Planners used to be pipe-smoking, cardigan-wearing denizens of a windowless office in the basement, who favoured carpet slippers at work – but who had never heard of linear regression and thought that a standard deviation involved wearing a flying helmet in the bedroom. Ok, the slippers and cardigans have (largely) gone – but the appalling lack of knowledge about statistics, economics and analytical techniques seems to be getting worse.

I blame ERP systems. Companies of all sizes have been sold obscenely expensive ERP systems – buying into the hype that if they transfer massive quantities of their bottom line to IT vendors’ top lines, it will solve all their planning ills. Never mind the planners. Never mind their grasp of business fundamentals or ability to contribute to business decision-making. Our monstrously complicated new ERP system cost so much that surely it’s bound to make the supply chain work better.

Well – I’ve got news. Your ERP system is a dunce. It has the wit and intellect of the average cardex (for those that remember them). It stores, files and transacts – which is useful but not earth-shaking. It doesn’t have a clue how much stock you should have, how you should schedule or what you should do to improve your business – and its horribly inadequate nods in the direction of optimisation are little better than throwing bones in the air.

IT investments are not and never will be a substitute for knowledgeable, skilful staff – because there is no substitute for that. Your planners are responsible for day-to-day profit; facilitating tricky compromises between cost focused and customer facing departments – and have they ever had any training? Not ERP ‘which button do I press next’ training; proper ‘giving them insights into their business, and the tools and skills to actually make the business better’ training. If not, is it any wonder that 98% of ERP users are disappointed with what they got in exchange for their hard earned cash?