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Monthly cycles are so passé … or at least that’s your opportunity

If only I had more time!

It’s a common cry from employees and employers across the globe. Time spent on administrative, laborious activities suck productivity from businesses across all industries. But imagine if you could release more time into your day to free yourself up for the activities that actually matter and add value…

Integrated Business Planning (IBP) has become an essential approach to decision-making for many businesses, allowing its leaders to align financial, organisational and strategic goals with their wider business processes. It promotes collaboration across all functions and uses data to drive decisions. Typically, it is performed on a monthly cycle, which arose from the time it took to extract, manage and analyse the data to drive the IBP process. It relied on spreadsheets. It relied on tables. It relied on legacy data that was as siloed as the functions from which it originated. The value of this planning cycle can become beholden to the process, and as such, it can be a time sink.

We have since come a long way. Real-time information and analytics have reduced the time taken to gather, process and analyse data, allowing for instantaneous snapshots of a company and automated decision-making. So is IBP ready for a redesign?

Nowadays, with the newest advanced planning solutions, the data required for the planning process can be accessed and analysed in real-time, immediately. It can be combined with previously inaccessible data that includes many other causal factors; such as user behaviours, real-time market information, macroeconomic information, competitor intelligence and environmental conditions, to allow for complex forecasting and what-if scenario planning, letting companies respond quickly and effectively. Modern systems use cloud-based software, so that data is accessible anywhere there is an internet connection. It can be used in conjunction with AI and machine learning, to enhance and refine models so that they are predictive, rather than historical. More complex architecture, such as supply chain control towers, offer end-to-end traceability of products in multi-stakeholder supply chains.

The technological ecosystem is vast, with many providers currently on the market. What is true for all enabling technologies though, is that they give businesses the opportunity to rethink and redesign their organisation and ways of working, to drive agility and flexibility in their decision-making, and to ultimately promote resilience in their supply chain.

What do planning cycles look like in the future?

As we move towards instant data access, businesses have the potential to move away from their cyclical, intermittent planning activities to something that more closely resembles a continuous process, where rules, automation and business intelligence can be used to measure against plan, and continuously adjust. Additionally, these advancements in cognitive automation allow planning to become more light-touch, and focus purely on managing exceptions.

As a result, business leaders can access operational and financial information at any moment that reflects the most accurate data available, eliminating surprises. Time and effort can be given back to functional resources that were previously tasked with preparing materials for review forums. As companies move to enterprise-wide systems and data sources, less time is spent in functional silos, and planning becomes more interconnected. The source of the data becomes more transparent, increasing confidence in the accuracy of the data.

That said, technology alone will not streamline a business’ planning processes. Operating models need to be dynamic and flexible enough to enable technological solutions. The introduction of new technology requires strong leadership and change management. And appropriate guardrails and constraints need to be introduced, and regularly updated and refined in the cognitive layer to ensure that the output is accurate and fit-for-purpose.

Figure 1: Illustrative case study showing the transformation of a client’s IBP process.

So what?

With accurate information at your fingertips, can regimented, monthly planning cycles become a thing of the past? They could be! Traditional monthly planning cycles were beneficial for several reasons; but businesses should challenge themselves to think of more flexible approaches that encourage agility and fast decision-making. To do this, however, businesses need to consider the following:

1. Collaboration:

The IBP cycle is not just about reading metrics and reporting on numbers. Monthly cycles bring people together into collaborative forums where effective decisions can be made that are relevant to the entire business, not just from a functional perspective. The cross-pollination of ideas and views is critical to inform, coordinate and align on strategies beyond the functional boundaries. Regular forums provide business leaders an opportunity to not only reflect but envisage where their company is headed.

That said, if a business can maintain and foster a good collaborative environment outside of these forums, there’s nothing stopping a business from moving away from its rigid planning cycles to a more agile approach to decision-making.

2. Near-time execution vs long-term planning: 

Continuous planning puts companies at risk of becoming too short sighted and reactive. With instantaneous data informing on the here and now, companies can fall into the trap of prioritising what is currently in-front of them and only responding to the immediate issues. Planning cycles being removed can therefore impact a business’ medium- to long-term view.

As such, it is important for businesses to differentiate between their near-term execution and their long-term strategies. The separation of planning and execution can allow smaller forums to maintain their regular cadence, while freeing up resources to direct their time to the most important decisions and critical exceptions. If you can maintain this separation, there is your opportunity to move towards more flexible and efficient decision making.

3. Maintaining a human perspective:

The increase in volume and availability of data is wonderfully beneficial where logical or rule-based decisions are required; but businesses are human enterprises, and decisions relating to governance, culture and strategy, for example, require human input. IBP cycles ensure that data is used to better inform these human decisions, based on the best available information at that time. For this reason, it would be unwise to abandon all forums exclusively.

If you can keep these considerations front of mind in your planning, you can move beyond the traditional cycle to something more continuous. But what could this look like in practice? In the traditional 5-step cycle (see Figure 1), the monitoring of demand and supply can effectively be removed as they become continuous and simultaneous activities (see Figure 2). Operational reviews can be used to truly manage exceptions, and longer-term strategies become the focus of less frequent executive review and endorsement. Forums still exist, but they are part of a continuum of planning that allows for real-time updates and rapid collaboration.


Advancements in technology and analytics have reduced the time taken to gather, process and analyse data; thereby reducing the effort traditionally required for monthly planning cycles. With real-time data available to inform fast decision-making, if businesses can maintain their focus on the benefits that the IBP cycle traditionally brought, they should take the opportunity to rethink their operating model and promote a more resilient supply chain, by incorporating more agile and flexible approaches to decision-making.

We encourage you to ask the question: by freeing yourself from the shackles of a rigid IBP process, how much more time could you have to focus on your business, your customer and your future?

If you’re intrigued about this prospect, we’d love to hear from you.

About the authors

Steve Kyle, Hoda Davarzani and Martin Evett are members of Deloitte’s Supply Chain & Procurement practice. The practice focuses on supply chain strategy, synchronised planning & fulfilment, supply & digital procurement, manufacturing & smart operations, and embedding sustainable practices.


1. “What is sales and operations planning (S&OP)?”, SAP

2. “A better way to drive your business” McKinsey & Company, May 2022

3. “Integrated Business Planning: A New Narrative for an Old Process”, Supply Chain Trend, October 2021