Design Considerations when Integrating IBP Tasks into Microsoft Teams
As of the February 2023 release for SAP Integrated Business Planning for Supply Chain (SAP IBP), you can replicate planning tasks from process management in SAP IBP to Microsoft Teams.
When doing so, one needs to consider how to model the supply chain planning processes in the SAP IBP system and how different planning communities could be handled on the Microsoft Teams side. In this blog post we shall look into a few examples and see what the pros and cons of the different options could be.
When modelling planning processes for your supply chain in SAP IBP, you can assign different groups of people to individual process steps. For each process step, you can also define manual activities, called tasks, that are to be completed by the supply chain planning professionals assigned to the step, in order to carry out that phase of the planning process. With the new task integration into Microsoft Teams, the Collaboration Group entity or field that was used to replicate the assigned tasks of the process step to a collaboration group in SAP Jam or SAP Build Work Zone is being repurposed for replicating the tasks to Microsoft Teams. When Microsoft Teams is used as the collaboration tool, thus augmenting the supply chain planning processes modelled in SAP IBP, the tasks defined for the process step are replicated into a plan and bucket in Microsoft Teams.
Figure 1. Collaboration group entity for selecting the team, the plan, and bucket
In Microsoft Teams, the team object serves the purpose of defining your communities that usually represent your company’s organization structure. Tasks that are to be completed by team members are grouped into plans, so a plan is a collection of tasks. There can be multiple plans defined for the same team. Another entity that helps you to organize tasks is a bucket. When you use the standard Microsoft Teams app Tasks by Planner and To Do (developed by Microsoft) to display the tasks, you could use different views, one of which is the Board layout. In this case, the columns or vertical lanes are the buckets in which the tasks are organized. Please see the entities below:
Figure 2. How different entities relate to each other within Microsoft Teams.
Large organizations that have multiple people spread out over various locations in the world will have the challenge of figuring out how to model in SAP IBP the process steps and tasks that are the same for their different planning communities, and how to organize their teams and tasks in the Microsoft Teams environment so that the two are synchronized.
Let’s look at a few examples. Let’s assume a larger enterprise that operates across the globe has demand planners in the USA, covering its North America and Latin America region, while there is another local demand planning community residing in Europe that is tasked to create the local demand plan for the European markets. Such a company can have the following options for modelling the supply chain planning process in SAP IBP.
Option 1A: Create parallel process steps separately for each region and its respective planning community, use separate teams in Microsoft Teams for each community.
In this example, we can see that the creation of the local demand plan (by the various demand planning communities based on locally available market insights and in cooperation with customers) is a step in the overall demand planning process. This step is duplicated for each region in which the company operates. These two steps will run in parallel.
When modelling the planning process this way, the business process owner could create the planning communities by creating separate user groups to be assigned to the respective process steps in SAP IBP. Also, the relevant teams need to be created on the Microsoft Teams side: one for the local demand planning community that handles the Americas region and one for Europe. Let’s name them “DP – Americas” and “DP – Europe”. If the Microsoft Teams or Azure AD administrators have created these groups and teams and added their members, plans can be created for holding the tasks.
The easiest way to create these plans is to use the native Microsoft Teams app Tasks by Planner and To Do (developed by Microsoft). Creating a new plan is easy, just start the app and click the Create List or Plan button.
During the plan creation you will give the plan a name. In my example, I have used a plan name that is the same as the team name. When creating the plan, select the right team for which you are creating the plan and pick one channel (using the General channel is fine).
While doing this, the Tasks by Planner and To Do app is automatically added to the channel of that team as an extra tab and will display the tasks of this new plan (at this point there are no tasks just yet). The next step is to create a bucket. The newly created plan has a default bucket called “To do”, but you could rename the bucket. In the illustrated example below, I have used “IBP Planning Tasks”, or the bucket name could match the step name from SAP IBP.
Thus, in this setup we would have two separate teams in Microsoft Teams with their own plans and buckets. Now, when we use these in the process templates on the SAP IBP side, we would assign different target teams, plans, and buckets to which the step’s tasks would be synchronized, as depicted below:
So, let’s review the advantages and disadvantages of this modelling.
One obvious advantage is that in Microsoft Teams, only the relevant planning community will see its own tasks. As the planning communities are modelled as separate teams in Microsoft Teams, they will have separate file shares and document storage areas, and separate channels for communication.
This can sometimes be a disadvantage also. One such example is the charting capability of the native Microsoft Teams app Tasks by Planner and To Do. This can show charts, which could come in handy for somebody wanting to monitor the progress of the planning processes and their tasks. When the tasks are spread across multiple plans it would not be possible to get a nice overview of all tasks in one SAP IBP process instance with the Tasks by Planner and To Do app.
Option 1B: Create one joint planning community and thus one team in Microsoft Teams covering both regions (called “All DP” in the diagram below). The plans assigned to the step can be different. There is no obvious advantage of using this approach, but it could be preferred by some companies that want to unify the local planning communities and have one common channel to communicate with these employees. Still, the disadvantage remains that people monitoring process progress cannot rely on the built-in charting capabilities of the Tasks by Planner and To Do app, as the tasks are synchronized into different plans.
Option 1C: Have a single demand planning community and use a single plan in Microsoft Teams but synchronize tasks into different buckets. Each bucket is assigned to a different process step. This approach has the advantages of reaching and communicating with all the local demand planners via a single channel in Microsoft Teams (for example the General channel), while you can also create private channels for each sub-community, one for communicating with demand planners covering the Americas region and one private channel for the European demand planning community.
This approach has the advantage that a process step owner or process owner overseeing the local demand planning process would be able to see all tasks related to local demand planning across the various regions on a single board:
Option 2A: Model the process in SAP IBP linearly without duplicating steps for each region, but rather duplicate the tasks for each region or planning community in the respective step.
Since this model has a single step for creating the local demand plan, you can assign it to a single team, plan, and bucket in Microsoft Teams. This means that on the Microsoft Teams side, you need to create a single team that contains both the demand planners from the Americas and Europe. In this respect, the approach on the Microsoft Teams side is similar to option 1C but differs in that it uses only one bucket and thus the number of tasks increases. The name of a task should indicate which team should process it. Also, during the creation of the process template, the right users or user group need to be assigned to each task. If you define separate user groups in SAP IBP, you can easily assign some of the tasks to the American demand planners and some of the tasks to the European counterparts.
If you use either option 1C or 2A for all the process steps modelled in a process template, you’ll end up having a single supply chain planning team created in Microsoft Teams with a single plan for the team holding all tasks and separate buckets for each individual process step. When using the Tasks by Planner and To Do app with the board view, it is quite easy to see the tasks related to all process steps if you’ve used buckets to group the tasks. Note though, that SAP IBP will create the tasks only when the process step is started and only then would they appear in Microsoft Teams.
With this approach, process owners overseeing the complete process would be able to see all tasks related to all process steps on a single board.
This approach would also take full advantage of the native charting capabilities of the Tasks by Planner and To Do app, by quickly analyzing the tasks, and filtering or grouping the tasks by different dimensions.
In this article we covered multiple ways you can model your process steps and tasks in SAP IBP and how to set up your teams, plans, and buckets in Microsoft Teams. Whatever design options you choose in the end, we’re sure you’ll love this integration of SAP IBP with Microsoft Teams. Please let us know your thoughts on the subject.
Stay tuned for our next article that covers how to get more business value out of this integration.