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How IBM Planning Analytics helps you create a stronger business plan

Enterprise Software | Posted on July 19, 2018 by Arnab Chakravarty

Perhaps you are a genius entrepreneur, or you have a genius business plan. You’ve developed a number of models to validate your strategy, held meetings and the buy-in is there. So, everything’s going to be great, right?

The biggest problem with running a business is that even the best-laid plans don’t always pan out in the real world.

Dealing with the Unknown

You might encounter unexpected competition, or your flagship product might underperform. Unforeseen supplier issues can inflate your operating costs. Now you’re faced with difficult decisions about where your business is going. The problem needs to be understood, the understanding needs to become a potential solution, and the solution needs to be evaluated based on a long-term plan.

That’s difficult, and costly because it takes a lot of your time. It’s also essential. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to quickly evaluate various what-if scenarios and move forward with the best business case for the business and your customers? IBM’s Planning Analytics suite is allowing organizations to do exactly that.

Get a Grip

The core of Planning Analytics is its information-handling capabilities. This set of features is akin to Excel on (legal) steroids. It has all of the Excel tools you love, with no data entry required. All the data is pulled from the appropriate sources automatically.

With your data in Planning Analytics, you can search it and manipulate it with an extraordinary degree of flexibility. You can drill down deep and find out exactly which component of your process is costing you more money than it should. Or, if you want the big picture view, you can zoom right out and take a look at your company-wide margins. All of this is easily synthesized and visualized, making it easier to present your ideas whatever the audience.

But your data isn’t just used for display purposes. It’s also about how Planning Analytics uses it to predict the future.

Get Started

Planning Analytics is a powerful modeling tool. At any point in your experience, you can create a “sandbox”—essentially, an alternate reality scenario—in which every element of your data can be tweaked. This lets you see how any adjustment to your company’s plan affects everything else, allowing potential solutions to be devised rapidly.

All of this is achieved with built-in forecasting (through SPSS) based on all of your prior data. Planning Analytics is run on the Cognos TM1 online analytical processing (OLAP) engine. This means you can leverage the cognitive computing power of the cloud to produce predictions based on the current state of your business or your new models. Which allows you to move from getting a grasp of the present to dealing with the future.

This is a game-changer for companies that have to stay agile while dealing with huge influxes of data. One such company is Pebble Beach, who brought Planning Analytics to their complicated retail operation.

The Pebble Beach Example

Pebble Beach is an acclaimed resort with a full-service souvenir retail operation which seems like it was designed to be a planner’s worst nightmare. It’s challenging in three main ways.

Firstly, each of its fifteen stores is different. One is a men’s store, one is a children’s store, and so on—which makes for an abundance of complexly related data.

Secondly, Pebble Beach sells a gigantic assortment of its own branded goods, with a total of around 30,000 SKUs, making stocking even one location a complicated endeavor.

Thirdly, their business doesn’t arrive in a steady flow, but rather in peaks and valleys, around golf tournaments and other events. That means they have to know what their customers want ahead of time.

Together, these factors created a lot of issues. Generating inventory reports was an ungainly, error-prone process. And that process could sometimes take so long that the reports were obsolete by the time they were ready. On top of being time-consuming, this meant that managers often ran out of stock, or stocked excessively. And when these inventory issues arose, the company didn’t have sophisticated modeling tools to get a sense of how to avoid similar pitfalls down the line. All they could do was put out fires.

But, by adopting Planning Analytics, they tackled all of this at once. The heaps of data that made life so difficult were brought under total control. Any sales, orders, or other transactions appeared instantly in a centralized, visible model. Inventory confusion disappeared. Nobody had to spend hours making complex spreadsheets by hand.

Moreover, this data centralization made it possible to produce sophisticated projections, because yesterday’s numbers could be slotted into formulas right alongside historical figures. With better projections, Pebble Beach started meeting customer needs more fluidly.

Get Planning

If anything makes Planning Analytics special, it’s this kind of integration. When configured properly, it erases the distinction between the big picture and the nitty-gritty specifics. If five-year profit margins are at risk because one brand of the mug hasn’t arrived at a warehouse, you’ll know immediately. With Planning Analytics, you can focus on your long-term vision without missing the details.

Interested in learning how AI can help you develop smarter business processes? Explore the resources in our IBM AI hub to get the full story on how practical AI is for your organization.

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