Without a crystal ball or a psychic on staff, it's difficult to know what your customers will want a few months or years from now--unless you turn to product demand planning. Also called business demand management or business demand forecasting, demand planning uses information from past sales, in addition to "what if" scenarios and simulations, to identify what led to previous sales success, and predict what is likely to be in demand in the near future.
There are three primary methods of demand planning and forecasting:
- Enlisting a consultant to conduct a product demand planning analysis
- Performing your own demand forecasting with demand planning software
- Training your staff in demand chain planning, so you can designate certain employees to perform that function
Hire a consultant to perform demand planning assessmentsAs with many business practices, especially if they're company-wide, if you're new to the concept or making sweeping changes in how you do business, you may want to hire a consultant rather than tackle the job yourself. These consultants can perform product demand planning analysis, and create a demand planning strategy you can continue to use on your own.
Automate the process with demand planning toolsDemand planning software makes it easier for employees at various levels of the company to contribute to the demand plan, by using a collaborative approach that allows input from multiple users. This demand planning tool also makes it easier to track and analyze the many factors that impact sales, and to predict sales for hundreds or even thousands of products.
Train your staff in business demand planningIf you want to make demand planning a permanent part of your corporate practices, it may be worth the investment to send current employees to a training program so they can oversee long-term planning processes.
- If you're hiring a consultant to perform your demand planning assessments, take a look at their client list to make sure they have experience working with your size company and in your industry. Most consulting firms post that information on their website.