Reality check: is your Integrated Business Planning software really delivering value?

08 Jul 2024


If a 24-handicap golfer splurges on the most expensive set of professional-grade clubs, will that make them a scratch player? Of course not. They might see some incremental gains, but real improvement requires intensive training and deliberate practice to develop proper technique. 

More importantly, it requires a fundamental change in the golfer's mindset, habits, and behaviors. Even the most advanced equipment will yield marginal results without addressing these underlying factors.

The same principle applies to Integrated Business Planning (IBP). Betting on software without investing heavily in behavior change, process redesign, and change management support will not pay off.

For years, businesses have been sold on the transformative potential of IBP software. Major vendors promise that their solutions will break down silos, optimize decision-making, and drive unparalleled agility. Lured by these promises, many companies have invested significantly in IBP technology, expecting it to be the silver bullet for their planning woes. 

However, as industry leaders in IBP education and implementation, we've seen this scenario play out time and time again. Companies purchase "best-in-class" IBP software, only to find that it fails to deliver proper integration and business value. 


Changing behaviors

The root cause is a myopic focus on technology as the golden solution without adequate attention to the human side of the equation. Implementing IBP is not just a matter of installing new software; it requires a fundamental shift in how people work together, share information, and make decisions. It demands new behaviors, skills, and ways of thinking that often challenge deeply ingrained organizational habits and norms.

Neglecting these critical change management elements is a surefire recipe for disappointment. No matter how sophisticated the software, it will only deliver results if people actually use it and use it well. And that requires a sustained investment in communication, training, coaching, and reinforcement to drive adoption and proficiency.


The hard truth is that no software solution, no matter how powerful, can deliver IBP results in isolation. 

Effective IBP is not just about connecting data and planning systems – it's about fundamentally changing how the business works. It requires a holistic approach that aligns people, process, and technology around a shared vision and business goals. It demands a relentless focus on behavior change and capability building, supported by robust change management interventions. Neglecting the people and process elements of this equation is a recipe for disappointment.

Without this focus on the human side of the equation, even the most advanced IBP software will struggle to deliver its promise. Companies that fail to prioritize behavior change and change management do so at their own peril.


Consequences of incomplete IBP

Unfortunately, many IBP software implementations focus narrowly on technical capabilities like supply and demand matching while ignoring critical process gaps and behavioral changes needed to foster genuine cross-functional collaboration. 

This incomplete approach often leads to misaligned plans and KPIs across business functions, resulting in conflicting priorities and sub-optimal trade-offs. Without a comprehensive, integrated view of the business, decision-makers are left with incomplete visibility of risks and opportunities, forcing them into reactive firefighting mode rather than proactive strategic planning.  

Another common pitfall is the continued reliance on offline "shadow planning" in spreadsheets. When the official IBP process and technology fail to meet the business's needs, planners often revert to familiar manual workarounds. This creates additional work and critically undermines the integrity and alignment of official plans. 

The result is a disconnect between what's happening on the ground and what's being reported up the chain, leading to unrealized financial benefits and an elusive return on investment. Over time, this erodes executive confidence and buy-in, risking the entire IBP initiative.

These challenges are not insurmountable but overcoming them requires a fundamental shift in mindset and approach. Technology is a critical enabler of IBP but is not a panacea. Achieving the full promise of IBP demands an equal focus on people and processes.


A holistic approach

At Oliver Wight, we've partnered with Board to develop a unique IBP solution that puts process and people at the center while leveraging Board's powerful planning technology for seamless data integration and analysis. 

Our approach emphasizes three key elements:

  1. We work closely with clients to design a comprehensive IBP process tailored to their specific business needs and culture. This effort is supported by extensive cross-functional education to build a shared understanding of IBP principles and benefits, leadership coaching to drive alignment and model new behaviors, and hands-on workshops to define roles, decision rights, and business rules. By investing time upfront to define and socialize the new working methods, we ensure they are understood, accepted, and adopted across the organization.
  2. Rather than a "big bang" software implementation, we configure and deploy Oliver Wight IBP Powered by Board in an agile, phased approach. This allows us to rapidly build out key capabilities, demonstrate value, gather user feedback, and iterate – accelerating time-to-value and building momentum and buy-in. We emphasize hands-on training and practice throughout deployment to build user confidence and proficiency. 
  3. We deploy new processes and enable technology side-by-side, deliberately reinforcing new behaviors and decision-making practices. Structured post-implementation checkpoints help monitor adoption and performance, identify gaps and improvement opportunities, and fine-tune the process to fit the unique rhythms of the business. 

This integrated approach to process and technology deployment helps ensure that IBP becomes a way of life, not just another software project. Indeed, with this holistic approach, companies can implement a "Class A" IBP process that delivers real integration and business value, with Board providing the enabling technology layer. 

Board's flexible planning platform seamlessly connects data from existing ERP, supply chain, and financial systems while providing powerful modeling and analytics capabilities. The result is "a single version of the truth" to power a monthly IBP cycle focused on driving tangible results. 

Imagine dynamically aligning your product portfolio plans to shifting market needs, optimizing your supply and demand picture across an extended network to maximize profitability, and identifying and mitigating risks and opportunities in real time to drive proactive decision-making. 

Each IBP cycle translates operational plans into financial outcomes, closing the loop between strategy and execution. Robust scenario modeling capabilities allow you to stress-test your plans against various potential futures so you can adapt with agility as conditions change. That's the power of genuine IBP, and it's within reach for any organization willing to do the work. 


Time for a reality check?

Genuine IBP transformation is not a trivial undertaking, and technology is still a critical enabler. Yet by leading with process and people, supported by fit-for-purpose planning software, companies can avoid common pitfalls and accelerate time-to-value. 

So, before you sign that next IBP software contract, we encourage you to step back and consider: are you investing adequately in process design and change management, or just hoping new software will magically transform your planning capabilities? Have you fallen prey to the shiny-object syndrome, expecting technology alone to deliver IBP benefits?

If so, it may be time for an IBP reality check. Effective IBP is a journey, not a destination, and it requires an ongoing commitment to people, process, and technology in equal measure. The rewards – enhanced visibility, alignment, agility, and business performance – are worth the effort.

If you're ready for a different approach – one that delivers on IBP's true promise – we encourage you to reach out. Oliver Wight and Board stand ready to help you drive genuine transformation and competitive advantage. Let's move beyond the hype and be honest about what it takes to make IBP a game-changer for your business.

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