SAP IBP S&OP and APO: To Be or Not To Be?

Saroj Tripathi, VP, Field Operations NA and ANZ

For a number of years, I’ve worked with a variety of businesses to help overcome supply chain challenges. From inventory to capacity utilization, product mix to customer service levels, revenue and more, the modern supply chain is both complex and constantly changing. To overcome these challenges and meet increasing customer expectations, digital transformation is critical, but that requires the right mix of technology and processes. That mix is different for every organization, which is why it’s imperative for me to understand goals and lay the right groundwork.

Last week, a CIO of a large, multinational corporation visited the Bristlecone office to explore how SAP solutions could help his company overcome the typical supply chain challenges while bolstering sales and operations planning. After enjoying copious amounts of coffee to prepare us for our full-day workshop, we dug in. Ultimately, his goal is for each business unit to be able run scenario simulations around acquiring new customers, utilizing asset capacity, entering into a new market, etc., to determine the bottom-line impact prior to execution. However, using current tools was time-consuming and produced unreliable outputs.

Here’s a bit of background: The company has over 50 business units divided into 10 platforms ranging from food to crop production, steel and more. A small number of business units are using SAP ECC, while the majority leverage legacy ERP. Those business units are slated to move to the SAP platform in the next four-to-five years. The company is also in the process of rolling out the SAP APO-based supply chain planning solution, but the majority of the business units are using a combination of manual processes and Microsoft Excel.

Armed with questions, the CIO wanted to know: Should they consider SAP IBP-based S&OP? What would be a good fit for their business units for APO? Do they need to replace APO? Can business units with no SAP backend and manual planning adopt IBP S&OP?

To arrive at the answers he needed, we presented Bristlecone’s proprietary transition evaluation framework that uses a Diagnose, Profile and Roadmap format. The Diagnose step looks at business processes, systems, decision support and data/integration to assess the effectiveness of existing processes and technologies in solving S&OP-related challenges. Based on the outcome, we move to the Profile phase, which categorizes the business units into four buckets based on existing processes, future requirements and technology:

  • Co-exist with the APO
  • Replace the APO with IBP S&OP
  • Do nothing
  • Start a new implementation

From there, we can develop the Roadmap to include processes, people, data conversion, integration, and implementation and change management.

While I can’t divulge the specific roadmap we’re working on for this client, I can say this: we’ve deployed this framework multiple times with multiple companies, and we’ve seen success every single time. Why? Because we have a deep understanding of industries, APO and IBP S&OP – and we also take the time to understand every client’s unique needs. That combination gives us the tools we need to help our clients get one step closer to achieving digital transformation.


To learn more about integrated supply chain planning using SAP IBP and Bristlecone’s approach, watch our webinar on demand.