How to improve sales and operations planning with analytics

business worker on laptop in warehouseHave you ever thought about how to improve your Sales and Operations Planning (S&OP) process beyond where you might be today? There's certainly no lack of advice on the topic of S&OP on the Internet. Some articles focus on the overall process while others focus on S&OP software and related support tools. In my experience, effective sales and operations planning is a combination of both process and technology – with a concentration on collaboration, stakeholder buy-in, executive  support and the adoption of analytics.

I like the Wikipedia definition of Sales and Operations Planning:

S&OP as an integrated business management process through which the executive/leadership team continually achieves focus, alignment and synchronization among all functions of the organization.

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Big data in an age of uncertainty

42-53683135In recent times, Britain has increasingly developed an "inquiry culture." Whenever there’s malpractice or a scandal – be it the Leveson inquiry or the recent investigation into the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust – an inquiry serves to give citizens, public leaders and governing bodies an explanation of how and why things went wrong.

As a result, inquiries often uncomfortably uncover the truth, with no passing the buck or hiding behind ifs and buts. But what if you had evidence to back up your decision for enacting a particular policy in the first place? In today’s uncertain times, no one knows when the next bump in the road is going to occur. But one thing is certain – evidence is necessary. Doctors use it to make diagnoses based on patient symptoms. Police officers need it to obtain search warrants. So when it comes to government leaders enacting policies, wouldn’t evidence be just as useful?

When it comes to policy making, the government has much to gain from adopting an approach based on empirical evidence. We recently conducted some research in conjunction with Dods which revealed that, while evidence-based decision making has improved under the coalition government, further progress is needed to realise the full potential of its big data. Evidence isn’t hard to come by – the very nature of the public sector means that it is the largest source of big data in existence. Yet, without the right training and solutions, civil servants are unable to use data to its best effect.

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True digital marketing intelligence is all in the data!

At a recent MESA - Hollywood IT Society Digital Marketing conference, Claudio Ludovisi, SVP, Operational Strategy NBCU Entertainment for Marketing & Digital took a live poll of about 200 or so media marketing executives in the audience and asked them to “Think about what it takes to achieve true multiplatform marketing ... what ONE word comes to mind?”

Within seScreen Shot 2014-10-07 at 2.18.22 PMconds this word cloud began to appear and it was apparent that the winner was data! Besides marketing synergy, audience engagement, and strategy, it is all about the data – specifically big data that comes from:  offline first-party CRM and transactional data; online digital analytics data (structured and unstructured, known and anonymous) from web analytics and advertising offerings; and third-party data from data management platforms.  All of these are equally important and are a summation of how today’s ever connected consumers are interacting with brands and content.

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Can data governance stop data lakes from becoming data swamps?

At a time when most of the buzz about big data is focused on the technology and the exciting opportunities that it creates, I find that little attention is being given to the way that big data is impacting the culture of organizations. In particular, I'd like to see more discussions on how organizations should adapt to prevent their data lakes from becoming data swamps!

The adoption of big data technologies has the potential to radically change the way organizations make decisions and how the business and IT collaborate in managing data assets to create useful insights.

New data sources and new business scenarios are calling for an even stronger data governance framework.

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Behold, pathetic mortals, a vampire's data visualization dashboard

Valuable information for vampiresGreetings, insignificant souls.

You may call me … Gregor Castamere. It is not my true name. I stalked this strip of land when it was called New Amsterdam. My family’s name is well known. I have lived for more than 600 years, concealing my terrible secret. I am a vampire.

Why, after six centuries, would I risk my anonymity? I am in possession of such useful data visualization technology that I am compelled to share it with the world. The people of SAS were likewise … compelled, to provide this forum. They will be rewarded with their lives.

Today, I share with you my SAS dashboard. It contains information a vampire needs, at a glance, to hunt, feed and survive.

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Four tips for putting business users in touch with Hadoop

The Global Hadoop market was valued at $1.5 billion in 2012 and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 58.2 percent, to reach $50.2 billion by 2020, according to a Hadoop Market Analysis report prepared by Allied Market Research

There is no doubt that IT teams are often taking the lead in driving the adoption of Hadoop, as they look to optimize spend and prepare for a future featuring a lot more data, but they are not alone. Increasingly, analysts and business users are starting to significantly influence that growth as the potential of Hadoop becomes clear to them.

Based on my interactions with analysts and business leaders, there are a four main drivers I often hear users talking about when it comes to why they want to see the adoption of Hadoop:

  • Access to more data: Analysts and business users are looking to have quick access to more data, oftentimes not pre-aggregated, in order improve the accuracy of reports and analytical models. Access to more historical and granular data can help analysts to further tailor messages to a specific customer or market segment for example.
  • Access to new data sources: Quick access to new data sources such as Social Media, Open Data, Dar Data has fast became the need of the day in order to better understand consumer behavior and market shifts. These new data sources require quicker on-boarding of the data to be useful for decision making purposes and in many cases business users and analysts are frustrated by their lack of access to these emerging data sources.
  • Existing data warehouse projects are slower in on-boarding new data sources: Big data sources such as Web logs, sensor and machine data, social data, etc., are blending up with enterprise data for better & accurate business insights. However, many on-going DWH initiatives were or are focused on dealing with structured data. According to a recent Deloitte article in the Wall Street Journal, “90 percent of the data warehouses process just 20 percent of an enterprise’s data. Consequently, many enterprises have only been able to use their data warehouses for historical analysis and past performance reporting.” Fulfilling requirements of new big data sources for business insights are seeing longer turnaround cycles and this is frustrating business users and analysts.
  • Self-service data discovery & analysis: Business users are looking to explore new data sources themselves for business insights so that they can quickly operationalize business decisions either for competitive advantage or in order to avoid monetary risks. Read More »
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Analytic benchmarking against a virtual oil portfolio

Volatility. It’s a business reality for energy market participants and it’s been a wild ride for the oil marketing business over the past few weeks. How has your energy risk data helped you navigate the recent increase in volatility and precipitous price drop?

This month, we are launching a recurring simulation exercise nicknamed VirtualOil. This is a fictitious portfolio that readers can use as a generic benchmark to compare against their own physical oil commodity book’s performance. Each month we’ll update the VirtualOil portfolio and reflect on what the visual analytics (shown below) can tell us about energy risk management.

What exactly is VirtualOil? It’s a hypothetical derivatives-based oil production firm, which simulates the performance of a generic crude oil asset and delivers sectorial exposure to the commodity oil market. Specifically, the VirtualOil structure:

  • Starts up with an investment of $350 million in monthly average price call options with a strike price of $50 a barrel on the price of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) light sweet crude oil.
  • The strip of options starts at 10,000 barrels per day and extends out for 5 years with a 20 percent average annual decline in underlying notional barrels, replicating a physical oil asset.
  • VirtualOil initially holds notional crude oil reserves of approx. 10 million barrels.
  • Monthly cash flow is generated when the daily average WTI price relative to the preceding month exceeds $50 per barrel.
  • Cash flow is reinvested monthly at 5 percent and the project winds up when the reserves are depleted.

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It’s not just ANNY award for Ford

Ford HQ_flickr_commonsPerhaps the greatest legacy that Ford Motor Company’s former chief executive, Alan Mulally, left behind is a culture of analytics. Ford began using analytics in the late 1990’s, but it wasn’t until their financial woes in the 2000’s and Mulally’s arrival in 2006, that analytics started to be used regularly for strategic decision making.

Mulally was often known to begin meetings by saying, “Data will set you free," and insisting on seeing the data. It’s no coincidence that Ford weathered the recession a few years later better than any of its domestic rivals and is today one of the strongest automakers around.

In recognition of their hard work and dedication to the use of analytics to run their business, Ford was presented the 2014 Excellence in Analytics Award (otherwise known as the ANNY) by The International Institute for Analytics (IIA) at the Chief Analytics Officer Summit earlier this week.

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SMAC 1.0 and SMAC 2.0 becoming the norm

148984553In my last post, I talked about my theory of SMAC 1.0 (social, mobile, analytics and cloud technologies) and SMAC 2.0 (sensors, machines, analytics and connected systems).

As we evolve to SMAC 2.0, our expectations also evolve. Soon, machine-to-machine and machine-to-consumer activity in an open, connected society will be talked about as the norm, and with a sense of entitlement instead of a sense of wonder. For example, you are likely part of the SMAC 2.0 era already, if you take part in any of the interactive games that come from major hardware and software companies.

Within the video gaming industry, an immersive user-to-system experience is becoming the norm. Think about how games, such as the Wii, ask you to create your own personal avatar,  monitor your participation in the game and, provide opportunities to send content from the game to your email or  social media accounts, such as Facebook. Likewise, SMAC environments are becoming more personal and tailored to individual experiences or business requirements.

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Building brand ambassadors around the world

If you are a citizen of a western industrialized country and were born in the 1970s, you probably grew up in a multicultural society. Personally, I come from such a society and I was always extremely excited about meeting people with different cultural backgrounds. My classmates and friends came from all over the world and it was a gift to grow up with so many different influences.

Today, I work for a fantastic company that was “born” in the 1970s, too! Working at SAS has opened up a new dimension of diversity experiences for me. My colleagues, teams and virtual teams work together closely all around the globe. Every day, we discover similarities – both related to our work and personal lives - and we learn (together!) to benefit from cross-cultural differences.


Employees from SAS Germany celebrate a regional best place to work award.

As a leading analytics software vendor, SAS works hard to assure employee-friendly workplaces all around the world – and focuses on making each office culture and experience relevant for each respective regions and culture.

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