Transforming from S&OP to NOW


S&OP is Dead…Long Live S&OP!

Recent articles such as “Is the Traditional S&OP Process Outdated and Heading to Extinction?” and “The ‘post-S&OP era’ – Managing in NOW mode” have suggested that the existing S&OP processes in today’s world are fast becoming out-dated. While S&OP processes are much improved over the disjointed silo mentality of functions within companies of old, the lack of speed needed in today’s reality where companies have access to multiple channels to real time data is causing significant waste and sub-optimization. On average, S&OP processes take 3 weeks to complete the cross functional collaboration before converging on a common plan.


Most everyone would agree that faster is clearly better; a company that is able to have a culture and capability of real-time or NOW collaboration reduces costs in numerous areas (inventory, man-hours, materials, operations, etc), improves customers service, and thus ultimately improving shareholder value. Another positive is that the tools to enable this type of collaboration exist today with several options to choose from.


While all would agree that a real-time solution is the best way to plan and react to real times changes in demand; as is often the case, the devil is in the execution. Consider large companies with locations in multiple countries and regions, where different cultures exist, and also challenges that come with varying time zones. In addition, while it may now seem like a far outdated stance, there are still several companies that haven’t fully embraced all (or any) social media tools with open arms.

Personal Viewpoint:

Having come from a large multi-national company with >60 manufacturing locations, in >30 countries and >100K sku’s, I see the potential for the numerous areas where the roll-out of this strategy could have negative consequences if not executed correctly and embraced at all levels. It is clear to me that this is truly the direction where the enterprise needs to head – however, I warn that the approach needs to take into account the company profile and culture. I believe this can be done by ensuring your implementation plan contains, at minimum, a the following key elements. 1) total buy-in from the top levels to embrace the selected solution and all that comes with it; 2) a balance approach with realistic timelines based on the level of complexity of such a solution; 3) the understanding that likelihood of success goes up exponentially as the size and complexity of the company implementing the solution goes down.

Greg Hatcher is a partner in JBF Consulting’s Supply Chain Strategy practice.



  1. Excellent post. A “Now” mode S&OP using social media would indeed pose some cultural challenges although they can be managed. Not so sure about the time zone beong a negative point. Would you think that this new S&OP using social media would allow all members of a supply flow to collaborae in real-time? All members would contribute based on their time zone / availabilities. I have worked with Social Media in Supply Chain since 2008. Having dealt with Plants in Europe, Eastern Europe and India, I would have loved to work this way with them too. I would have saved many hours of sleep when a conference call with India was the last solution to get things moving!

  2. Brad Forester says

    Nice post Greg. As you know, many companies still lack the ability to utilize social media and other tools to collaborate effectively. Firms are still in IT ‘lock down’ or are stuck in the email / endless meetings / MS Excel way of doing things. I think companies need to first embrace a new way of doing business, and IT should lead the way.