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This post provides the readers with a view of a TPM system in an organization’s landscape along with the challenges encountered in implementing a TPM application.

Trade Promotions are used by manufacturers both as a strategic and tactical tool with an objective of building and maintaining demand for a product at the outlet level.

Typically, Trade Promotions are made up of activities like

  • Assortments and shelf space commitments
  • In store advertisement – displays, Gondola-ends, Pallet
  • Point of Sale Material (POSM) placement
  • Price discounts
  • Free Gifts including 3P free gifts
  • Samples
  • Special Payment Incentive for Fast Sales (SPIFFS)

In most cases, these events are supported by advertisements on TV or in the print media. Hence planning of a trade promotion not only involves planning for many supporting activities but also requires involvement of several departments within an organization.

This interaction between various departments brings its own set of challenges as the nature of information requirement varies from department to department. For example:

  • Supply Chain would be interested in knowing the volume requirements and stock availability
  • Demand planner will be interested in seeing the uplift and providing the base
  • Finance on accrual information as well as budgetary commitments
  • Decision makers look for the viability of the scheme vis-Ã -vis stated objectives
  • Legal department will look if promotion does not contravene any legal requirements

Most of the organizations will be working with disparate IT systems to support this multitude of end user expectations.

A Trade Promotions Management (TPM) application needs to interact with different sources of information and provide a unified view of information to all the stakeholders. This makes the implementation of a TPM solution very challenging from a technical and business perspective. Some of the challenges faced by organizations while implementing TPM solutions are:

  1. Aligning the needs of different stakeholders – stakeholders can be users of the tool from different process areas (Supply chain, Finance, Sales & Marketing) or global and local owners
  2. Integration with different IT systems
  3. Ease of use of the system (from a usability perspective)
  4. Global requirements vs. Local requirements
  5. Scope creep
  6. To be flexible enough but ensuring process compliance at the same time
  7. Identifying a champion for the implementation who is acceptable to all the stakeholders
  8. Deciding on the level of integration. How do we address ground level requirements of addition of products/customers to an approved promotion?
  9. Deciding on the nature of implementation – single instance / local instance / single tool / multiple tools

To tackle the above challenges, a TPM program should have the following as part of the program charter:

  1. Defined objectives for the program – cascaded to and aligned with all the stakeholders and users
  2. As part of the change management –
    1. Clearly identified owners for each functional group in the steady state
    2. Buy-in from all the stakeholders
    3. A published training calendar for existing and new users of the TPM system
    4. Identified Go live strategy – phased / big bang
  3. Level of integration – defined and published hand shake mechanism between the systems
    1. Identify information flow at a data element level
    2. Frequency of data flow between systems
    3. Checks and balances
    4. Reconciliation options
    5. Redundancy / fall back options
    6. Level of integration for master data and for pricing
  4. Detailed process analysis highlighting
    1. Maturity level of the process
    2. Processes within TPM and that are in other IT systems
    3. Processes addressed by aligning business processes instead of making changes to the IT application
  5. Template based implementations
  6. Readiness assessment of an entity and action items for making the implementation a success

Many a times, in global TPM implementations, the approach is driven from the global/regional headquarters without customizing the approach to the local business and cultural nuances. The outcome of this is felt throughout the implementation starting from kickoff meetings, gap analysis workshops to training sessions. I hear statements like “Our processes are different from the tool”; “We need to raise Change Requests (CR) to customize else it will not work” and so on and so forth. This results in posturing by both the teams (global and local) and the end objective of the implementation is lost.

Many of the CPG organizations tend to approach TPM implementations in emerging markets with the same yardstick used in an advanced market. This causes a lot of chaos in implementations and leaving the local businesses as reluctant users. The end result – objectives are not met for the implementation, with wasted effort, dollars and time, and a dissatisfied user group to carry along.

Based on my experience in implementing similar solutions in large CPG organizations with operations across multiple countries, the above challenges need close attention and a strategy on how to address them on a case to case basis. To start off, these can be tackled through:

  1. Customized change management approach for each business mapped with the cultural sensitiveness
  2. Mapping the maturity level of each organization / business
  3. Process alignment for different markets – high Distributive Trade (DT), high Modern Trade (MT), hybrid, tipping markets (transforming from a DT to an MT)
  4. Defining global templates

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