Material Recap: 2017 FORGE User Conference
The annual FORGE User Conference took place on Thursday, October 26 at the Chicago Athletic Association. The customer community joined together to learn about the evolution of the trade promotion application. Four main sessions covered:
- Next Generation Analytics
- FORGE V8 Enhancements
- Retail Planner Progress
- Claims Efficiency Overview
Read below for a CliffsNotes version of the material covered.
Based on customer feedback, Smoke Jumpers Classroom sessions are being planned for February 2018. The agenda will be focused on hands-on instruction of the NEW FORGE Analytics Environment and a deep dive lesson plan for the claims & billbacks workflow.
Thanks to those who were able to join us in Chicago!
Key points from the Next Generation Analytics presentation:
- The new analytics portal is easy to use; its intuitive design includes interactive dashboards, dynamic searching, simplified user account options, and streamlined export/scheduling.
- The new analytics portal is device agnostic. You will be able to access the portal from any device or browser.
- Thumbnails of each report are available and if needed, a description of each report will be available. Edit, export and schedule your reports from one screen.
- The Standard Reports folder includes Blacksmith Applications standard package of analytics reports.
- Includes: analysis, audit, auto pay, billback(s), deduction(s), invoice/billing document(s), program(s)
- Custom Reports houses the client managed public reports. These reports are commonly custom-built by Blacksmith applications based on the client’s needs.
- My Reports, formerly named “My Favorites” shows the reports you’re working on.
- The inbox will direct the user to the reports which have been sent to them in the FORGE Analytics inbox.
- Blacksmith Applications is on track to completely deploy the enhanced FORGE Analytics portal by July 2018.
“With the new analytics package, we’ll visualize data better, dive deeper into the data and truly understand how we’re working with distributors, how we’re working with street and contract business, really trying to improve profitability and drive business. It’s a futuristic look, driving foodservice where it should be.”
~ Chris DeLorme, Sr. Financial Analyst, ConAgra Brands [watch Chris’s testimonial video]
“Accessibility was a priority for us. It’s a big win to log into one place.”
~ Steve Thompson, Senior Consultant, Blacksmith Applications
Key Points related to V8 Functionality Enhancements:
- Formula Price
- You don’t need more excel files – they are tedious since customers all have different formulas.
- In FORGE, formula price will be centralized and calculate/maintain formula price.
- Steps to create formula price:
- Schedule (determine how often you want that formula price to be calculated – depends on product)
- Type (determine how much sample size you want to look at for the commodity to establish the price)
- Commodities (choose the commodity to use in your formula)
- Factors/Weight (build the formula / compounded method or independent calculation)
- Blended Rate
- “How much should I really be paying on shelter or earned income, if not, how much that distributor is buying at full list price versus a discounted price?”
- Many are using excel sheets to maintain this and analyze on an annual basis.
- Select the product and enter the rate that the distributor should get for full list value and discounted value – and that calculated rate is what the application determines as the blended rate.
- Auto Pay
- In FORGE, auto pay page displays all history of reports. With V8, Blacksmith Applications built in filtering tools so you can pinpoint exactly what you need.
- Run an auto pay, now pick which distributors and/or invoices to include in the auto pay.
- Program pacing, monthly pacing: see fluctuations on what you’ve paid in the past and see if you are in the ballpark of payments.
- Open pay periods: see if you have missed any payments on a specific program.
- Payment History ($)
- Enables you to view high level by month and year how much has been paid out.
- Was there a payment made that’s not in the program, are there products on the program that no one claimed, what payees are not paying.
- View summary of sales estimation of sales dollars, where is it tracking, and forecasting on how many days are left – so you can see if sales overestimated volume or underestimated.
- If the program is set to approve, accrual data is provided – how many dollars, specific distributor, which account that accrual is hitting.
Key Points from the Better Retail Business Planning presentation:
- FORGE is introducing a real-time tool for retail business – use one application for regional business to add trade plans, forecasting, tracking, and reporting.
- For most companies, trade planning and sales forecasting are completely separate activities – now they will find the happy medium – using one tool to see trade investment and sales forecast.
- Connected features in the retail planner:
- Volume Plan
- Direct and Indirect Planners
- Planner Margin Analysis
- Define the planner template – sales can add the events – creating programs – find detail to each event without clicking in – know when it’s running, what type of event, delivery dates, volume, and more.
- Planners can be prepopulated with last year’s volume – update as necessary. Ability to copy and paste demand planner or prior year planner as needed.
- Volume plan takes prior year volume and copies it forward to the latest forward. As you create programs, when you update the volume in a program, it pushes back to the volume plan to see volume forecast by item and week.
- Create and evaluate a single customer plan that rolls up with individual events.
- Provide financials for the customer in total and each individual event.
- Provide analysis of actual results against approved plan, shipping information, claims that come in, IRI/AC Neilson syndicated data.
“If we can work with your IRI or AC Neilson provider, we can bring in that information in as well, so you can see the promotion effectiveness.”
~ Kelly Cole, Professional Services, Blacksmith Applications
Key Points to Simplify Trade Activity:
- Use FORGE tools to make better business decisions by establishing automated rules and flags.
- Consider the benchmarks and thresholds at your business:
- Do you have a $200 tolerance? A $50 tolerance? How do you think about rationalization of deductions?
- What gets auto approved? Which deductions matter?
- Establish guidelines to simplify and route materials through the system.
- EDI – Sysco, US Foods, Bunzl / Upload with Alias
- Use FORGE to export EDI files.
- Use FORGE to upload the files. Establish the cross-references.
- Holding Pen is a feature created that don’t go to billbacks and WIP. Download to excel – keep in a suspended state until you can fix the mistakes.