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December 1, 2023

Why Trust Is Critical in Demand Planning

Jay Matthews, a former demand planner at AB InBev, explores how soft skills such as building trust, effective communication, and empathy are critical for a successful demand planning process.

Develop Strong Relationships with Key Stakeholders

Jay Matthews, a former demand planner for AB InBev in West Africa, emphasizes the importance of building strong relationships with key stakeholders. This includes colleagues in supply, marketing, and logistics, as well as analytics teams and data teams. Trust is a critical component of these relationships, particularly when it comes to trusting the data that is being used for demand forecasting.

"Trust comes up a lot, and primarily being able to trust the data. And really understanding that with demand planning, you not only need to trust that the right data has come to you, but you need to trust that the people who are inputting the data at the warehouses are inputting it in a way that makes sense."

Former Demand Planner -
AB InBev

Building strong relationships with stakeholders requires effective communication and collaboration. It also involves understanding the needs and priorities of different departments and finding ways to align them with the overall objectives of the organization.

Embrace Automation and Big Data

Automation and big data are transforming the consumer goods industry, and demand planners need to keep pace with these changes. According to Matthews, the question that demand planners should be asking themselves is: "What can I do to improve now, that's not going to compromise my ability to grow into the future?"

Automation can help demand planners to streamline processes, reduce errors, and save time. Matthews recommends introducing small automations one step at a time, and making things easy to find. Examples of automations include data cleaning scripts, standardized data formats, and automated emails for data updates.

Big data also plays a crucial role in demand planning. Matthews highlights the importance of understanding how to model data and how to use data to forecast demand. This requires a combination of technical skills and strategic thinking. It also involves keeping up to date with the latest developments in data analytics and machine learning.

Prioritize People Skills

Demand planning is not just about technical skills and data analysis. It also requires strong people skills. Matthews emphasizes the importance of building relationships with colleagues and stakeholders, as well as understanding their needs and priorities. This involves effective communication, empathy, and the ability to listen and respond to feedback.

"I think the real spirit of logistics is: What do I know? What can I make do with it? And how do I make this work?"

Other people skills that are important for demand planners include leadership, teamwork, and the ability to negotiate and collaborate with different departments.

Take a Long-Term Approach

Demand planning is a marathon, not a sprint. Matthews notes that demand planners need to take a long-term approach and focus on making incremental improvements over time. This involves being patient, persistent, and willing to learn from mistakes.

"I think one of the major differences to me, between moving from a project space to moving to the demand planning space is in the project space, you have these quick turnaround cycles. And so you're constantly producing things, and it's very high intensity, and then you have a little bit of a low period. Whereas I found that the stamina for demand planning is a little bit more like a marathon."

Demand planners need to be able to balance short-term demands with long-term priorities. This involves understanding the drivers and factors that shape demand, as well as the broader trends and developments in the industry.

The Takeaways

  • 1.

    Building strong relationships with key stakeholders is critical for successful demand planning.

  • 2.

    Trust is a critical component of these relationships, particularly when it comes to trusting the data that is being used for demand forecasting.

  • 3.

    Embracing automation and big data can help demand planners to streamline processes, reduce errors, and save time.

  • 4.

    Prioritizing people skills, including effective communication, empathy, and the ability to listen and respond to feedback, is essential for demand planners.

  • 5.

    Demand planning requires a long-term approach and a focus on making incremental improvements over time.

  • 6.

    Demand planners need to balance short-term demands with long-term priorities and understand the drivers and factors that shape demand.

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