Shaun is the Founder and Managing Editor of Brightwork Research & Analysis (scmfocus.com), where he provides SAP research and consulting. This interview originally appeared in the Spring 2017 issue of Foresight (Issue No. 45)
Shaun, how did your forecasting career start?
Through working on forecasting consulting projects that were business oriented rather than software oriented. Later in my career, I worked in the application SAP DP. I’ve since developed a technique for performing forecast prototyping in non-SAP systems and bringing the observations from the forecast testing back into SAP DP. I am not exclusively forecasting focused. I work as frequently in supply planning as I do in forecasting. You went on a book-writing spree in 2014.
What motivated all these books?
All are based upon my project experience. I found areas that did not have an appropriate level of coverage. I wrote a book on Sales and Statistical Forecasting Combined (2014) because this is such a problem at companies. I wrote the book Promotions Forecasting (2014) because up until that publication there was no book dedicated to the process. My most gratifying book was The Real Story behind ERP: Separating Fiction from Reality (2014), which was based on my meta-research on the ROI from ERP systems. I had some inklings of what the result might be, but I did not know before the fact what I would find. The ERP system has been so influential, in everything from where IT resources are deployed and what software is used by companies; it is critical to review the decades-long history of what are its actual benefits of ERP systems. I found that ERP systems have had an important impact on forecasting systems.
What has been your career highlight?
I would say it’s showing people the things that can be accomplished that they think won’t work.
Was there a project you worked on that was the most frustrating for you?
That would be several projects with consulting companies that were driving in quite unscientific directions.
What are the biggest challenges now facing business forecasters?
A general shortage of resources applied to the area, combined with forecasting directions being set by people in organizations that don’t understand forecasting. I have been warning for some time now that there are groups in most every company that actively work against initiatives for improving forecast accuracy. We have reached a point in many companies where so long as a behavior can be proposed (not necessarily proven) to add to sales, it is generally tolerated even if it causes large negative externalities. This assumption makes it difficult to rein in these behaviors that reduce the operating efficiency of the business.
What occupies you outside of work?
Like other researchers, I find work tends to be all-consuming, and there is always something else to work on, some calculation to develop, etc. Exercise is something that brings balance to my life. I have been using the Stairmaster and doing a weightlifting routine for many years. At one point, I was an avid reader in areas outside of my research