First introduced in early 2019, the Web Based Planning app is not a new addition to the SAP IBP offering. However, what began life as a limited but useful app primarily to assist occasional users of the system with remote access, has since been steadily improved and enhanced over successive upgrade releases into what is now a powerful tool to enable and encourage collaboration with both internal and external business partners across organisations. Studies conducted in recent years suggest that more than half of IT executives now view the introduction of collaboration software as a high or even critical priority to conducting business*, with cost often being the most significant barrier. As such the Web Based Planning app now represents a huge opportunity within standard SAP IBP functionality for increased value-added activity in the planning functions of your business. This blog will demonstrate how it may be used to facilitate cutting edge best practice collaborative planning with internal and external partners alike.
*Source: Forrester Research report "Setting the Technology Foundation for Your Social Business and Collaboration Strategy
Let’s first take a look at the basic functionality of the tool. In the simplest terms it is a browser-based Fiori app which permits access to view and change a limited set of IBP planning data.
It differs in this respect from the standard Excel UI in that there are far fewer prerequisites to its use. Use of the Excel add-in on a desktop/laptop requires both Windows & MS Office, whilst only one Tablet (MS Surface) is supported, and MacBook only usable with additional software installations. Here access is from the IBP Web-UI via any browser, making it far more readily accessible to occasional/remote users in your business whatever their method of use.
The app allows users not only to view, analyse, change, and save data, but also to create and share new planning views & scenarios, along with simulation capability. Using these planning views, you can also then view and compare key figure data from different versions and scenarios, change this key figure data, and even save your changes back to the database.Example Web Based Planning View
Views are highly user-friendly to anyone with the most basic experience of spreadsheets and can be tailored to the specific needs of the occasional or remote user, allowing them to view and edit only the data which is pertinent to them. The guided setup of the view is where the user defines the desired parameters, and couldn’t be easier to follow.
Enter a name & description for the view, define the Planning Area and Versions / Scenarios to be used, plus the desired time period:
Select the Planning Level(s) at which the data will be available:
Choose the Key Figures to be included in the Planning View, and the target Unit of Measure:
The user can also set & view here any filters that are to be applied to the data, as well as set & see details of other users with whom this particular planning view has been shared.
Filtering allows the desired data set to be restricted either by a predefined planning filter or by specifying an ad hoc filter. The filter can also be changed on-the-fly from the display mode.
Having defined what the planning view should contain, the user has the option to first preview it before saving to ensure that it meets the requirements. Once saved (which can be done from the preview screen) the view can then be shared with individual users or user groups, enabling collaboration with colleagues on a specific set of data. As of the 2005 Upgrade release, editing of the view can also be done from within the view itself (where authorisation allows), making the app much more user-friendly to the planner who may edit views and settings on the fly rather than having to navigate away from the screen.
Key Features of the Web Based Planning View
These are some of the primary functions and features available using the web based planning views
Olivehorse - Value Add - Example Use Cases
Use Case 1 - Remote Sales force access
An instant benefit is the capacity for remote access to planning views and data using mobile devices such as tablets or smart phones (also supports use via MacBook). This permits remote access by occasional users such as the sales force.
Let’s imagine a member of the sales team out on a client visit, when the buyer brings up a new opportunity which requires an urgent decision as to whether the timings and proposed volumes can be met. Without the IBP web based planning access, the risk is a missed opening should another supplier be more agile, or a hasty decision based upon assumptions or inaccurate information.
With the IBP web based planning app, the salesperson will have fingertip access to real time information, and be able to relay estimated forecast volumes and dates to the planner for review. This collaborative approach gives the best possible opportunity to make an informed and timely decision to give to the client.
Use Case 2 - Provision of customer level forecasts by sales / account management
Our second scenario demonstrates the potential for vastly improved internal collaboration. The mature demand planning cycle will include the provision to the planning team of forecast numbers from the commercial team with a view to reaching a consensus forecast for the business. In a real-life example encountered with an FMCG client, this typically consisted of receiving a myriad of emails, spreadsheets and phone calls from multiple account managers, in varying formats, containing requests to adjust forecast volumes, and review and assess additional requirements – all requiring a significant amount of time-consuming, non-value-added manual adjustment
With the introduction of the Web Based Planning app the planner was able to share the relevant planning views with their sales colleagues, allowing them to access, view, and directly change/submit data as required. The benefits in terms of reduced time & effort and improved accessibility of information were substantial.
External Business Partner Collaboration
Of all the enhancements made to the Web Based Planning app, the most significant is the development which now permits direct access to your IBP system for external Business Partners. Planning views can now be shared outside of the organisation that contain the key figures that are relevant for collaboration. Vendors or customers can then view and edit the data for which they have permission, transforming the Web Based Planning App into a genuinely potent collaborative tool to facilitate best practice in Joint Business Planning and shared information between your organisation and external partners.
The simulation capability in particular allows a collaborative approach to review and assess the impact of changes without affecting the operational “live” data. It facilitates quick, real-time visibility permitting on-the-fly decision making.
Use Case 1 - External Customer Collaboration
The new ability to give direct web access to customers via the App opens up a new level of opportunity to leverage the benefits of a truly collaborative relationship with your client base. Using the shared planning views, customers can directly enter their own forecasts. In turn, as a manufacturer/supplier you are now able to share your forecasted capacity and availability with your customers via the app.
Use Case 2- External Vendor Collaboration
Allowing web user access to external suppliers unlocks the possibility for them to directly view, review & confirm supply vs forecasts. Instead of what would otherwise be an offline and potentially time consuming process, the vendor can now have real-time visibility of your requirements with which to make decisions and supply side commitments. In the reverse of the above customer collaboration scenario, you can easily share your most up-to-date demand forecast enabling the supplier to have full visibility to review and hopefully approve any volume changes by return.
In both of these cases, ultimately a greater depth of trust can be achieved between customer and supplier. What could historically have been seen as an adversarial relationship is vastly enhanced by virtue of the improved communication and flow of information, and as such a more robust process to reach consensus is built. Co-operative joint planning in this manner inevitably has a positive impact on stability of supply, flexibility to react in an agile manner to changes in demand, and in general an improved availability and customer service with all of the inherent associated benefits to both business partners.
SAP have stated their intention to continue to deliver improvements via the quarterly upgrade releases in this and many other aspects of IBP to further enrich and improve the user experience.
The continuous improvements and enhancements made to the Web Based Planning app mean that SAP IBP can now genuinely be considered as the fast-growing and feisty “Little Brother” to SAP ARIBA, its bigger sibling in the collaboration space. Its use in this manner can open up significant opportunities to leverage the benefits of a collaborative planning process, with tangible positive impacts in improved customer service levels, reduced logistics costs, and minimised working capital. Olivehorse has now implemented this functionality in a number of recent projects to facilitate the collaborative nature of planning for our clients with their external partners, both vendors and customers, allowing them to become more agile and responsive, removing the need for offline sharing of information and with the inherent time, effort and risks involved.
Here at Olivehorse we have our own fully built and integrated SAP IBP system, configured with this very latest collaboration tool. Should you be interested in seeing how this or any other features can help your organisation, please contact us today to enquire about our free IBP taster session service.
Richard Bevan is a Senior SCM Consultant and has been with Olivehorse for over 3 years.