The synchronization and management of the Omni-channel customer fulfillment experience has fast become a complex problem for retail industry business management and supply chain teams. The added dimensions of taking orders online or from physical stores and fulfilling from multiple channels adds complexity and needs for smarter and more-informed decision-making. Cost to serve and determining impact to profitability become ever more a challenge.
Yesterday, in conjunction with the Focus Connect 2014 event being held in Barcelona, JDA Software and IBM made a joint announcement that Supply Chain Matters believes demonstrates the ongoing importance and continued evolution of Supply Chain Control Tower (SCCT) support capabilities in the supply chain technology market. This announcement could also portray a possible broader relationship among these two technology providers in the months to come.
The specific announcement involves a joint collaboration among JDA and IBM development teams to address the need to process and fulfill retail industry Omni-channel orders in a more efficient and more intelligent manner. The approach calls for combining the elements of JDA’s warehouse management, demand planning and workforce planning business support capabilities (JDA Intelligent Fulfillment and Labor Productivity) with IBM’s Sterling Distributed Order Management network platform capabilities. In essence, this approach marries elements of supply chain planning and execution with an end-to-end order management and fulfillment platform that connects all channel participants. The combined capability is expected to be offered in either an on premise or cloud deployment option, the latter being supported by IBM’s SoftLayer business arm. The joint development effort is currently underway and according to the announcement, is expected to be available in late spring of 2015.
This author had the opportunity to speak with IBM regarding the joint announcement. Discussions among these two technology providers began in January of this year at the National Retail Federation (NRF) conference. Both companies have a rather strong market presence among global retailers and each was hearing customers speak to the increasingly complex challenges currently manifested in Omni-channel customer fulfillment, including the dynamic aspects of having to manage the tradeoffs of inventory, appropriate fulfillment location, transportation and labor requirement needs. In May of this year, our Supply Chain Matters commentary associated with attendance at IBM’s Smarter Commerce Summit highlighted the evolving dimensions of Omni-channel and the needs to provide more predictive and prescriptive decision-making capabilities into the process.
The joint press release includes a quote from joint customer Lowe’s Home Improvement, and we were informed that both firms have identified interest from other unnamed retailers as well. Apparently, the original timetable called for announcement of joint product integrating JDA and IBM elements later in 2015, but it was obviously pushed-up to coincide with this week’s JDA customer event.
Our supply chain and B2B business community education series regarding SCCT has articulated that the concepts of control towers involve efforts to bring together supply chain planning and execution business process elements with enhanced intelligence and more predictive decision-making that can be provided in near real-time dimensions. There have been a number of strategic movements underway among multiple supply chain, enterprise and ERP technology vendors to build, broaden or position SCCT capabilities. We view this JDA-IBM joint announcement as yet another dimension of such efforts. JDA has the potential to leverage a broader more feature-rich distributed order network platform that supports more dynamic process parameters while IBM garners access to deeper retail-specific supply chain planning and execution support functionality. We have been informed that JDA is building and architectural framework that supports plug-in capabilities from other vendors, similar to what we have heard from supply chain planning providers such as Steelwedge and its connection to the Salesforce.com platform. Similarly, supply chain business network provider E2open augmented supply chain planning and product management support capabilities with the acquisition of Icon-SCM and Serus Corporation respectively.
As noted in our previous commentaries, IBM has been integrating elements of Sterling order management and B2B messaging capabilities with its IBM Emptoris sourcing and procurement business suite, and has communicated efforts to bring the predictive elements of Watson decision-making to online fulfillment and supply chain synchronization challenges. Thus, the SCCT business process support elements continue to broaden from many dimensions and are a sign of what will transpire from SCCT support technology down the road.
In the meantime, readers and joint JDA and IBM customers should watch the ongoing joint efforts among both providers for further signs of what is to come. Just like the prior announcement of the partnership among IBM and Apple, both parties provide the potential to remove the information integration burden for today’s highly complex supply chains.
Disclosure: IBM, E2open and Steelwedge have current or prior business relationships with the Ferrari Consulting and Research Group, parent of the Supply Chain Matters blog.
Note: The following posting was scheduled for posting on November 5, but due to a technical glitch, is now published.
This author has had a business and research coverage relationship with Infosys Limited for over 8 years, and thus I look forward to the invitation to attend the annual Infosys Industry Analyst Summit meeting.
Our Supply Chain Matters impressions of the prior 2013 event can be read at this web link.
I was especially looking forward to this year’s event because the firm has undergone yet another year of considerable change including a host of new senior executive changes. That includes the naming of former SAP CTO Visual Sikka in the role of CEO and Managing Director that occurred in August.
The CEO address was the first and probably most anticipated item of today’s industry analyst briefing agenda. It was clear that Visual has already placed a different mark on the firm, one that will emphasize even higher levels of technology innovation for clients, but more importantly, a more empowered, critical thinking and skilled based complement of employees. Within his remarks to analysts, Sikka made no mention of SAP or the SAP HANA technology platform which he previously propelled, which is statement of itself toward a new mission and identity.
Make no mistake, CEO Sikka is driving a broader vision as well as a more focused business model for Infosys that includes wide-scale change management implications. In his remarks, he specifically addressed the feedback he has heard thus far from industry clients, namely the ongoing agenda of more rapid business change, both in core business processes and new business innovation. He further shared feedback from Infosys employees who desire deeper engagements with clients and broadened opportunities for learning and career growth. It was very clear to this author that Visual has already begun to make his mark in his first 90 days of leadership.
A series of follow-on keynote sessions focused on renewing core infrastructure and cloud technology services, broader capabilities leveraging Infosys’s EdgeVerve digital platform capabilities for clients, and the leveraging of an innovation services framework that focuses on delivery of client value in faster 3-6 month cycles.
Within Infosys itself, there are capabilities that can train 16,000 employees simultaneously, and those resources are now destined towards empowering employees with added critical thinking and client engagement skills. One example shared is that over a span of 10 days, 5200 employees were recently trained in design-thinking skills. Plans call for over 30,000 employees to be trained in these skills by the end of the year. New academic partnerships are being focused toward other skill areas that provide the firm’s consultants, developers and contributors with critical thinking and collaborative team skills. This area is highly important because Infosys has undergone a higher level of employee attrition since founder N.R. Narayana Murthy returned from retirement to oversee what he felt were required business and management model changes. That led to a host of executive level departures.
For this analyst, the new Infosys from the persona or its new CEO appears at first blush to be more approachable, more willing to partner, more inclined to leverage open system platforms and be more sensitized to client requirements for quicker bursts of time-to-value in technology innovation. This is refreshing.
During today’s event, I had the opportunity to view demonstrations of some rather interesting technology efforts already underway. One was directed in joint work with a certain global car manufacturer in enabling a smarter, safer car driving experience. We hope to share more visibility to this effort in an upcoming Supply Chain Matters commentary.
Our disappointment today is that specific direction and efforts addressing manufacturing and retail industries were not included within the main keynote agenda. Last year’s briefings have specific emphasis in these areas which leads us concerned that these industries may take a back seat to other strategic industry sector initiatives. One-on-one interviews validated that retail industry efforts continue to drive client innovation efforts and that retail business and IT teams indeed demand shorter time-to-value benefits for their technology investment efforts. Clearly stated was that the era of two-year consulting and system integration windows are over. Retail clients can and will no longer tolerate such timelines.
Our impressions of the 2013 industry analyst event noted that a clear shortfall for Infosys was its ability to effectively market its broader array of capabilities among line-of-business and broad functional based manufacturing and retail audiences. That impression remains even more poignant in 2014. Today’s customer panels included names we are not allowed to disclose under Safe-Harbor declaration, However, these customer executives provided comments regarding unexpected but positive discoveries of Infosys team capabilities and responsiveness to time-critical milestones. That, by our lens, is yet another indicator that the Infosys leadership team clearly has to pay added attention to the firm’s overall marketing strategies specifically related to industry and functional support capabilities for both line of business as well as IT audiences. World class technology delivery requires world-class presence and identity.
The takeaway for our readers is that while Infosys transcends into yet another period of renewal, this one appears at the surface to be more positive with deeper change management tenets. Time will tell.
There have been some noteworthy announcements related to both supply chain B2B network and PLM technology providers this week which Supply Chain Matters highlights in this news roundup commentary.
JDA Software Names Permanent CEO
In the press release, CEO Dail states: “The potential for JDA now, and into the future, is tremendous and I am excited about the opportunity to continue leading this innovative company.”
Since assuming interim CEO leadership, Dail has instituted a sorely needed Global Industries and Solutions Business unit responsible for product portfolio and industry support strategies, established an Innovation Lab to build transformational technology leveraging next-generation platforms, including cloud, and appointed a new leader for global sales.
JDA is also in the process of unveiling a new look and brand identity over the coming months and readers can anticipate broader industry focus and clearer messaging.
SAP Announces Expanded Cloud Relationship with IBM
This week, SAP announced that its SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud services will be made available through IBM’s global cloud infrastructure. The joint announcement came with enthusiastic statements issued by both tech CEO’s. The expanded partnership provides broader global hosted options for moving business applications from on premise to the cloud. According to published reports, this deal provides SAP with access to near 60 data centers between those SAP has deployed and the addition of IBM’s centers.
According to a specific report from IDG News Service, revelations over the past year about domestic surveillance by U.S. intelligence agencies has raised data sovereignty and data privacy sensitivities among several countries, and this arrangement with IBM provides SAP with a greater ability to accommodate such concerns by cloud services hosted in designated domestic countries. It is therefore little surprise that the joint announcement emphasizes security for enterprise customers. Broader cloud infrastructure and open standards based approach inherent in the footprint of IBM Cloud additionally provides SAP more scalability options in growing HANA Enterprise Cloud.
Arena Solutions Announces PLM Collaboration Platform
Mid-market PLM technology support provider, Arena Solutions announced two new modules plus enhanced functionality incorporated in its fall product release.
Arena Scribe provides a collaboration platform that supports comment and collaboration in the context of each individual process or record within Arena PLM. Users or suppliers can follow comment streams and receive dashboard and email alerts to stay up-to-date with fast-moving information. Arena DataExtract supports the ability to extract process datato a standard, flat file format, which can be analyzed using a variety of analytic tools from the range of basic spreadsheetstosophisticated business intelligence and analytics applications. This type of functionality provides enhanced ability to identify trends and solve problems related to product development, trends in engineering change orders or cycle times.
The new fall release includes what is described as significant ease-of-use enhancements to Arena Quality, a module introduced earlier this year. This module supports broader visibility, cross-functional team collaboration and tracking of product quality resolution.
Readers can gather detailed information related to Arena’s fall release in the news announcement.
The Movement Toward Cheaper, Open Computing Compatible Servers Spells Opportunity for ODM and CMS Providers
Here is a Supply Chain Matters follow-up commentary that relates to the previous news on the pending split-up of Hewlett Packard along with our commentaries of several years ago, beginning in 2011/2012 commentaries and supplemented in a 2013 commentary) foretelling of original design manufacturing (ODM) and contract manufacturing systems (CMS) providers competing directly with their larger OEM customers.
A recently published Bloomberg article, Cheap Servers Are Bad News for HP and Dell, indicates that the contract manufacturers such as Quanta Computer that these OEM’s often depended upon are now producing generic, Open Compute Project compatible computer servers for hungry data center customers. These generic servers are reported to be one-third to two-thirds cheaper than the branded versions. According to the article, this has been a boon for server-hungry customers such as Amazon, Google and Facebook, but bad for established, branded hardware OEM’s. Further noted is that mega financial services firms such as Fidelity, have jumped-on the generic server bandwagon to reduce IT infrastructure costs.
What’s keeping branded OEM’s in the competitive game is their ability to provide extensive global customer service as well as global distribution scale. However, the current accelerating trend for matching generic server hardware customized to a specific software application compute resource need will only add to the momentum toward generic commodity servers.
As many of our readers may be aware, the Supply-Chain Operations Reference Model (SCOR) was developed by the Supply Chain Council (now APICS Supply Chain Council) to assist multi-industry and organizational supply chain organizations make meaningful and rapid improvements in supply chain business processes. This model’s methodologies describe the Plan, Source, Make, Deliver and Return activities associated with supporting customer and business fulfillment needs and have become a common language to articulate industry supply chain capabilities.
We all know that today, industry supply chains are driven by customer requirements and service needs, and the SCOR model is a tool that helps organization’s with a single standard reference upon which to understand the processes that make-up the supply chain along with their relationships to performance metrics. The power of SCOR is that it does not document the supply chain in the lens of functions (planning, procurement, manufacturing, logistics, etc.) but rather that of business process inputs and outcomes.
This author has been both trained in SCOR methodologies and has volunteered in various positions of the Supply Chain Council, including being a prior member of that organization’s North America Leadership Team. I can therefore attest that SCOR is a rather versatile tool that has assisted many industry and service focused supply chain teams to describe the depth and breadth of their supply chains as well as provide the basis for supply chain improvement or transformational initiatives.
The multi-level SCOR framework maps all customer interactions, all physical and informational transactions, planning and fulfillment processes. SCOR is a hierarchical and highly defined model which can capture the detail of supply chain processes with their relationships to the all-important performance attributes of responsiveness, agility, cost or assets associated to a supply chain. Those teams that have had experience with SCOR know that the real power of the tool is in understanding how all processes relate to one another and where processes need to be adjusted or modified to meet changing business or customer requirements. SCOR is an important tool that brings detailed understanding of the entire makeup of a supply chain, including best practices derived from other multi-industry supply chains.
The power of a comprehensive process definition tool is in providing common taxonomy and detailed cross-organizational and management understanding of the many supply chains that can exist within a particular company. Too often, teams get bogged down in documenting and updating the SCOR framework models which takes away from broad cross-functional support and from the timeliness or effectiveness of the framework as a reference to support decision-making. This is where technology can provide needed assistance.
Supply Chain Matters has previously called attention to highly focused system integrators, such as Bristlecone, who have developed self-contained service offerings that address very specific business needs. These are fixed-cost, managed scope application accelerators developed from prior successful implementations and industry best practices.
To assist firms that utilize SAP’s supply chain management applications the BristleconeStore offers ProcessesNow, a series of pre-built process maps based on the SCOR framework. ProcessesNow provides a central repository of process maps that extend the SCOR model by additional three levels . It uniquely links these processes to the various transactions within SAP’s APO or Oracle’s Demantra planning application helping teams to better align the process maps with the transactions that enable them, hence, enhancing user adoption of the related planning solutions. Teams can interact with SCOR models both online and offline utilizing an easy to navigate expand and collapse structure.
Another neat feature is that Bristlecone has augmented ProcessesNow to support certain industry unique process needs. According to Bristlecone, this tool can typically save 4-8 months of framework documentation efforts, allowing teams to more productive time to analyze and iterate their SCOR models, and the tool itself typically can be installed in about a week. As with DemandPlanningNow which has previously highlighted, this application is built upon acquired knowledge, best practices and technical expertise acquired from prior supply chain implementations.
Disclosure: Bristlecone is a client of the Ferrari Consulting and Research Group
UPS’s Latest Survey of Healthcare Supply Chains- Some Interesting Conflicts and Needs for Broader Perspectives
This week, UPS announced the results of its seventh annual “Pain in the (Supply) Chain” survey involving pharmaceutical and healthcare supply chains. According to the authors, the survey was conducted from phone interviews with 536 senior supply chain management decision-makers within the healthcare industry. Global coverage for this survey is noted as Asia, Canada, Latin America, the United States and Western Europe.
For the third consecutive year, the survey points to regulatory compliance as the top supply chain pain point, cited by 60 percent of the 2014 respondents, indicating that this trend alone is driving current business and supply chain changes. From our Supply Chain Matters lens, that finding is not a surprise since so many pharmaceutical and healthcare supply chain are indeed regulated, but more importantly, they are now globally extended for both supply and service demand needs.
The next largest concern was noted as product protection challenges, with 46 percent of respondents citing product security, and 40 percent citing product damage and spoilage as top concerns. Again no surprise, given the ongoing challenge of counterfeit drugs and global extensions of transportation and logistics networks.
However, what was surprising, at least for us, was that a mere 26 percent of these supply chain leaders cite contingency planning as a top supply chain concern. Perhaps this is an area that these supply chain leaders feel is being adequately addressed. Yet, 34 percent of those surveyed in Asia and 22 percent of those residing in Latin America indicated their firm’s supply chain was impacted by an unplanned event in the past 3-5 years. Cited reasons that were noted were:
- Events being too unlikely or infrequent
- Back-up infrastructure too expensive to deploy
- Little or no prioritization being given to this area vs. other challenges
For an industry that is required to spend so much on product development, brand value and patient trust, it is surprising to once again note such viewpoints. The industry need only look to the previous supply chain disruptions that occurred at Johnson & Johnson to ascertain how about contingency planning has become.
Deeper in the UPS news release perhaps finds a rather important assumption related to the above concerns in compliance, product protection and contingency planning. Many healthcare supply chains are not viewing production, distribution, logistics and transportation as a core capability and have thus outsourced these activities. According to this latest UPS survey, 62 percent of decision makers cited increased reliance on third-party logistics providers as a strategy into the foreseeable future. (3-5 years) Therefore business partners have become an important enabler in helping to overcome stated supply chain challenges.
In a previous Supply Chain Matters commentary, we called for a broader technology vision among supply chain execution partners, specifically 3PL’s. As more and more industry supply chains opt to outsource logistics, transportation and customer fulfillment to logistics and transportation partners, leveraging the potential benefits of newer technologies in item-level tracking, Internet of Things (IoT) and supply chain control towers become a de-facto capability requirement to overcome business challenges and deliver required business outcomes. Too often today, the outsourced 3PL decision has been driven solely by cost control vs. broader requirements for supply chain resiliency and responsiveness. While UPS and FedEx have embraced advanced technology, other 3PL’s have relied on customers to fund such investments, and there remains the conundrum. For us, these latest UPS survey findings concerning healthcare focused supply chains have special meaning to the new reliance on supply chain execution partners for joint goal enablement. Beyond logistics, globally dispersed contract manufacturers have an important enabling and support role as well.
The report’s executive survey indicates that healthcare supply chain leaders are themselves eyeing technology investments in two specific areas of the supply chain, namely front-end order fulfillment and overall product protection in the form of serialization and item-tracking. Supply Chain Matters advises these leaders to also consider the all-important supporting element for connecting the front and back-end of the extended healthcare supply chain. That would be a cohesive supply chain business network that synchronizes planning, execution and early-warning intelligence to unplanned events.