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.