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Ops, sales, marketing, HR — everyone needs business planning solutions!

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Ops, sales, marketing, HR — everyone needs business planning solutions!

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There is a misconception out there that business planning solutions are only for the finance team. To that, we say, “Au contraire, mon frère!” While it’s true that finance professionals depend on their planning applications for budgeting, forecasting and analysis, the same powerful solutions can be extremely useful in many other areas of the business.

Operations, sales, marketing, human resources and other departments and disciplines all have a need for fast, flexible planning and analysis. And all of them can use the same tools to provide insight and manage performance. When people in one part of the organization see how their decisions affect other parts of the organization, all of the organization’s activities will be better coordinated. So today, we’re going to highlight some of the use cases outside of finance and outline the benefits of integrating your planning across business functions. Here we go.


The term “operations” covers an enormous range of business activities. But one that’s almost universal is supply chain management. Efficient supply chain management is crucial to running any business cost-effectively. The complexity of today’s global supplier networks increases the need to understand all the linkages in the supply chain and mitigate risk by preparing alternatives, should the supply of a critical item be cut off for whatever reason.

Modern business planning solutions can help you do that. These solutions enable you to answer questions concerning capacity planning and inventory planning, identify supply chain business drivers and understand buying patterns based on item and vendor, price/quality balance and more. Spend analysis, for example, helps ensure that the business is sourcing goods cost-effectively while maximizing supplier quality and reliability.

Demand planning helps companies evaluate and improve purchasing and material management processes, policies and strategies, including factors such as logistics and shipping costs. Accurate demand forecasting will help prevent excess inventory and/or an inventory shortage by showing you when and where to adjust production plans. Analytics help you track how well your suppliers are responding to your needs and when to move from tactical procurement to long-term strategic relationships with suppliers. Finally, organizations need easy-to-use reports and analysis that can draw critical information from multiple sources to track operational KPIs and present them to decision makers in high-impact scorecards and dashboards.

Read how Allen Edmonds found the perfect fit between inventory levels and customer demand.

Learn more about IBM’s supply chain planning solution.

Human Resources (HR)

Human resources (HR) management involves hiring, training, managing headcount, staffing for growth and expansion and monitoring employee performance. Departmental workforce decisions need to be aligned with the short and long term needs of the organization and coordinated with production and output targets. And, of course, all of these decisions are constrained by budgets.

With the help of planning solutions, salary and benefits, as well as merit and bonus decisions and complex fixed and variable compensation plans, can be managed at the employee or group level for any industry or company—even those spread over multiple countries. In addition, external data can help the HR team make sure that compensation is competitive.

Planning solutions can help identify the true drivers of retention and attrition, determine which employees are at high risk of leaving by job role and other factors and show which incentives are most important to improving retention Finally, driver-based modelling can link headcount plans to areas such as operations, production and customer service to accurately calculate the impact of workforce decisions on the financial plan.

Read how Natura Cosméticos efficiently manages a workforce of thousands of in-store retail consultants.

Learn more about IBM’s workforce planning solution.


IT departments have one of the toughest balancing acts in business. They are responsible for the most secret and secure back-office processes and for the very public face of their organizations—in the form of company websites. They need to manage complex projects and coordinate spending for multiple IT vendors to ensure that projects deliver needed capabilities on schedule and on budget.

Business planning solutions help IT leaders with both project planning and portfolio planning to select the right platforms, technology and software, as well as shared services planning and talent, all while budget forecasting to allocate resources and avoid cost overruns. Many ad hoc projects require that resources and capital be re-allocated from other ongoing or planned activities. So it is essential to be able to make adjustments on the fly.

Planning solutions can help organizations make those quick adjustments and also efficiently plan and budget for major capital expenditures to improve the organization’s IT infrastructure and equip the business for the next era of digital transformation.

Read how Hunter Industries saved 32 hours per month in forecast preparation time, freeing up time for value-added analysis.

Learn more about IBM’s IT planning solution.


If IT’s role is a balancing act, the sales team has a more singular focus: closing deals. In order to accomplish this most basic of business functions, the sales team needs a holistic view of past performance and current market conditions to use in sales forecasting, territory planning, quota planning and more. Planning solutions can provide that holistic view.

With spreadsheets and legacy systems, it’s often difficult to provide the data and insight needed with regard to opportunities, leads and pipeline. But modern planning solutions enable sales organizations to consolidate historical data with real-time data inputs from the field. They can connect sales forecasts with operational tactics and marketing and financial plans to respond to market opportunities and threats.

Managers can monitor sales quota attainment across the organization at any level of granularity required.  Sales dashboards and scorecards can be used to track results and help direct resources to the most promising and profitable opportunities and to align sales efforts with marketing and production plans. At the corporate level, planning solutions help identify the best sales channels and also guide incentive compensation management. Real-time planning provides insights into how to increase cross-sell and up-sell opportunities and share of wallet. They also allow you to adjust forecasts as needed, even in the middle of a sales planning cycle.

Read how winemaker Rotkäppchen-Mumm increased the accuracy of sales forecasts by 22%.

Learn more about IBM’s sales planning solution.


Marketing organizations face multiple challenges in connecting their investments with sales results, and in simply proving the value of marketing activities to the organization. Using manual processes, they often struggle to get a clear view of how marketing activities affect one another, how the combination of marketing and sales touches moves a lead through the buyer journey and how marketing helps achieve overall financial and business goals.

Business planning solutions can be an invaluable aid in promotion planning, funnel analysis and the alignment of campaigns and programs with sales targets. To maximize the ROI of marketing spend, planning solutions can link marketing programs with customer and product profitability—to make sure that marketing efforts are directed toward the most profitable products and the best customers. They can use campaign scorecards to deliver timely and meaningful insights on marketing programs to key stakeholders.

Planning solutions enable marketing teams to manage complex hierarchies involving geographies, product groups, promotional channels and more at different levels of granularity. Then they can react with agility to changing market conditions to connect marketing tactics and plans to sales and financial plans.

Read how Grupo Boticário gained a deeper understanding of what consumers want, enabling smarter sales, marketing and production planning.

Learn more about IBM’s marketing planning solution.

Two ways to get smarter about business planning solutions

That’s just a quick overview of how business planning solutions can serve line-of-business users across the organization. Perhaps the biggest benefit comes from the ability to coordinate and integrate planning across these different areas of the organization. Take a look at our interactive smartpaper for more insight into the capabilities of our premier planning solution, IBM Planning Analytics.


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