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

Many companies have invested heavily in IBP, believing it will be the silver bullet for their planning challenges. But all too often, the reality fails to live up to the hype – here’s why …

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If a 24-handicap recreational golfer splurges on the most expensive set of professional-grade clubs, will that make them a top player? Of course not. They might see small incremental gains in a few areas, but real improvement requires intensive coaching and unrelenting practice to develop the necessary technique and attitude to be the best.

Serious improvement requires a fundamental change in the golfer’s knowledge, skillset, and behaviours. Even the most advanced equipment will yield marginal results if you do not address these underlying factors.

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

For years, businesses have been sold on the transformative potential of IBP software and the hype-cycle is gathering momentum with the latest tranche of AI claims. Major vendors promise that their solutions will break down silos, optimize decision-making, and drive unparalleled agility. Lured by these promises, companies are investing significantly in IBP technology, expecting it to be the silver bullet that will solve their planning woes and deliver profitable growth.

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 effective integration and falls well short of the incremental value expected.

Changing behaviours

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 buying the appropriate software; it requires a fundamental shift in how people work together, share information, and make decisions. It demands new behaviours, skills, and ways of thinking that will often challenge deeply ingrained organizational habits and norms.

Neglecting these critical change management elements is a surefire recipe for under-achievement. 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, processes, and technology around a shared vision and business goals. It demands a relentless focus from leadership on behaviour change and capability building, supported by robust change management intervention. 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 never deliver on its initial promise. Companies that fail to prioritize behaviour change and change management do so at their peril.

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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 behavioural changes needed to foster genuine cross-functional collaboration across their portfolio and wider supply chain areas. 

This incomplete approach 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 inadequate visibility of significant risks and opportunities, forcing them into a reactive firefighting mode rather than effective, proactive planning that will deliver the business plan and strategy.  

Another common pitfall is the continued reliance on offline “shadow planning” in spreadsheets or bespoke tools. When the formal IBP process and supporting technology fail to meet the business needs, planners will revert to familiar manual workarounds. This creates additional work overall and critically undermines the integrity, alignment, and integration of plans across the business. 

The result is a strong disconnect between what’s happening on the ground and what’s being reported up the leadership chain, leading to unrealized financial benefits and that 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 and its capability has never been greater but is not a panacea. Achieving the full promise of IBP demands an equal focus on people, process, and technology.

A holistic approach

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At Oliver Wight, we’ve partnered with the Board to develop a unique IBP solution – Oliver Wight IBP Powered by Board – that puts process and people at the centre while leveraging Board’s powerful planning technology for seamless data transparency, 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 behaviours, 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 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 behaviours 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 the ‘way we work’, not just another software project. Indeed, with this holistic approach, companies can implement a “Class A” IBP process that delivers true integration and business value, with Board providing the enabling technology layer. 

Board’s flexible planning platform seamlessly connects data from any existing ERP, supply chain, and financial systems while providing powerful modelling 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 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 modelling 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 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 incremental benefits?

If so, it may be time for a reality check. Effective IBP is a journey, not a destination, and it requires an ongoing commitment to people, processes, 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 will 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-changing enabler for your business.

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