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A Comprehensive Overview of Sales and Operations Planning (S&OP)

Henry Ford, business magnate and founder of the Ford Motor Company, once said, “Quality means doing it right when no one is looking.”

If you want to create a quality product and provide an outstanding customer experience, your business processes should be fine-tuned so every step, from manufacturing to delivery, is well-executed.

Processes can be made for just about anything. And the sales and operations planning (S&OP) process is crucial to any successful business.

Let’s demystify sales and operations planning (S&OP) and learn more about the S&OP process.

Free Download: Sales Plan Template

So, what’s the purpose of S&OP? It’s to coordinate across business units, increase transparency, balance supply and demand, and to achieve profitability.

There are some key benefits to sales and operations planning (S&OP).

  • Increased transparency between departments
  • Informed decision making about a product’s demand and supply
  • Improved inventory management
  • Better sales and budget forecasting
  • A clear understanding of a product’s lifecycle and its management
  • Streamlined processes that improve the overall customer experience

The American Production and Inventory Control Society (APICS) created an infographic that highlights the steps to S&OP success.


Source: APICS

1. Forecasting

At this stage of the S&OP process, data is gathered about prior sales and forecasts are made for future sales. It’s important to consider any internal and external factors that can impact sales (e.g., industry, customers, competition). Any trends will be identified and analyzed.

2. Demand Planning

Demand planning is when cross-functional collaboration comes into play. The forecasts are analyzed, and adjustments are made to inventory and customer service policies based on the product demand and sources of demand. The demand can be measured in either revenue or units of a product.

3. Supply Planning

During supply planning, representatives from finance, operations, and materials to evaluate capacity. They’ll determine if there are any constraints on people, machinery, and suppliers. From there, a supply plan is created that will account for any capacity constraints.

4. Pre-S&OP Meeting

During this stage of the S&OP process, leaders from finance, sales, marketing, operations, materials, product management, and human resources meet to collaborate. They’ll compare the forecasts to the demand and supply plans, and they’ll consider the financial impact of the plans.

5. Executive S&OP Meeting

The final stage is when executives meet to analyze all the forecasts, plans, and recommendations from the pre-S&OP meeting. By the end of the executive S&OP meeting, a final sales and operations plan will be approved.

Here’s a visual overview of what the S&OP process looks like.

Smartsheet S&OP process diagram

Source: Smartsheet

S&OP Metrics

When evaluating your S&OP process, there are some key metrics you can use to gauge performance.

Demand and Supply S&OP Metrics

Demand and supply metrics will help you determine if your forecasts are accurate and the demand matches the supply.

  • Demand forecast versus actual
  • Production forecast versus actual
  • Inventory turnover
  • Capacity utilization
  • On-time delivery
  • Accuracy in order delivery
  • Cycle times

Financial S&OP Metrics

These metrics show you how the business is performing from a financial perspective.

  • Total sales in a period (e.g., month, quarter, year)
  • Total sales versus forecast
  • Gross margin
  • Working capital versus plan

S&OP Software

Which tools should you use for your sales and operations planning? Instead of solely relying on spreadsheets, here are some software options you can use to streamline your S&OP.

1. Oracle S&OP Cloud

Oracle provides process templates you can use to make your sales and operations planning run smoother. You can monitor each stage of the process and dashboards allow you to see KPI summary graphics. It allows you to collaborate with colleagues and assign tasks. Plus, it integrates with Excel.

Oracle S&OP software

2. SAP Integrated Business Planning

The SAP Integrated Business Planning software makes your S&OP planning quick and agile. Key features include scenario planning, simulations, and advanced analytics so you can stay on top of forecasts and hit your financial targets.

SAP S&OP Software

3. Infor Sales and Operations Planning

With the Infor Sales and Operations Planning software, you can synchronize demand and supply imbalances, coordinate across business units, and analyze performance. It even includes predictive financial analysis so you can see how business decisions will impact the bottom line.

Infor S&OP Software

Looking for more? Learn how to create a strategic plan for business development next.

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