Scaling a World-Class Service Parts Planning Team

Planners are the backbone of Baxter Planning. They know all the ins and outs of Service Parts Planning but getting them up and running to address the unique and complex needs of our customers does take time and process.

Our planners here at Baxter Planning provide a truly unique service to our Planning as a Service (PaaS) customers: the partnership that extends your planning organization and best utilizes our software tools for optimal Service Parts Planning. Using our PaaS offering, your dedicated industry-specific team manages activities such as forecasting demand, setting target stock levels, and generating purchase and replenishment orders to meet your business objectives. For Baxter software customers, the support team’s planners must be prepared to answer customers who enter a wide range of support tickets via our Service Desk.

While all our new hires do start with Supply Chain Management experience, they need to understand the Baxter Planning tools and methodologies for planning success. Baxter planners must be the experts you trust to analyze planning metrics and provide sound recommendations to optimize the plan, but they’re also hired as in-house “super users” for our Spare Parts Planning Software, Prophet.

Our planners have the unique opportunity to plan with a software tool they help create. To perform best at their role, they must understand the workings of a software company.

How Do We Prepare Our Planners?

Planner training includes three phases:

  1. Onboarding sessions: Planners participate in structured training sessions to learn about the company, Prophet, and their day-to-day responsibilities.
  2. Guided mentoring and team shadowing: Experienced planners hold regular shadowing sessions to facilitate the new planner’s training as they develop a deeper understanding of their responsibilities.
  3. Ongoing training: Baxter’s Center of Excellence supports ongoing planner education by making continuous improvements to the product education materials, like new feature videos, best-practice process documentation, and eLearning courses. Human Resources holds Baxter Planning culture and values sessions to help new employees integrate into the company.

What Does Onboarding Look Like?

New employee onboarding is a structured period for these new team members to learn about the company, departmental roles, internal tools, and Prophet.

Often, new employees are hired in cross-departmental cohorts with synced start dates. Each new employee receives a customized schedule including independent activities and group training sessions. The cohorts separate to attend team trainings, then join to attend department overviews.

Each schedule has a mixture of training offerings:

  • Scheduled training sessions: Formal training sessions with supporting documentation, course materials, and interactive elements
    • Members outside of the planner’s core team often lead these sessions.
  • Video and eLearning: Asynchronous lessons using pre-recorded training sessions or the Prophet eLearning Center learning management system
    • A live Q&A with an experienced team member supports each block of video learning
  • Team training: Formal training session with a team member
  • Independent learning: Flexible time to perform research or complete a list of onboarding tasks

What Special Steps Do We Take to Train Planners?

As you may expect, we dedicate a significant portion of our structured time to teaching planners how to use Prophet, but our planners also have the unique opportunity to work directly with the product team to improve the Prophet tool. They participate in quality assurance sessions, provide feedback during software demos, and enter change request tickets. It’s important to provide enough training so planners feel empowered to partner with the product team and offer their planning expertise as we make improvements to Prophet features.

Training includes:

  • Formal, structured training sessions to answer common questions from a planner working with a software product team:
    • How does the Agile development process work?
    • Where can I enter requests for product improvements?
    • General product questions and more
  • Meet and greet opportunities to form cross-department relationships
  • Department overview sessions to understand the functions of each team

How Have We Pivoted During the Pandemic?

Traditionally, we hold the onboarding training onsite at our Austin, TX headquarters. Even remote and international employees would travel to Austin to participate. While that in-person time has been an invaluable tool to create team connections and offer flexibility for shadowing purposes, the Austin HQ has been closed to employees since March of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve hired dozens of new team members since then, so we’ve been constantly pivoting to provide enhanced training under a fully virtual format.

We’ve found that any onboarding element that was once successful as a casual, flexible component needed to be more heavily structured into the programming with detailed documentation resources. Virtual happy hours and themed events quickly replaced in-person team-building sessions. Later, team shadowing needed to be scheduled into the day, so the new employees had the opportunity to observe various activities performed by different team members. Finally, the documentation to support training improved rapidly to support virtual employees’ questions and downtime.

What’s Next for Planner Training?

The Prophet eLearning Center we use for virtual internal employee onboarding recently went live for all our customers. Internal planners and software users can expect to see a heavy emphasis on improving the offerings under this training format. Upcoming improvements will include videos, smart walkthroughs, quizzes, and labs to support developing a deeper understanding of Prophet in a flexible, virtual format.

We also continually ask for feedback from new hires to see where we can improve. We’re fortunate to have an amazing team, and we think the thorough onboarding empowers them with the confidence to help customers to the best of their ability.

Natalie Gauldin
Senior Product Education Specialist

Natalie transitioned from public education to the technology sector in 2009 and has spent the past 10+ years creating product resources at Baxter Planning.  Natalie’s product education skills touch various areas of Baxter Planning from new employee onboarding programming to Prophet technical documentation. Currently, she works as part of the Center of Excellence team within the Product Strategy department where she creates documentation for Prophet, updates best practices, and improves training processes.

Residing in Austin, Texas, Natalie enjoys running local road races and exploring the city with her daughter and two pug mixes.