Follow-up on the 4th SOLYP3 Key User Circle in Nuremberg

Monday, 14. December 2015

It is already becoming a tradition for SOLYP3 users to meet in Nuremberg during advent season to share and discuss fields of application and possible uses of the strategic intelligence software in a familiar and comfortable atmosphere. The 4th SOLYP3 Key User Circle on December 3rd was yet again well attended and showed impressively—thanks to the two exciting customer presentations and lively discussions—what the software is all capable of. As speakers, Marcel Bogumil of Otto Group and Christoph Steinebrunner of EPCOS, a company of the TDK Group, set valuable impulses for the successful event.

While Otto as a family-owned retail and service group and EPCOS as manufacturer of electronic components, modules, and systems are operating in completely different industries, they do face similar challenges when it comes to ensuring a smooth strategic planning process in a globally positioned and complex enterprise. Therefore, is was little surprising that the most discussed question during the one-day event was regarding the standardization of strategic planning processes.

The two speakers and the other participants widely agreed that the provision of a comparable database of strategically relevant information to the board or owners is one of the key functions of a strategy department. "SOLYP3 is very helpful" in this regard, said Marcel Bogumil. It acts as a central "data collection tool" that enables highly structured and intuitive data entry, can be flexibly adapted at any time (e.g., adding of competitors or reconfiguring of business units), and facilitates validation checks of the data. Both Otto Group and EPCOS pursue a top-down/bottom-up planning process which is mapped in the SOLYP3. This allows the boards to make very precise specifications as to which data and information is to be delivered by the business units and in which format. At the same time, business units are given opportunity to express their own points of view, for example, regarding markets or competitors, using commenting features. The collection not only of hard facts, but also of soft data is a key added value of SOLYP3. At Otto Group, Marcel Bogumil explained, the companies are urged to "fill their numbers with life." This way "we can see what the individual companies think; how they interpret their key figures." The strategy departments in turn can also comment on the strategic plans of the companies outside of SOLYP3 before submitting them to the board members for decision-making.

In addition to the comparability of data, the relevance and conciseness of data is another important aspect regarding the standardization of strategic planning processes. The times of endless PowerPoint presentations seem to be definitely over for most companies. The trend is shifting towards short presentations that clearly summarize the key information. Boards increasingly demand that, the participants agreed. The Otto Group, for example, has responded to this development by asking all business units to create a standardized 10-page report describing and evaluating their current and future strategic situation. This way, board members can find and compare the information they need quickly and easily. Sto SE & Co. KGaA, which was also represented at the meeting, takes a similar approach. Michael Doskocz, Head of Strategic Corporate Development at Sto, said our message to the business units is clear: "10-pager! No more than that!" SOLYP3 supports this compressed form of presentation by generating predefined presentations and reports at the button whose format cannot be modified by the business units.

Another special challenge regarding standardization which the Japanese TDK Group faces, said Christoph Steinebrunner, is that the business units plan differently in Yen and Euro. In order to avoid any "currency effects," it is, therefore, very helpful that binding exchange rates for all buisness units can be saved in SOLYP3. The company's SOLYP3 system, by the way, is bilingual (English/Japanese) which increased the acceptance by the Japanese colleagues significantly, Steinebrunner noted.

Another aspect, besides standardization, which was raised repeatedly throughout the event, was the question regarding the length of planning cycles. Again, there was a trend emerging across industries towards shortening. A rolling planning approach where strategic plans are updated, concretized, and revised every one to two years is now standard in most companies. Christoph Steinebrunner explained that TDK carries out very detailed annual rolling planning and stressed that SOLYP3 is very helpful here as well, as it documents strategic plans and allows for quick adjustments.

As it is often the case, when strategists discuss the topic of digitizing management processes, the question of transparency concerns among employees was brought up. After all, data and information provided by them, for instance regarding their own performance, can now be checked and compared more easily using modern strategy software. However, this seems to be mostly a question of corporate culture. Christoph Steinebrunner stressed that in Japan benchmarking with competitors as well as within the company is rather popular. In this sense, transparency can also promote a positive competition within the company.

Another issue that was mentioned several times was the integration of SOLYP3 with other IT systems. For instance, many SOLYP3 customers are already exporting data from their SAP systems into Excel and then upload it to SOLYP3 to make it accessible to strategic planning. A more sophisticated example of integrating SOLYP3 into the customer’s IT environment is the integration into the MS collaboration platform SharePoint, as it was recently successfully implemented by OSRAM AG. This solution was met with great interest by the Key User Circle participants. 

The opening of SOLYP3 towards third party providers was also the subject of the final presentation by Martin Rügamer and Jan Borchers who gave an overview of the latest software updates. They promised the participants that in the future selected third-party products which are already available in the customer's IT environment could be better supported. As examples, they mentioned intranet software, business intelligence tools, dashboards, operating software (installation, login/Single-Sign-On, browser JNLP), and SAP HANA or SAP Digital Boardroom. A SOLYP3 dashboard app for Windows tablet devices is already available and can be downloaded for free from the Microsoft Windows Store. Using this app, "SOLYP3 users now have access to their strategic planning data anytime and anywhere,” Jan Borchers explained delightedly.

Following the official part of the event, participants enjoyed once again a stroll over the famous Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt (Christmas Market) where they had plenty opportunity to get to know each other better and do some more networking.

We would like to thank Marcel Bogumil of the Otto Group and Christoph Steinebrunner of EPCOS for their inspiring presentations and our guests for an exciting discussion at the 4th SOLYP3 Key User Circle! We hope that you took home some valuable ideas and impulses, and look forward to welcoming you again soon at one of our events!