What is S&OP? Your guide to bridging the gap between sales and operations

Prophix Imageprophix Apr 30, 2024, 8:00:00 AM

Imagine your business as a jigsaw puzzle where sales and operations are crucial pieces that just don't seem to fit together. To have those pieces fit, you need a strategy—and S&OP is the strategy that helps you find the right spot for each piece, creating a complete picture.

Dive into this blog to explore sales & operations planning (S&OP), from its core components and steps to its undeniable benefits and the role of technology in making everything click. Let's solve this puzzle together!

What is sales and operations planning (S&OP)?

Sales and operations planning (S&OP) is the process whereby a company aims to align the demand for their products or services with the supply. This approach involves collaboration across all departments with a role in supply and demand, including marketing, manufacturing, procurement, finance, and transportation.

S&OP helps a company decide to scale up (or down) production, hire (or reduce) their workforce, and negotiate effectively with suppliers.

Implementing S&OP can lead to improved operational efficiency, better inventory management, more accurate forecasts, and ultimately, increased customer satisfaction by ensuring that product availability meets market demand.

What are the components of successful S&OP?

As we briefly mentioned above, there are several key components of successful S&OP: people, processes, and technology. Let’s cover each one, so you can create your own sales and operations plan.


Sales and operations planning is an integrated business planning process that requires collaboration among multiple departments and stakeholders. Every department that has an impact on supply and demand should be involved in the S&OP process, including but not limited to marketing, sales, manufacturing, procurement, transportation, and finance.

For S&OP to be successful, clear communication and well-defined roles are essential, ensuring that everyone involved understands their responsibilities and how they contribute to the overarching plan.

Your executive leadership team should also review your plan, and provide feedback on micro- and macro-economic influences, ensuring that the strategy remains aligned with overall business objectives. This collaborative effort is essential to creating a flexible and responsive S&OP process that can adapt to changes in the market or within the company itself.


A successful S&OP is all about processes – for collecting data, for analyzing trends, and for predicting future outcomes. It also involves thorough review of your manufacturing and distribution processes if you’re a retailer, or your billable hours and completed projects if you’re a service provider.

Automated processes are key to effective S&OP, especially when so many stakeholders are involved. By automating data collection, compilation, and review, you can expedite your results, and ensure you’re meeting the needs of your customers.

However, beyond automation, the integration of these processes across departments is critical. Automated systems should not only facilitate the efficient collection, compilation, and review of data but also ensure that this information seamlessly flows across all relevant parts of the organization. This integrated approach supports more cohesive and informed strategic planning.


Effective S&OP wouldn’t be complete without finance technology to automate processes, distribute reports, and analyze results. A dedicated integrated business planning platform can empower you to tackle complexity, optimize resources, and understand the relationship between your data.

An integrated business planning platform, like Prophix One, can also support real-time collaboration among stakeholders, enabling agility in the face of new information or market shifts. This ensures that decision-making is both informed and agile, keeping your S&OP ahead of the curve.

5 key steps of the S&OP process

Efficient and accurate S&OP comes down to the processes you follow. Let’s breakdown each of the 5 key steps of the S&OP process:

  1. Collect data – You need to collect both sales and operations data from the prior month and compile it into a single document before starting your S&OP. Include metrics like actual sales, projected demand, production capacity, profit margins, and production costs. You can also include external metrics like market trends, economic indicators, or competitor analysis which can impact demand forecasts.

  2. Evaluate demand – Analyze sales data to understand product performance and customer preferences. For retailers, this involves reviewing product sales, identifying top-performing stores, and pinpointing popular products. Service providers should examine the number of appointments booked, the most requested services, and total billable hours. The aim is to discern patterns, trends, and events that influenced sales, and use these insights to forecast future demand. When evaluating demand, you should also use historical data alongside current data to identify long-term trends and the impact of seasonality.

  3. Consider supply – With your demand forecast in hand, assess your current supply of inventory. As part of this process, consider if you were able to meet demand or if there was significant excess inventory. Evaluate the implications of excess inventory, including storage costs and issues related to perishability. Analyze the accuracy of the previous month's forecast against actual demand, identifying any discrepancies and understanding the factors that led to them. This step is vital for refining future forecasts and aligning supply more closely with anticipated demand.

  4. Reconcile and review plans – After the finance team prepares your supply and demand forecasts, it’s time to meet with other stakeholders to align the plan with other departments in the company, including marketing, sales, and manufacturing. Consider the ways in which other teams will be impacted – if you anticipate an increase in demand, the manufacturing team will have to ramp up production. Similarly, if there’s an anticipated decrease in demand, it might be an opportunity for marketing to run more promotional campaigns. Be prepared to go through several rounds of discussion, as it may take a few plans to balance different departmental priorities and constraints effectively.

  5. Finalize plan – Once each department has reviewed and approved the reconciled supply and demand plans, it’s time to get sign-off from executive leadership. This step ensures your sales & operations plans align with broader business goals and objectives. After it’s been reviewed by your C-suite, you can begin putting your plan in place. However, even with approval, your plan should allow for adjustments as new information becomes available or as circumstances change, ensuring your S&OP remains dynamic and responsive.
Steps of S&OP

Top 3 benefits of S&OP

Sales & operations planning has numerous benefits, three of which are outlined below:

Increases profitability

By aligning your supply with your forecasted demand, you can reduce costs associated with excess inventory and storage, improving your company’s profitability. S&OP can also lead to better utilization of resources, including manpower and materials, which further enhances profitability.

Enhances collaboration

Since sales and operations touches almost every department within an organization, the S&OP process can be a great way to improve cross-functional collaboration and ensure everyone is working towards the same goals, fostering a culture of transparency.

Improves production stability and capacity

With a better idea of how many products you need to produce and what’s required to manufacture them, S&OP can improve your production capability and stability. S&OP can also help identify potential bottlenecks or capacity constraints ahead of time, allowing for proactive adjustments. This can include investments in new machinery, shifts in workforce allocation, or changes in supplier agreements to ensure production meets demand without unnecessary delays.

Benefits of S&OP

How to use technology to support S&OP

To harness the full potential of S&OP, leveraging technology, like an integrated business planning platform, is essential. These platforms serve as a centralized hub, where data from various departments can give a comprehensive view of supply and demand.

By integrating real-time analytics, forecasting, and collaborative features, an integrated business planning platform enables businesses to make informed decisions. By streamlining the S&OP process with technology, you can reduce manual errors and enhance efficiency.

An integrated business planning platform also facilitates seamless communication across departments, ensuring that every stakeholder is aligned with the company's objectives.

Conclusion: How Prophix bridges the gap between sales and operations planning

S&OP is the strategy that helps every piece of your business puzzle fit together, and a dedicated financial performance management platform can enhance this process.

Prophix One Integrated Business Planning can automate and streamline your efforts, making sure your sales and operations align perfectly. With a financial performance platform like Prophix One, you’re not just planning; you’re putting the final pieces in place for a complete, successful picture.

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