For the past several months, Supply Chain Matters has featured a series of market education blog commentaries addressing the needs to garner more effective and simplified operational analytics and business intelligence with SAP ERP environments. Our latest posting, focused on self-service business analytics in SAP environments was published last week. These commentaries focus on the technology capabilities of one of our sponsors, Every Angle Software.
With this posting we want to alert our supply chain functional, IT and line-of-business focused readers who reside in SAP environments of an attractive limited-time offer, the opportunity to win a complimentary supply chain health checkup.
Every Angle Software is offering one lucky organization the chance to win this supply chain health check, valued at over $8,000. The Health Check is aligned to your specific business and supply chain operational processes. All specific SAP configuration settings are referenced allowing for understanding of your organizational detail (company codes, plants, sales orders etc.) and master data (material type, customers, vendors etc.) that other tools simply cannot do.
What happens during this health check?
- Every Angle’s software is installed and connected to your SAP ECC system(s) under your IT team’s supervision.
- Technical and functional verification checks are executed to ensure all is well
- Every Angle expert consultants perform the Supply Chain Health Check analysis
- The results are collected and validated, insights are shared and results presented. Every Angle has produced a customized web page that provides additional detail on the supply chain business process areas analyzed in this health check. You made be amazed on what is discovered.
To be eligible for the one complimentary health check, an entry must be submitted by this Friday, February 5th on the sign-up form at the bottom of the Every Angle customized web page .
In a previous September 2015 commentary, Supply Chain Matters observed that with today’s ever increasing clock-speed and rate of change within businesses, there should be little question that the overall planning, execution and synchronization of supply chain operational processes has become far more complex and demanding. Industry changes are constant, customers are more demanding and risk or disruption within the supply chain is a consistant threat.
Timely decision-making is more than ever predicated on the most up-to-date information, and most importantly, informed insights as to what is occurring and what will likely occur across the supply chain. The latter implies decision-making supported by analytics.
In many industry settings, particularly those with SAP backbones, supply chain teams must turn to their IT support teams to harvest timely business intelligence and/or analytics related to the pulse of the supply chain. Operational professionals have to define what they believe they need in terms of operational insights, explain the requirement to their IT partners, wait for themto actually get around to creating these custom inquiries and reports, only to then discover that this process of information mining contains multiple iterative passes. This can consume significant periods of time, not only for the operational teams themselves, but also IT. This is time that can be better invested in strategic and tactical needs.
The bottom line is that many industry supply chain teams strive to obtain “self-service” insights as well as analytics, but the path is confusing with its own set of obstacles.
Business transformation expert Sean Culey has penned an eBook for Every Angle Software. This author had the opportunity to read this document and I can recommend its reading, especially for operational and supply chain teams dealing with SAP ERP backbones.
This paper addresses 6 ways that self-service analytics can help empower a more agile enterprise. Benefits explained in the book include the ability to save time, allowing the business user to become more empowered, close gaps between strategy and execution and boost employee engagement and organizational innovation.
Some of the insights that resonated with this Editor were the need to know not only about what has happened, but also to understand how and why it happened. Further was the ability to break down organizational silos and develop small, integrated teams that foster increased trust and more informed decision-making. Another insight that Supply Chain Matters recognizes is that different customers require different levels of value and thus supply chain segmentation supported by more agile decision-making is an ever more important capability for companies to acquire.
Our readers can download this complimentary white paper at this web link.
Disclosure: Every Angle Software is one of other sponsors of the Supply Chain Matters blog.
[SC1]Word ‘constant’ used twice in same sentence
This Editor had the opportunity to view our Supply Chain Matters readership analytics (thanks to Google Analytics) for all of 2015 and can now share our ten most popular 2015 commentaries during the year.
In reverse order:
Highlights of the APICS Annual 2015 Conference held in Las Vegas in October, and specifically ex-GE CEO Jack Welch’s keynote interview. Welch expressed a number of insights on the topic of leadership, and more specifically, supply chain management, and the professionals who manage today’s supply chains. We are very pleased that this commentary made our top ten.
Our September commentary related to Tesla Motors contracting of strategic supply of lithium for its new gigafactory. Our commentary addressed the broader strategy unfolding, one that extends beyond automotive supply chain needs, including the power storage needs of homes and businesses. The site was chosen because of its close proximity to supplies of the all-important raw material of lithium as well as to the Tesla factory in California.
It seems that our readers were quite interested in all news related to Tesla since the auto manufacturer appears twice in our Top Ten.
Our July commentary addressing the needs of supply chain business intelligence for SAP environments, specifically that as supply chain business processes become ever more complex, teams try to fill the gaps with downloads of static reports and ancillary spreadsheets to provide more meaningful operational analysis. We felt and sense that this is indeed representative of the broader SAP community, and brought awareness to other options. Our commentary brought wider attention to Supply Chain Matters Named sponsor Every Angle Software who’s self-service operationally focused business intelligence tool includes an extensive list of European installed base customers with SAP backbones.
Our January commentary, “Extended supply chain” is the new supply chain, a guest contribution by Prashant Mendki, Director Alliances and Business Development for supply chain systems integrator Bristlecone. The commentary called for a holistic “integrated extended supply chain” rather than independent business processes where the entire ecosystem would be treated as part of the supply chain, and where suppliers would have complete visibility into key customer demand and have their response plan ready.
Our September market education commentary bringing visibility to Xerox’s new more cost affordable smart labeling technology and the availability of two printed electronic labels that can collect and store information about either the authenticity or condition of products flowing across the supply chain. From our lens, the availability of such advanced labeling technology will foster new, more affordable dimensions of item level tracking, security and authenticity specifically related to products. This author characterized the development as the dawning of item-level tracking technology that industry supply chain teams have versioned for quite some time.
The highlights of our Supply Chain Matters interview with Irfan Khan, CEO of Bristlecone while attending the Gartner Supply Chain Executive conference. Our interview touched upon a number of areas including predictive analytics applied to supply chain decision-making needs. Irfan opined that mainstream acceptance of the full spectrum of smarter analytics (Descriptive, Prescriptive and Cognitive) applied to supply chain and manufacturing capabilities will take additional time for most organizations to be fully prepared to leverage. He confirmed organizational change management readiness and client skill impacts that take time to work through
Oracle’s July announcement of expansion of public cloud capabilities applied to order fulfillment, specifically Oracle Order Management Cloud and Oracle Global Order Promising Cloud. Out takeaway for readers was that Oracle remained committed toward a broader development and release plan surrounding SCM applications in the public cloud platform than perhaps other competitors such as SAP.
Later in 2015, in conjunction with Oracle Open World, the full Oracle SCM Cloud suite was announced by Larry Ellison in his opening keynote. From our lens, Oracle had developed one of the broadest cross-functional supply chain management, public cloud based applications currently available in the marketplace. That stated, there are qualifiers in that this public cloud suite provides standard functionality as opposed to the ability to support customized customer business needs. Its strength resides in faster time-to-value and potentially lower IT infrastructure deployment costs.
Our highlights and impressions regarding the FedEx acquisition of both Genco and Bongo International. Genco was one of the largest 3PL’s in North America and Bongo International provides an e-commerce platform that facilitates international customers purchasing items from domestic websites. We were intrigued by the low price paid for Genco which as less than current earnings.
Our February commentary reflecting on Tesla’s operating results reflecting some supply chain strains. Our observation was that while showing some supply chain strains at the end of 2014, even more challenges remained for Tesla’s supply chain in 2015. Tesla has often demonstrated the effective use of advanced technology applied to manufacturing and supply chain business processes, and that 2015 will be no exception to that trend.
We just published a follow-on commentary reflecting on Tesla’s 2015 delivery performance leaving some Model X customers rather frustrated.
Finally, our Number One most read 2015 content was:
Our unveiling of the full listing of 2016 Predictions for Industry and Global Supply Chains published on December 15th. We interpret that to mean that our readers are keenly focused on what lies ahead in the New Year, and that’s OK with us.
We trust that all of our line-of-business, IT and cross-functional supply chain readers have gained value and insight from our independent lens on supply chain focused business developments, business process and technology challenges among various industry and global perspectives. We believe we have accumulated a truly in-depth library of industry-specific and functional content.
Once again, as we enter our ninth year and remaining as a top ten or top twenty-five presence among supply chain blogs, we again thank our loyal global based readers and our sponsors for their continuing support.
Bob Ferrari, Founder and Executive Editor
© 2016 The Ferrari Consulting and Research Group and the Supply Chain Matters® blog.
Content appearing on Supply Chain Matters® may not be used by any third party without written permission of the author and/or our parent, The Ferrari Consulting and Research Group LLC.
This Supply Chain Matters commentary continues our market education series to helping readers to differentiate the nuances of traditional vs. operational supply chain business intelligence needs in SAP environments. In our last posting in early September, we pointed out that supply chain business and operational intelligence is not solely about business reporting, but increasingly focused on analysis of ongoing performance, uncovering hidden risk factors and synchronizing performance of the entire supply chain.
Supply chain teams require intelligence capabilities appropriately configured and tuned for analysis of bottlenecks or supply and demand shortfalls. The design principle of this approach is root cause analysis, to tap important data and information existing in specific applications. The premise is to identify bottlenecks and provide early warning to operational process outliers and exceptions.
This Editor recently had the opportunity to interview Every Angle Software executive Richard den Ouden, Managing Director for North America. In our interview, we explored specific examples of how operational intelligence challenges are manifested in typical SAP environments.
Question: Richard- In your travels across North America, what forms of supply chain operational complexity or information challenges do SAP ERP or SAP SCM customers typically describe?
We find that in many SAP environments, users view their system more as a black box. The frustrations they communicate are in the inability to extract needed information in a timely manner and in a user-friendly way. Because of these limitations, often, two routes are taken:
- Asking IT to build operational or custom reports, which result in added time constraints or miscommunication as to information requirements.
- Users themselves downloading raw data into Excel spreadsheets for analysis but risking the timeliness and context of that data.
If SAP users do have information, the challenge is often in the context of lots of statistics as to what has happened vs. operational intelligence indicating what needs to change, or where operational bottlenecks will occur. Some users do not take the current situation as acceptance and instead go with the limited information they have been able to gather.
Typically, when we demonstrate the capabilities of a true operational business intelligence application, it is viewed as a breakthrough in effectively mining needed information or being alerted to operational bottlenecks.
We often approach SAP backbone customers with a three day live demo session utilizing that customer’s actual SAP data extract. On day one, we load all of data and demonstrate the capabilities of a true operational intelligence application. On day two, we interactively allow the customer to describe current business process, financial, supply chain or business operational challenges. In day three, we demonstrate the full capabilities of the application with live data, identifying bottlenecks and improvement areas including pending imbalances in supply or demand, inventory mismatches caused by MRP driven order changes, order entry or master data mismatches. That day often results in uncovering data quality or in laughing and crying at the same time.
In one typical operational example, when product demand changes upward, MRP creates a purchase requisition for more material. When demand changes down, MRP creates Exception Notices in MD04, and here is the problem. Unless users mine MD04, then manually calculate the impact and convert that to a specific action (like reduce the open purchase order), the now unneeded material flows in. An executive would ask, why would a procurement team place orders for materials we do not need? In most cases they would not, unless it was a spot order for a great price, a typically constrained material, or some other special case.
But in the usual scenario, MRP produces purchase requisitions that Procurement teams then convert to purchase orders among specific suppliers. MRP created these purchase requisitions as a result of a calculation that considered inventory on hand and due in, and an expected demand profile .Real cash money is spent to pay the supplier, the freight, the receiving dock workers, and locations in the warehouse are taken up. It is not uncommon to find several million in unneeded procurement. In Food and Pharma, where many raw materials have a shelf-life, this condition is more acute than in repetitive discrete where the material could eventually be used.
Question: Can you describe a few industry or supply chain specific examples?
Typically we address four specific use cases related to improved operational business intelligence within SAP environments.
- Analysis of data quality which is the foundation of any effective business process. Here we help customers with the importance of master data. A proliferation of products and product changes contribute to master data inaccuracies but the transactional data errors are where the money is lost. What makes Every Angle unique here is that we automatically read the master data, like BOM’s, (Bills of Material) and use this in our calculations. If a BOM changes, as they frequently do, no one has to fix Every Angle. We automatically read the new BOM each time we load data from SAP.
- Analyze historic performance to uncover operational trends.
- Execute open order management processes to uncover mismatches in back orders or delivery commitments.
- Identify any mismatches in supply and demand.
Every Angle’s operational business intelligence capabilities are applied to many industry settings. For instance:
Food and Beverage: What is sales demand vs. what production is making?
High Tech: What is component availability and have purchase orders changed as a result of frequent bill of material changes?
Pharmaceutical: Will the current backlog of batch production releases fulfill the right demand?
Retail: Here, master data is key. Do we have the right planning profile and replenishment data? Does current operational planning data reflect on-time delivery of supplies?
Wholesale Distribution: Do we have the right balance of quantities purchased with sales order demands?
Question: How do you view the key differences between business intelligence vs. supply chain focused operational intelligence?
The key difference relates to what information needs to be delivered to what specific target audience. In essence, it is targeted intelligence and more informed decision-making.
Business intelligence is essentially an analysis of past performance, for example sales volumes or financial data. This serves the purpose for a great presentation of management information related to business performance.
Supply chain operational intelligence is more focused; Is the supply chain able to effectively and profitably fulfill product demand? Where are the specific gap areas or negative effects on profitability? Operational intelligence is more focused on the predictive aspects of what is about to happen.
Business intelligence provides great statistical information related to historic performance but operational intelligence is where firms uncover data and process mismatches and reduce unnecessary costs.
Question: What role do forms of prescriptive analytics play in these types of challenges?
A typical business intelligence application provides limited predictive capabilities and as noted previously, reflects more on past performance. To be predictive, information is needed as to what is occurring across business operations and across the supply chain. Operational intelligence takes into account all existing planning and fulfillment information, for instance, what sales order will not be delivered in two weeks because of an operational constraint.
Planning and smart algorithms designed within Every Angle predict what specific exceptions will occur and when. For example, there may be huge lot sizes defined in SAP master data that are a mismatch to specific customer needs, resulting in excessive production costs.
Question: What other observations or wisdoms can you share with our reader audience regarding these capabilities?
There are great technologies available in the market today. However, firms often forget that operational effectiveness comes down to people and their day-to-day needs in accurate information, easier to use applications that contribute to more informed decision-making. It is about helping people in their daily work routines and getting in-control, trusting systems as opposed to questioning the information provided.
Firms have invested in the basics such as deployment of an SAP ERP backbone or SAP SCM but it is ‘just’ the data and process foundation, which is great. But, this does not provide operational transparency about data quality and process performance to the business users in a fast and flexible, self-service way. Every Angle provides this, with a native and certified integration with SAP SCC, and it therefore is a “no-brainer” complementary solution for SAP customers.
People instead will invest more time in not trusting the system and instead in trying to gather and assess needed information vs. making timely and better informed decisions related to operations and supply chain.
SAP business users and IT support teams may well be frustrated in understanding the timetable and implications of where SAP is headed in its Integrated Business Planning vision, data and operational intelligence milestones. An SAP implementation of ten years ago cannot keep-up with the today’s more rapid speed of business change and requires that people have tools that can mine more predictive information much quicker, and in operational context.
Take the responsibility to fix and address these needs today.
We would like to thank Richard Den Ouden for his specific observations related to solving operational business intelligence challenges within operational SAP backbone ERP environments.
For further information, readers can visit this Every Angle Software web site.
Disclosure: Every Angle Software is one of other sponsors of the Supply Chain Matters blog.
With today’s ever increasing clock-speed of business, there should be little question that the overall planning, execution and synchronization of supply chain operational processes and resources has become far more complex and demanding. Yet, it is becoming more essential.
Industry market change is constant, customers are more-demanding and risk or disruption is a constant threat. These past two months alone, we have called reader attention to the severe typhoon that impacted Taiwan and coastal China, the sudden de-value of China’s currency and the significant warehouse explosions occurred in Tianjin China. Global equity markets continue to react to deep concerns about China’s economic growth and export economy.
Supply chain business and operational intelligence is not solely about business reporting, but increasingly focused on the ongoing performance, uncovering hidden risk factors and synchronizing performance of the entire supply chain.
Supply chain teams thus require intelligence capabilities appropriately configured and tuned for analysis of root causes of bottlenecks or supply and demand shortfalls.
Traditional Business Intelligence (BI) technology has evolved from a termed vertical design principle that allows users the ability to compare plans with actual results. The architectural approach stemmed tapping centralized data warehouses, where business software applications feed their data and information.
However, the success and uptake of these traditional BI approaches has been frustrating since more than often, effective use or specialized intelligence needs require the direct assistance of IT. The ability to leverage hidden intelligence is often constrained because of the resource limitations of IT, or the complexity of the centralized information warehouse.
Newer, horizontal approaches anchored in data discovery and more de-centralized business process or predictive analytics concentration such as supply chain and product management have since made their presence in technology markets. The design principle of this approach is root cause analysis, to tap important data and information existing in specific applications such as supply chain planning, operational execution, fulfillment and product management applications. Their premise is to identify bottlenecks and provide early warning to operational process outliers and exceptions.
As one can imagine the fundamental determinant of termed horizontal BI user uptake and adoption rests with user friendliness and empowerment. It is about empowering business users to support more informed decision-making predicated on operational intelligence and appropriate business process context.
Major ERP vendors are caught in the middle of this changing paradigm. As an example, older version of SAP ERP supported information architecture that fed operational data and information to SAP Business Warehouse (BW), where either SAP or external BI applications tapped that data for general business reporting needs. The flexibility to hone-in on specific root cause and supply chain operational business process needs was limited to the innovation and resources of IT or system integrators. Such requirements often came with a high cost in terms of resources and time-to-value.
Responding to the compelling market changes outlined above where users require more user-friendly, self-service operational BI tools, SAP continues to evolve its overall approach to accommodate such needs. And there lies a growing tide of confusion. The stated migration from Business Objects BI, Crystal Reports, and now SAP Lumira has both IT and business functional teams confused as to which strategy to employ. Least we mention the other elephant in the room, that being SAP HANA, and its foundational relationship to leveraging data and information across the entire SAP landscape.
In the light of this product strategy confusion, innovative best-of-breed players have gained additional attention and deployments.
In a prior posting, we called Supply Chain Matters reader attention to Every Angle Software, which provides a self-service and operationally focused business intelligence tool designed to leverage information within SAP R3, SAP ECC, and SAP Business Suite environments. What impressed this author about Every Angle was not only its ability to add in-process logic and sophisticated calculations that adapt to an SAP operations management configuration, but customer testimonials testifying to the end-user friendliness of the software itself. The software comes with built-in adapters for SAP, includes hundreds of pre-configured templates and built-in, configurable business rules, and accommodates access by end-user device of choice including mobile devices. The software can be deployed for either on premise, cloud, or outsourced hosted needs.
Functional supply chain teams have a lot on their plate right now with little patience nor tolerance for having their IT teams figure out the long-term BI product strategy, architecture and functionality of a large ERP provider such as SAP. That is why many continue to opt towards filling-in such technology needs with experienced best-of-breed specialists.
Disclosure: Every Angle Software is one of other sponsors of the Supply Chain Matters blog.