I have heard feedback from many business users and demand planners that SAP APO DP is complicated. Some think it is too rigid!! I have heard that it is too enormous and complex. At least this is not a criticism. It is ok for something to be enormous and complex if it solves a complex enterprise problem. Imagine Exxon Mobil trying to manage the demand for parts throughout its complex global supply chain.
What is the alternative?
Ease of entry and view as easy as excel………
I think people are focused more on ease of data management and data entry. Excel is obvious and you can manipulate everything without moving everywhere. From my working experience, I can say you don’t want to get there – 25 MB spreadsheets and chaotic vlookup.
I have been consulting/teaching Demand Planning for the last 15+ years. Definitely, APO DP is NOT a complicated tool. The models actually are quite straightforward and based on standard exponential smoothing algorithms. The users should not worry about the backside models but just understand what to use in which business situation. This is the gap. We at DemandPlanning.Net have helped clients narrow the gap and develop standardized training collateral for their working reference.
I also do not think that the tool is slow. The speed largely depends on how it is configured and implemented. Upfront optimization is not clearly planned and it comes to hurt the entire usability. More on this in a separate article.
DP planning book interface is evolving and getting closer to excel like features – graphs, copy and paste and simulation of polynomial smoothing, etc. The shocking revelation is that many users rarely leverage the graphical feature of the planning book or the fact that there are many custom user buttons that can be set up to various nifty things.
Some key features required for planning are NOT even enabled by the Consultants or IT staff perhaps for fear of the users knowing too much!! Ironically this could also be due to the self-fulfilling prophecy of more features, more questions, more perceived complexity, and more need for support resources.
The funny thing is we are all so much used to Excel that everything else is benchmarked with what it can do, instead of the learning necessary to move to a higher level.
Given that Google is dominating our lives these days, perhaps a user platform that will be successful in the future will be comprised of the following:
1. A planner web portal that is customized or customizable to each planner – like iGoogle or my Yahoo. (SAP tried to do the supply chain cockpit!!)
2. An intelligent engine that reports major to-dos in one place (alerts are available but they are not prioritized)
3. Prompt the planner to do get to certain things
4. Flash key graphs that need attention.
5. Search box a la Google where users can type in “Find SKUS with MAPE > 35% and MPE < -25%”.
Perhaps software designers need to think about this. Create the complex engine needed to solve the enterprise problems but give a plain vanilla google-like front-end that is just sitting there like a genie waiting for the orders from the planner………..
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