A Guide To S&OP (Sales & Operations Planning) Meetings (+Tips)

Sales and operations planning (S&OP) can present challenges. But with these helpful tips, you can get everyone on the same page.

Sales and operations planning (S&OP) can take time. From scenario planning to understanding everyone’s roles and responsibilities, implementing S&OP is a process. It often means setting realistic short-term goals and meeting with your team a bunch. But with so many different types of meetings to keep track of, isn’t that last part asking a lot? Not when you can lean on this handy S&OP meetings guide – read on to make everything super easy for your team. 

What is an S&OP meeting?

An S&OP meeting is a meeting held at least monthly where department leads and executives focus on sales, supply, and demand planning and execution. It’s about figuring out what’s working with your demand and supply plans and changing things up where you need a fresh perspective. Essentially, your S&OP meeting is your chance to go over all your data to predict your future supply and demand – and act accordingly. 

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S&OP roles and responsibilities

S&OP – especially supply chain planning – starts with data. That means it starts with the people who can get you that data. And that’s why it’s important to know who’s who in S&OP. Below is a guide to S&OP roles and responsibilities. 

  • Executive management 

At the top, there’s executive management, which includes the CEO or organizational leader. This person serves as the chair of the executive S&OP meeting. They’re the top authority when it comes to making sales and operations decisions.  

  • Demand planner

The demand planner has the important job of sharing the demand plan with the group. They’ll likely work with the sales team to get the data for their demand plan. They’ll then present a realistic look at your near-future demand. This can shape how you plan your supply. 

  • Operations leader

You have to figure out the demand for your offerings before you can determine the supply. That’s where the operations leader comes in – this person uses the demand plan to create a supply plan. They also run your supply meetings and move the supply planning team in the right direction. Your operations leader has a lot of control over your S&OP strategy – they can mold it like clay. 

  • Supply planning and master scheduling

Following closely behind the operations leader is the supply planning and master scheduling team. This group updates your inventory at least monthly and shares it during S&OP meetings. This role also looks at lead times, the number of goods produced in a timeframe, and seller performance. 

  • Sales and marketing leader

You can have a good product, but you won’t make a profit until you sell the product without going overboard on costs. Of course, you probably knew that – and you can probably imagine how this ties into S&OP meetings. The sales and marketing leader always has this idea in mind. They look at your sales numbers and set the record straight for peak forecast accuracy. 

  • Sales team

Your sales team is your organization’s direct link to your customers. This team can speak on behalf of your shoppers so your organization can serve them better. Your sales team plays a big part in updating the monthly sales forecast and explaining how it affects demand during S&OP meetings. 

Steps of the S&OP processes

To prepare for S&OP meetings, you’ll need to move your team through the S&OP process. Here’s what that looks like. 

1Product review 

This first step is looking at the product itself: How is it doing in its market? The demand planner can provide the data you need here. This phase might involve meetings about when to roll out a new product and what that could mean for your other products. 

2Demand review 

Since demand comes before supply, it’s only natural that the product review leads to a demand review. This is a series of discussions on anticipated demand to help you avoid wasting money on too much supply. You’ll create your demand plan from your data on past performance and sales and marketing predictions. Sure, it’s not an exact science, but your sales, marketing, and customer service teams can help you paint a clearer picture. 

3Supply review

Your demand plan can get your team behind supply planning solutions that will keep you ready to serve your customers. This can keep your organization profitable and balance your supply chain. Bring your manufacturing and logistics teams in here to make sure your inventory expectations are realistic. 

This is a great example of why cross-functional collaboration is so important during S&OP planning processes. It’s all well and good to come up with ideal numbers, but you have to make sure your plans are realistic too. Working together with the teams that know best can yield those results. 

4Finance review

It’s best practice to look at your finances at every step of the way. This way, you can come up with accurate, effective demand and supply plans. And sure, you can first look at your numbers after the first few steps, but you’re best off including the finance department along the way. This can eliminate surprises down the road and increase the chances of your numbers adding up. 

5Pre-S&OP

Pre-S&OP is kind of like the dress rehearsal before the big show (the executive S&OP meeting). Ideally, all the different departments involved in all the steps before this one meet regularly to share their findings and get on the same page. You should ask someone to be your meeting facilitator to keep the meeting on track and organized. 

6Executive S&OP

This is the golden goose of the planning process. When you’ve made it to the executive meeting, you’ve put everything in place to present your well-thought-out plan. Here, you’ll show everyone your data, demand plan, supply plan, and finance review. This gives executive leadership everything they need to know so they can make the right decisions with the right information. 

Example of an S&OP meeting

Here’s an example of a typical format for an S&OP meeting, regardless of the S&OP phase. 

1Create an agenda

Your meeting agenda will keep your meeting on track. It’s the source of truth when discussions go off the rails, rerouting the group like a reliable GPS. It’s what you’ll talk about and the eventual source of your meeting action items, and it’s also a living, breathing document. That’s why it’s best to email everyone the agenda beforehand to keep the team on the same page. Send it in advance to see if anyone has any questions or changes. 

2Look at the S&OP calendar

To start, it’s a good idea to go over the S&OP calendar. You can determine whether or not the team is on track to reach all your goals. After all, you’ll have everyone in one place, so when better to align everyone? Plus, you can review important dates, such as the executive S&OP meeting, so you remember to get everything in place. Important dates can include a new product launch date so you can track the team’s progress and ensure the launch goes smoothly. 

3Go over data and metrics

This part of the meeting involves a look at all the data and metrics behind your demand and supply plans. You’ll go over your sales numbers and compare your organization’s numbers with the market at large. This data is key for executives so they can make the most informed decisions possible. It can also help you decide whether additional research and other tasks are needed.

4Review last month’s performance

The only way you can figure out how you’re doing right now is to look at your recent monthly numbers. When you go over your current data and metrics, compare them to last month’s numbers. See if you can find consistent weak points, and ask your departments to share pain points and successes at your meeting. When you include sales, operations, and finance, everyone gets the whole picture instead of a zoomed-in look at one detail. 

You can review action items and inventory changes from last month to make smart decisions about what needs to happen this month. Maybe the inventory isn’t matching the demand, so the demand plan could require a tune-up – add and assign that as a meeting action item. 

5Examine the yearly plan by category 

The S&OP process isn’t limited to month-by-month planning. A rolling 12-month demand plan can also be helpful. You should look at this plan by category to address short-term hiccups and roadblocks. Customer service can best speak to areas where your organization is losing customers. Your sales team can help everyone see why a new product isn’t moving as much as you’d expected. When everyone is on the same page, there’s less confusion and more progress. 

6Restate your new action items 

Throughout the meeting, new action items will come up. You should summarize those action items before everyone goes back to their day-to-day work. This can lessen the chance of things getting lost in translation or falling through the cracks. 

It’s always smart to send the agenda and meeting notes – with assigned action items – via email shortly after the meeting ends. This way, you give everyone a written point of reference to return to if they need a refresher on your S&OP meeting. The human brain has information limits, so give it a little help with a well-documented meeting. 

Tips on how to conduct an S&OP meeting

With the above structure in mind, here are tips you can return to time and again for smooth S&OP meetings. The thread running through all these tips is to expect the unexpected with meetings – the below can keep you prepared for whatever pops up. 

  • Involve executive support and engagement 

Keeping team leaders and the organization lead involved in executive S&OP meetings can reduce the chances of unexpected changes and surprises. Since the CEO or president has the final say, you should inform them of important decisions along the way. When they aren’t in the loop, confusion and the loss of valuable time can result. When your teams instead work together like a well-oiled machine and keep key stakeholders in the know, the possibilities are limitless. 

  • Keep your S&OP meetings cross-functional, but not overcrowded

S&OP is a process that takes a village, so be mindful of which key players to involve throughout the process. If you’re missing your quarterback, then how can you take home the championship title? 

Think about it like this: Maybe you don’t need everyone from the supply side. The supply chain leader alone can probably speak on behalf of their team to ensure that the supply perspective is at the table. Your goal is to have the most important characters on your stage rather than the whole cast.

  • Try solving problems constructively 

Understandably, people in different departments will have different perspectives. This can create tension and conflict, but you can always resolve conflicts during meetings. If anything, S&OP meetings are a great time to voice concerns and come together to create a great plan. 

Don’t shy away from hard conversations, but do keep them focused on working toward a solution. This can mean an action item of more data research or a follow-up meeting if a talking point is taking up too much time. 

  • Change up the meeting structure

No meeting structure is absolute. It can – and should – change based on the needs that come up in the S&OP process. Maybe you want to include a brainstorming session in an S&OP meeting with lower-level executives to think outside the box. Don’t let the process trap you – the best ideas come from unexpected innovation.

  • Look at the technology you’re using 

Technology and tools can be your best friends when it comes to S&OP planning. Look at the tools you’re using and make sure they’re actually helping you reach your S&OP goals. With so many tools available, you could be using too many platforms, and that can get in the way of progress. Evaluate what’s in your toolbelt, and add or take away from it depending on your needs. One thing you’ll definitely need: a reliable meeting platform for your S&OP meetings.

Make the most of S&OP meetings 

There are lots of moving pieces in the S&OP planning process. That means you’ll want to check as many boxes as possible in the least amount of time during your S&OP meetings. When you include Fellow in your toolbelt, your S&OP meetings can run more smoothly. You’ll get customizable meeting agendas that you can share and tweak ahead of meeting time, alongside the ability to assign meeting action items. It’s the easiest way to streamline your S&OP collaboration and rise up to your demand.


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