In the current retail marketplace climate it is very difficult to accurately plan inventory demand and replenishment requirements across a large multi-channel chain.  This is because of both the velocity of changing consumer demands and the level of competition in the retail marketplace.  These changes in the marketplace and consumer demands are driving changes to the planning cycles and therefore changes across the entire extended supply chain and especially focused on inventory optimization.  The changes in the marketplace are causing upheaval in the planning cycle to support the inventory optimization requirements and this is driving new collaboration requirements to support shorter planning cycles.  These changes in the planning cycle ripple through the extended supply chain impacting relationships technology software and  processes along the way.


Technology software becomes even more important in this environment by supporting the ability to collect and sift through great amounts of data in planning and forecasting processes.  With a change in cycle duration it is even more important to incorporate robust analysis and planning software to support the velocity of changing demands in the required shortened cycle.  This is an important factor resulting from the changes driven by the consumer demands in the marketplace and I think it requires a strategic plan to both understand and then implement a strategic action plan to update the planning and forecasting cycles of the individual retailers. 


There must be a careful review of the changing marketplace demands and then the capabilities of the extended supply chain in order to fully define the business problem.  There are some key elements in the problem that must be included included in the analysis including the business problem, the future process and the the requirements of the future process.  With this information in hand the retailer can then collaborate with the extended supply chain and consumers to confirm the proposed process before starting the implementation process.  This can be a costly endeavor and must be fully understood in order to ensure the plan will produce the desired results.


The changes to the planning and forecasting cycles that must be implemented require technology improvements in order to support. The good news is that the technology is not new and especially not new to the sector.  This does, however, require rather dramatic changes to the process in order to support the new cycles.  In addition, although the technology is available to support the challenge, it does not mean that the technology has been implemented and utilized by retailers though and this is a large initiative to successfully implement. 


The technology solution should follow the business process review and revisions in order to understand and address the challenge.  This is critical and must not be addressed in the reverse order because that will ultimately not address the issues.  It is too easy to go down a path of a particular technology solution prior to fully defining the business problem and this results in a solution that does not solve the business problem. 


And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

ECommerce will have wide ranging impacts on both the retail and manufacturing sectors.  How can you focus these abilities to improve the consumer's experience?  Improving the consumer’s experience will require a re-evaluation of the sales channels, the manufacturing channels and practices and the supply chain channels and practices from the raw materials to the consumers’ homes.  In order to ensure and maintain success in this new reality you must harness the tools and capabilities in many new areas.  How can you support these continuously changing requirements?