Apollo 11 and the moon

From rocket science to business steering

All humans are modellers – we simply cannot prevent our minds from shaping mental models of the world inside and around us.

For hundreds of years, math was believed to be the ultimate tool for capturing and studying the dynamics of systems, both in nature and society. Then, in 1969, T.M. Apostol proved what mathematicians had already started to fear:

Most dynamic problems can never be solved with math.

The same year, man set foot on the surface of the moon; an accomplishment that, to a large extent, was relying on rapid advances in the field of computer simulation and control.

Many important insights and accomplishments were made in the sixties. In 1961, Jay W. Forrester published his ground-breaking book, Industrial Dynamics, where he shows how computer simulation can support management decisions, and not only operational processes. It was with sadness we learned that Forrester passed away last month, at the age of 98.

Apparently, the power of simulation and the limitations of math are well kept secrets, both in education and business.

«I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.»
Maslow, 1966

This Law of instrument pinpoints how your choice of tool can influence your actions. As an example, to be able to solve real-world business problems using math, you have two options: over simplification or elimination of dynamics. Exponential growth is the most common example of the former, while steady-state studies belong to the latter category. Great precautions must be observed when actions are based on such simplistic models.

In light of this, you can probably understand what a thrill is was to witness the enthusiasm of the players during the business game session at the Dynaplan Convention in Berlin in November. The technology that plays a central role in landing rockets on planets, and training pilots to fly, is now becoming a way to help steer businesses towards their goals.

Contents at a glance

Our yearly Dynaplan Convention took place in November. Read two recently published articles about driver-based models in controlling and HR analytics, co-authored by Dynaplan.

Dynaplan is creating impact for hospital patients, and Dynaplan’s HR library gives increased value with less effort for Caribbean Development Bank and Stadtwerke Osnabrück.

Upcoming performance improvements in Dynaplan Smia, and tips about filling input tables.

We wish all of our readers a great winter season, progress in your work, and plenty of quality time together with family and friends.

Your Dynaplan team


6th Dynaplan Convention in Berlin

We’re very pleased that over 60 participants from seven countries joined this year’s convention and took part in the varied programme with the overarching topic of “Supercharging your business”. We greatly appreciate that our community is growing as we can see in the nice balance between existing and potential customers.

After a warm welcome from Deutsche Bahn, we got an important impulse from the outside-in view and discussed the opportunities and risks about the use of external market data. Deutsche Bahn showed how they approach the trends of digitalization and disruption with their new, flexible “speedboat” solution based on Dynaplan’s simulation solution.

One of the highlights of the day was “Transition”, a game where participants used Smia for iPad to play the role of an HR manager helping their company achieve an aggressive digitization strategy. Participants experienced how gamification and simulation (i.e. adding elements of games to non-gaming activities) can be a useful and fun approach to introduce, enable, and involve stakeholders into SWP.

If you are interested in experiencing the game on your own or want to know more about how gamification could help your organisation, please notify your Dynaplan contact.

After a wonderful lunch Lufthansa and Dynaplan took us on a virtual trip: “SWP at Lufthansa: Insights from a journey”. AOK Hessen, CubeServ, Nederlandse Spoorwegen and Korn Ferry gave us useful examples of planning solutions in practice at various stalls in our market place.  Dr Zien held a fascinating lecture about “Using the Dynaplan simulation tool for cost optimization of the chlorine production network at Covestro”.

This year the “Technology roadmap” covered not only new and planned features, but also explained how Smia crowns the “analytics pyramid” by bridging the gap between analytics (observation) and action (operation), supporting strategy and planning through unique features for synthesizing data and knowledge, evaluating future scenarios, and sharing insights and targets.

Thanks to all for contributing. Through input from customers, Dynaplan can grow to become a better provider in all stages of the planning process. Hopefully, this was also an opportunity for our customers and potential customers to share best practices of dynamic planning.

In the evening everyone enjoyed an interesting guided tour of Deutsche Bahn’s Berlin Hauptbahnhof, and finally we took a boat trip on board the MS Berolina, combined with a good dinner.

A big thanks to Deutsche Bahn, who hosted this event.

HR and Controlling practice group meetings

One of our favourite events is the twice-yearly Practice Group, in which planning experts discuss and develop their methodology both for Strategic Workforce Planning and Finance & Controlling. The best practice contributions by the companies themselves show how difficult challenges were approached and successfully solved. Topics of further interest are worked out in group works and discussions.

In the HR Practice Group, what we found particularly revealing and interesting this time were the intensive discussions on the topic of scenario design and simulation, combined with the contributions of Deutsche Bahn, Commerzbank, and Lufthansa.

In the Controlling Practice Group, the presentations and discussions emphasized the benefit of structured simulation models, especially with regard to the new role of controllers as business partners.

Many thanks to all participants for actively contributing, as well as to the host Deutsche Bahn. We are looking forward to another Practice Group in May 2017. For further information and interest, please contact contact@dynaplan.com.

New publications in Controlling and HR analytics

Dynaplan co-authored an article in the journal Controlling entitled “Treiberbasierte Planungs- und Simulationsmodelle im Controlling” (Driver-based planning and simulation models in controlling) together with the controlling institute of the University of St. Gallen and PMC.

In essence, this research finds that driver-based planning and simulation models can enhance flexibility in planning and control. By modelling detailed value driver interaction with specialized software solutions, such as Dynaplan Smia, they exceed the productivity of standard spreadsheet applications, such as Microsoft Excel, and are more flexible and faster to control than business intelligence applications. You will find the article in the December edition of the journal (Controlling 12/2016). Click the button below to read an abstract. (Only available in German.)

Abstract from Controlling 12/2016

The link between SWP and people analytics is covered in the second article. Together with the SAP implementation partner CubeServ we developed an approach for AOK Hessen with an integrated dataflow between the SAP analytics and Dynaplan Smia. The full article is only available in German, but the abstract is also available in English. Click the button below to get the article for free.

Strategic Workforce Planning and HR Analytics

Impact for patients in the Helse Vest region

Dynaplan is contributing to significantly reduced waiting times for patients in the south west region of Norway. Our project is now lifted from the hospital level in Bergen to all the hospitals in the region.

In the beginning of November all the hospitals in the region were summoned at the airport hotel at Flesland, and got a briefing from Dynaplan. We met an enthusiastic group of managers, who want to implement the new strategy at their clinics. Helse Vest highlights the power of our solution not only to identify the right “medicine” and “dose” to solve their patient flow problems, but also the value of the simulation to explain, motivate, and prepare stakeholders inside and outside the hospital for implementing the necessary changes.

Dynaplan international: Our SWP solution is now used in more than 14 countries

Over the recent three years we are getting more and more request from countries around the globe. Late summer Dynaplan and its partner Korn Ferry have supported the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) on the development of a simulation-based strategic workforce plan. The simulation model was completed and calibrated in less than three weeks, thanks to the use of Dynaplan’s HR library. The HR library is a ready-to-use SWP model that includes a wide array of predefined workforce supply drivers, along with a flexible interface to plug in workforce demand models customized to each organisation.

This use case is another example that our SWP solution can deal with the different HR challenges around the globe – and that it is not limited to specific questions, like demographic change and mature markets in Europe – to help organisations focus less on building models and more on getting value from them.

Strategic workforce planning ready for mid-size companies

The workforce planning challenges are not limited to big organisations. For small and mid-size companies it can be even more critical to shape the future workforce and be able to fulfil the purpose of the business. With respect to the reduced resources available, they have different requirements for a solution regarding the process and how to involve the different stakeholders. Stadtwerke Osnabrück – a mid-size company with about 1000 employees – is now using a model based on Dynaplan’s HR library for strategic workforce planning. The model covers the whole, diverse portfolio of activities, including mobility, energy, water supply, public baths, and a port, among others. The model uses a predefined demand model which allows planners to change and add demand drivers without editing the model structure. First, the demand driver must be added to a table, and then the driver will appear in the relevant input tables in the model’s demand section. The planner can then proceed with adding the data. This, combined with the enhanced user interface, helps mid-size organisations to get up to speed with SWP very fast, with less focus on building models and more on getting value from them.


Upcoming performance improvement

As the amount of data in models continue to grow, the need for performance enhancements in certain areas of Smia become more pressing. We’d like to share with you two improvements that can make you even more productive with Smia. We hope to have both of these ready for release sometime after New Year’s.

Manual calculation mode

Even with simulation auto-play turned off, Smia may need to do a lot of calculation to correctly update the initial state of the model after an input has been changed. In big models, the effect of this can be a noticeable lag between each cell as you’re trying to fill a column of an input table with new data.

We’re introducing a new mode in Smia: Manual calculation, which, as the name implies, requires you to manually signal to Smia that you’re done giving input before it will do most of the recalculation. We’ve already seen a noticeable improvement in some customer models during initial testing.

The icon for the new manual calculation mode

The icon for the new manual calculation mode.

Simulation reset detection

When switching the current selection shown in a chart or table, Smia models sometimes use “synchronization variables” to keep all views in a diagram, or the entire model, synchronized. When these change, Smia may assume that the model itself has changed, causing the simulation to reset. With simulation times potentially as long as 5 minutes or more, this can be understandably frustrating.

We’ve improved the algorithm Smia uses to decide whether the simulation needs resetting, which should reduce the number of cases in which this happens. It also has the added benefit of letting you do certain “back of the envelope”-calculations inside Smia itself without causing a major rerun of your model.

Tips & tricks: Filling input tables

Instead of entering data manually into tables in Smia, you can use one of the fill commands to fill cells with data. The data can follow a pattern or be based on data in other cells.

Fill down/Fill right

To quickly copy the value of a cell into a large number of cells you have two options:

  • Select the cell you wish to copy and the cells you wish to fill. Then right click on the selection and choose Fill down or Fill right.
  • Select the cell you wish to copy, and start dragging the fill handle until you have selected the cells you wish to fill. When releasing the handle, a menu pops up. Choose Copy cells.

The Fill handle

Fill series

This command is used when you want your data to follow a pattern based on the selected cells. Here there are also two different ways to achieve similar results.

  • Select the cells that you would like to base your input pattern on. Then drag the selection using the fill handle across the cells that you want to fill. In the context menu, choose Fill series.
  • Select the cells that you would like to base your input pattern on. Then drag the selection using the fill handle across the cells that you want to fill. In the context menu, choose Series…. The dialog that appears can be used to customize the pattern of your filled data by for instance changing the start value or step.

The Fill series command


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