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12Sprints currently under Beta testing phase has been described as cloud-based collaborative decision-making application for the Enterprise. The application opens up a whole range of usages – starting with social networking decision making (like where to have a meetup / barcamp and what would be topics) but need to progress within organizations for more business oriented use-cases. Recently while filling in a feedback form I was asked the question if there is any usage of it within the organization. That made me think with more focus and I could come up with a possible use-case for it supporting Monthly Sales & Operations Planning meetings common in any Supply Chain Planning process.

Most of us working in Supply Chain / Logistics business process area in manufacturing organizations would know the importance of the monthly Sales & Operations Planning process (S&OP). Different groups of business functions (Marketing, Sales, Distribution, Production, Product Management) come together every month to deliberate and decide on the course of action (manufacturing, distribution, sales plan) for the organization in near-term (next few months) which has a bearing on the organization’s profitability.

In a global (or even within a country/region) company it is very likely that all the people will not be co-located and in tough economic times it does not make sense to travel to head quarters every month. While telephonic / video conference tools enable the communication, its important to capture and record the steps and discussion / deliberations that result in the final decision. Minutes of meetings / Meeting Memos circulated as emails or stored in centralised application / repository like Sharepoint is commonly used but it records the outcome and not the nuances of the decision making process. That is where a collaborative decision making application like 12Sprints can fit in. Every monthly S&OP Meeting can be setup as individual Activity and the respective individuals added as Participants. Its possible to assign a set of standardised Tools like Agenda Builder (with ranking), Collection of content templates to capture data relevant for the decision making process (like some market survey report, new product specification, notification of scheduled plant maintenance having impact of Production, tax structural changes impacting Distribution network), Consensus / Ranking/ Quick Poll / Decision to the activity. It is also possible to add Notes, Tables by the participants and have Discussion threads, create Action Items and assign participants responsible to the Action Items with a time line (Due Date). One important Tool available is Timeline which is essential must-have in any S&OP cycle giving milestones for the different stages of the cycle.

Now that the use-case requirements have been mapped to the application functionalities let’s quickly see the pros and cons of it. The first pro is the fact it’s an on-demand web-based application available on the cloud. So as an organization IT you don’t have to worry about running and maintaining yet another application however small it is. From an end-user perspective the UI is clean and refreshing and the functionalities are fairly intuitive. After all the business users have been doing the S&OP Cycle all along, now being formalised only to the extent of going into a common web-based application. It helps the users also – no more hunting through email application for three months back minutes / memo to refer any decision but simply go to that past activity while logged in to the application.

In terms of cons, security (S&OP meeting discussion and outcome is fairly sensitive information) and data access control will be an important consideration. The other main shortcoming is how to follow updates – currently every small change is captured as an update by the application. Versioning (user makes changes / updates and then save it / set flag as Done) on the contents might be a good option to consider. In order to truly make 12Sprints the decision making platform there should be a simple and easy to setup interface to pull in enterprise relevant data from SAP applications definitely. REST APIs are under development which should allow this functionality soon.

All in all the application platform is available and ready for exploration of possible business use-cases.

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  1. Jim Spath
    Somnath:  For reasons I won’t explain now, I have no time nor inclination to be a beta tester for yet another software tool.  I’ve ignored invites to this, as I’ve ignored four-square and other mystery projects.  You know I’m not anti-progress, I just need to see a reason to spend my time analyzing someone else’s software bugs and design faults.

    Question 1 – “Why should I try this?” I haven’t seen a compelling reason yet. “Collaborative decision making”?  Huh?  In most places I’ve been, the bosses make the decisions.
    2. What is it – “Collaborative content management”?  We already have one (or more) of those. “Product lifecycle management”? Check, have it. “Email list management” Yes, that too.
    3. What does it cost?  “Oh, it’s free.”  For now, maybe.  I can’t imagine SAP is building this to give it away.  Anyone seen the open source code behind it?  No, I didn’t think so.
    4. Does it scale? Does it work off the grid? Who controls access and how (Active Directory integration, anyone?)?
    5. Training?  “Oh, it’s easy to use”.  Yes, for coders and first adopters like beta testers.  What do regular workers say about it?

    I feel like I’m the Frenchmen in Monty Python and The Holy Grail: “Grail? – We already got one.”

    Jim

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    1. Gregory Misiorek
      Jim,

      to me the tool is simply “echt toll”. reminds me a bit of facebook for corporations. at some point, it may get integrated into scn. u are making valid points, though. it will be a hard sell with the “suits”, but i don’t see how SAP can ignore it. of course, it’s not free, but it is to us, for now. the only “active” directory, i see, is the email address which of course is the total anarchy. i will see more scner’s on it, soon.

      PS: the only free cheese is the one in the mousetrap.

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    2. Dennis Howlett
      A solution looking for a problem…which the user community needs to check out…and then at some point the user pays for it? That’s beyond daft…it’s bone headed thinking. Surely SAP has bigger problems to solve?
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  2. Vijay Vijayasankar
    95% of twitter messages have no real value ( “I got junk mail from vendor, I walked my dog, I had meatballs for dinner type) – but that didn’t prevent twitter from becoming popular. So maybe the people behind 12Sprints might also have some similar idea of “build and they will come”. I joined 12Sprinrs, had a look around it and contributed a bit, didn’t like it – and stopped using it.

    12Sprints has a lot of SAP community presence – and community leaders actively promote it. And since a lot if us are open to trying out anything that is new – I suppose SAP got a good number of free testers.

    There are 2 things I have noticed in this regard.

    1. Every new solution coming out there is saying it is better than email. But guess what, most people get notified of updates to these new tools are via email. Go figure 🙂

    2. Thanks to several vendors trying to get a community based free beta testing, most of us – like Jim clearly said – are short of time and patience when it comes to trying out new things. So, unless the product captures our imagination really fast – we won’t give it a second chance. Not only that – in most cases, we will bash it in public 🙂

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