Happy 4th of July: What demand forecasting and the land of the free have in common

The 4th of July ranks as one of my favorite US Holidays – on equal footing with Thanksgiving. Both commemorate uniquely American experiences and events and fundamentally celebrate what makes this a great country.

Coincidentally, I was reading an interesting article from Niall Ferguson, the Scottish Historian who is a professor at Harvard and fulfills fellowships at Stanford and Oxford (yes I know, you are hugely interested – here is the link): http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2013/06/26/niall-ferguson-on-the-end-of-the-american-dream.html

While there are political undertones to the article, what struck me was the importance of remembering the fundamentals; not forgetting the critical focus points and capabilities that formed the basis of success for each of you.  Mr. Ferguson was focused on the United States as a country, but I am extending the key message to apply to individuals, associations and companies.

Huh?  How is relevant to demand forecasting?  To S&OP?  To anything involved with this blog or this industry or the people who may be so wise as to associate with Demand Foresight?

Well, it is a bit round about but here is my thinking.  Back in 2010, I wrote a piece about cloud computing.  The takeaway was that cloud computing would have an impact but real competitive advantage would go to those companies that utilized the cloud within the context of how it enabled their business strategy. Even more relevant today, the benefit of the cloud emerges through its application to the specific capabilities that make your company different, special and competitive:  for example, collaborating in real time with key customers on new product introductions.  These new product introductions have traditionally presented a challenge to demand forecasting, but are also critical to being a differentiator between companies and their competition.

However, the cloud as a technology disruptor is now joined by other disruptive concepts such as big data, in memory computing and causal analytics.  On the surface, each of these technologies can seem overwhelming and something that deserves huge attention and resources.  And they do, but only within the context of your vision and strategy for your company. You want the power of these technologies for when it’s appropriate, but be sure not to limit your enterprise and its ability to compete and thrive in a wholesale chase of technology for technology’s sake. The companies that outperform the competition over time are the ones that embrace their vision and ensure that everything in the enterprise, including technology, focuses on achieving that vision. At this particular point in time, with the advent of so many new technologies, what your company needs more than ever is a clear vision of what your competitive advantage is: decide what makes your company better, and find the right mix of technology (and ongoing adaptation/evolution, culture and people) that’s going to preserve and enhance that advantage.

And, in what should be no surprise to you at all, we maintain that those companies that designate demand forecasting and S&OP as a strategic capability will outperform their competition.

All of which brings me full circle to the start of this blog.  It is remarkable that we have the environment and the setting in which our focus can be topics such as the impact of big data on our ability to gain market share or fulfill a 5 year strategy. We have the freedom and the opportunity to concentrate on marshalling resources to compete and innovate and do good.  That is fantastic and is the result of the fundamentals on which this great country was founded – the land of opportunity and the land the free.  Happy 4th of July!

Ferguson, N. (2013, June 26). General format. Retrieved from http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2013/06/26/niall-ferguson-on-the-end-of-the-american-dream.html

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