Demand planning is a difficult, yet rewarding profession. There is no clear and obvious path to become a demand planner. However, most demand planners start at a company that takes a multidisciplinary approach to supply chain operations and work their way up to the position. They often learn through work experience and a wide variety of on-the-job training from their employers. Read on to learn more about how to be a successful demand planner.

Important Basic Skills for a Demand Planner

Most demand planners have a background in either applied mathematics or economics. In fact, this is what most people who become demand planners study in college. However, math skills are not all that is important for a demand planner. Leadership skills are important, as demand planners often have large numbers of people working directly with them and depending on their forecasts.

Demand Planners Need to be Thick-Skinned

There is a common misconception that demand planning is all about numbers. While statistics are certainly an important part of the job, the ability to stand up to criticism is also vital. This criticism could come from several sources. Often, employees may get frustrated if they do not understand how statistical forecasts lead to a demand planner’s predictions. Of course, predictions that turn out to be incorrect will often lead to criticism. Even experienced demand planners, however, may need a break from the criticism at times. This is why many companies have instituted a policy of taking demand planners out of the line of fire on occasion.

Learning Different Areas of the Company

Some companies give demand planners the opportunity to learn other areas of the company, which can help them understand how their projections are used. It can also remove them from criticism for a while. Demand planners often work in the supply planning department for a short time, which makes sense because these two departments are closely related. Sometimes demand planners will even help the finance department, as they have the statistical skills that are necessary for this area of the company.

Developing Leadership Skills

Some companies invest significant time and money in developing the leadership skills of their demand planners. For example, some companies will bring in an organizational leadership coach to teach their demand planners. It is not unheard of for a firm to even send their demand planners away to leadership training centers. This can be costly, but companies that are willing to invest in their demand planners will see the benefit.

Demand Planners Must be Able to Work within a Flexible Corporate Structure

Another important skill for demand planners is the ability to work within a flexible corporate structure. Each company has a different demand planning team structure. For example, some companies have a head of planning that both demand planning and supply planning report to. Other companies may have planning teams that include both supply planners and demand planners. The high-ranking corporate officers must be able to create a structure that makes sense for the company’s operations and for the personnel they have available.