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PART 1: Demand Planners and Sales Analysts have a renewed importance in a global pandemic

By: Madeleine Quinn, Senior Executive Search Consultant at 3P Partners

COVID-19 has disrupted the forecasts, operations, and supply chains for many businesses on a global scale. As a result, we have seen heightened competition for demand planners and sales analysts as businesses scramble to create greater visibility and improve decision-making in an uncertain environment.

Companies that responded to the pandemic by improving production control concepts including sales forecasting, capacity analysis, and tightening manufacturing processes have weathered the storm. 3P Partners identified four key roles that have been deemed as essential for businesses to adjust their supply chains and mitigate risk. This article addresses the increased value of demand planners and sales analysts.

Demand Planners – is forecasting obsolete when you cannot predict a Black Swan?

Demand Planners have always played a critical role in analyzing sales and operations trends to interpret demand drivers, develop forecasts, and inform capacity plans. However, a 2016 Forbes article asserted that demand planners are better at forecasting in a steady state environment because they are typically working off a two- or three-year history of shipments and orders. So, what happens in a Black Swan event, like a global pandemic?

Eric Wilson, director of thought leadership at the Institute of Business Forecasting and Planning pointed out that demand planners are now coping with limited inventory, supply issues, customer service, and razor-thin profit margins all at the same time. How do businesses make informed decisions when the needle is consistently moving? Brendan Kavaney’s article Demand Planning and Forecasting During COVID-19 outlines that the best solution is to invest in predictive analytics and Machine Learning, or an appropriate ERP system. Businesses that were able to access data and quickly turn data into insights were able to mitigate the risk of disruption to the supply chain.

Demand planners with strong statistical forecasting skills that can recommend adjustments to volume planning to a broad spectrum of stakeholders are proving to be invaluable. The value of a good demand planner goes beyond the reduction of inventory costs or negotiating better prices with vendors. Delayed responses to disruptions to the supply chain or the swing to online consumer buying behavior proved to be fatal for some businesses.

Sales Analysts – understanding more than just what consumers are buying, but how and where?

The trend toward relying more heavily on consumer analytics to make informed business decisions existed before COVID-19. However the Analytics and BI before and after COVID-19 survey, pointed out that 49% of respondents said that analytics were more important than before COVID-19:

Smaller companies between 51 and 200 employees reported an increase in the use of analytics across every department, with 68% using analytics during the crisis in Operations, 56% in Finance, 50% in Sales, and 45% in Product.”

The value of strong sales analysts increased exponentially this year when businesses were forced to consider alternate sales channels and cater to changing consumer buying behavior. CPG companies that maintained profitability were able to adopt new go-to-market strategies because they were able to quickly assess buying trends, competitor responses, and the cost/benefit of alternate sales channels.

COVID-19 has not only impacted what consumers are buying but it has accelerated the growth of digital channels while the global population hunkered down and sheltered in place. According to How COVID-19 Has Impacted Consumer Food Habits, 72% of people surveyed have reduced the frequency of their trips to the grocery store during COVID-19; 88% of people have been cooking more meals at home; and 69% of consumers ordered take out or delivery food from restaurants during the pandemic.

The Euromonitor study reported that businesses that have been able to understand new consumer buying behaviors in the COVID-19 era and adopt new GTM strategies to cater to the “new normal” of digital consumer engagement, e-commerce, cashless payment, and at-home consumption, will successfully emerge from this pandemic.

Summary

During a time like COVID-19, the value of employing an experienced demand planner or sales analyst to better inform business decisions and prepare for greater visibility far outweighs their cost.

Next week we will be releasing Part 2 of this blog to comment on the increased competition for financial analysts and cost accountants in 2020. Please register here to be sure you receive it in your inbox: https://www.3ppartners.com/stay-in-touch/

Feel free to reach out to me to discuss the value that strong demand planners and sales analysts can contribute to your business: mquinn@3ppartners.com or 530-255-4481.

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