How can CIOs best transition from SAP APO to SAP IBP?

Powered by HANA, SAP IBP can help companies gain faster sales and operations planning. Here's what CIOs need to know to implement IBP successfully.

CIOs can get ready to welcome a new planning tool in the form of SAP Integrated Business Planning.

Set to eventually replace Advanced Planning and Optimization, or SAP APO, by 2025, SAP IBP is the next-generation sales and operations (S&OP) planning tool. It harnesses HANA cloud for optimized materials demand and supply situations and can run on either HANA Enterprise Cloud or HANA Cloud Platform. SAP IBP uses HANA Cloud Integrator (HCI) to pull planning data off of SAP and non-SAP systems, as well as from Microsoft Excel or even flat files for materials' demand, supply and financial planning. When compared with SAP APO, one feature that positions IBP as a preferred planning tool is the option to simulate various demand and supply scenarios in real-time, which helps with fast decision making. In addition, IBP also uses the Excel interface that business users are more familiar and comfortable working with.

For all of IBP's benefits, CIOs needs to bear in mind that HANA in general and IBP in particular are still relatively new, which means fewer successful IBP implementations to refer to. Moreover, the feverish pace at which SAP is releasing new features and functionality every quarter is likely to evoke questions on how long to wait before embarking on an IBP implementation journey. Only detailed implementation planning and immaculate execution can ensure IBP success. To that end, here are few implementation tips to help CIOs:

  • Treat SAP IBP as an implementation project and not an upgrade. Days when data delays that, in turn, resulted in decision-making delays will soon be gone. IBP on HANA works incredibly fast, which means that companies must evaluate their business and materials forecasting models, once again, to see how to harness the available data or gather new data to make informed and timely business decisions.
  • Start small and focused. Since SAP IBP is still evolving, with new features constantly added, it makes sense to start small and focused to derive instant business benefits. For example, companies can start with one specific group of products or product line and begin IBP implementation by extensively working on supply and demand planning and associated financial planning. Lessons learned are then easier to replicate in other areas where IBP gets implemented.
  • Involve stakeholders and let them be the IBP brand and change ambassadors. Successful IBP implementation requires active management of stakeholders who are not only able to comprehensively design a S&OP solution in IBP, but who can also act as change agents for smoother IBP implementation in other divisions or product lines.
  • Be patient during the IBP journey. IBP is still evolving, which means some planning features may still not be there yet, while the existing features may have issues or face dumps or have bugs that need fixing. Closely working with SAP's early adopter teams, which do extensive guidance for clients, can lead to a better SAP IBP implementation experience.

For those who create a comprehensive strategy and engage in a methodical implementation, the potential rewards are tremendous. 

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