Key features of demand planning software solutions include:
Forecasting methods from demand planning software should include AI-driven capabilities that enable predictive analytics, variable analysis, and real-time updates. Your solution should also have the ability to recommend best-fit forecasting methods for your organization based on your unique goals, needs, and historical data.
High integration capabilities
Today, enterprises use hundreds (if not thousands) of applications, databases, and other data sources to drive operations. Your demand planning software solution must be able to integrate with these other sources in order to provide a comprehensive, single source of data truth.
Demand planning requires the ability to forecast using a variety of variables and with filtering by product, customer segment, timeframe, markets, and more. Your software solution should provide the flexibility for you to include whichever specific factors you need in a given forecast analysis, and to take both a holistic or granular view (or both) depending on the situation.
Visual reporting and analysis
Visual data dashboards and reporting interfaces make your demand planning software solution more approachable for a wide range of user audiences. In general, visualization makes data more digestible and promotes understanding (among other benefits), and a solution with those capabilities built-in will likely increase adoption rates and help to build a data-driven culture.
How to Choose the Best Demand Planning Software: 5 Tips
Determine your needs and budget
Demand planning software products address a variety of business needs, and no two are exactly alike. Some lean more heavily on supply chain and inventory management, while others are better designed to support sales. Others may have features and interfaces built to be used in specific industries or by companies of a certain size.
In short: you won’t find a one-size-fits-all solution, and it’s critical to determine your unique needs and budget requirements before you begin your search. Doing so eliminates the options that aren’t a good fit so that you can immediately focus on the right potential solutions.
Develop a specification document
Once you have a general sense of your demand planning needs, create a specification document that helps you visualize them in one place. Include process workflows, use cases, integration requirements, must-have features, and current tools you rely on for data. Use this document as a guide for evaluating potential solutions.
Review industry lists and reviews
The most reliable place to start with software product research is with industry lists like Gartner, G2, and Capterra. These sites provide expert-level overviews of product features and benefits, rankings, and customer reviews that can inform your buying decisions.
Once you have your list of potential solutions narrowed down, it’s a good idea to conduct an in-depth features comparison. This can help you understand exactly how each demand planning software solution will meet your needs, what gaps may exist, and which are the best potential fit for your company.
Schedule product demos
Usability is key to driving internal adoption and maximizing ROI from your solution. There is no better way to get a sense of usability than through product demos, during which vendor sales teams walk you through solution features and how they apply to various use cases. Schedule a product demo for each solution on your shortlist to be confident in implementation success.
Gain Real-Time Insight with Xactly Sales Planning™
Xactly Sales Planning™ is designed to help you design, monitor and optimize sales capacity and quota plans with four key features:
- Sales Planning and Forecast Modeling - Automate the sales coverage and capacity planning processes, and determine the optimal resources required to hit bookings goals.
- Real-time Dynamic Dashboards - Monitor ongoing sales performance by increasing visibility across sales planning processes.
- Workflows and Multi-User Editing - Collaborate efficiently across departments, create iterative snapshots of your plan, and analyze side-by-side comparisons across teams.
- AI Predictive Analytics - Strengthen insights using AI and data integration to predict key indicators.
Ready to get started? Schedule your demo today!