Niels van Hove is Founder and Director of Truebridges Consulting. He has 20 years of experience in supply-chain and business planning and is accredited in coaching skills to help companies achieve behaviours that improve business performance. This interview appears in the Summer 2016 issue of Foresight.

Niels, tell us how you got involved in forecasting.

I started my career as part of a forecasting and replenishment team at IBM in 1998. We were located in the central distribution centre in Amsterdam. Our job was to optimize $500 million of spare parts that would service IBM hardware in 30-plus countries.

But then you moved around quite a bit….

After two years, I wanted to move into consultancy, which wasn’t possible at that time at IBM. So I left to join Accenture as a consultant, and I traveled around Europe to implement new planning processes and systems for our client, Sara Lee. While in Italy I met my Australian wife. We both quit our jobs at Accenture and moved to London, where I worked for two years as a contractor for Unilever and Syngenta, implementing planning systems. After London, we moved to Amsterdam where we lived for four years. My final role in Europe was as global supply-chain manager for Orangina Schweppes, where I was responsible for supply from 13 production locations to over 50 countries.

And the origin of your blog?

Eight years ago, following the birth of our first daughter, we moved to Australia. Here, I resumed my focus on planning and held several roles as S&OP manager at large FMCGs. I also began writing my blog, www.supplychaintrend.com, to offer my perspectives on S&OP and organizational behaviours. This blog led to the publication of several articles and has been picked up by popular supply-chain websites. I also became an accredited coach on behaviours and performance. I found I really enjoyed the coaching side of things and last year founded my own business, Truebridges, to combine consulting in supply chain and S&OP with individual coaching and “mental toughness” workshops.

What does the future have in store for planning and forecasting?

I think we can be certain of the continuous speedup in technology. Big data, the “internet of things,” deep learning, and prescriptive-analysis solutions are all commercially available now. Five years ago, most of these terminologies didn’t exist.

In disciplines such as supply chain and forecasting, we’ve very much emphasized technology, process, systems, data, and algorithms for improvements and optimization. I now see more companies concerned with resilience, mental strength, and mindfulness, not only to increase performance but also to improve individual and organizational health and well-being. These are important life skills for every individual, and I’m glad to see my eight-year-old daughter is being taught about them at school. Once we understand how our own thoughts impact our behaviours, health, and performance, we can learn to be mindful. I think future improvements can be made by focusing on technology and also people, behaviours, and health.

In my view, the winners of the future will be companies that embrace technology opportunities and also have the culture to convert those opportunities. In S&OP and forecasting, this means those who are open to technology and have the processes to adapt to continuously changing market conditions. They will be able to rapidly uncover gaps to budget and react to changes in strategic intent. However, they must also have the right mind-set and behaviours to align themselves with these new realities and be able to respond to them faster than their competitors. This last step is very much behaviour driven.

What do you do to relax?

Read, write a blog, or play guitar. I’ll go for a bike ride along the bay here in Melbourne or a run around the park. I just picked up tennis, which I really enjoy. I also like just hanging out with my two daughters, now eight and six years old.

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