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Supply Chain Business Intelligence for SAP Environments and our Latest Supply Chain Matters Sponsor

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In early January, Supply Chain Matters provided our positive review of the book SAP Nation by Vinnie Mirchandani. We felt that although this book may be considered controversial by some vested in SAP’s success, the book’s observations are for the most part objective, insightful and written in a context for what SAP as a global technology provider needs to address to make its customers’ successful in their business and technology deployment goals.

The book describes SAP’s ongoing efforts of strategic pivoting, efforts to become more nimble, cloud-focused and more simple for customers to do business with. Yet, as witnessed by the messaging delivered at the recent SAP Sapphire conference, the rate and complexity of ongoing changes being introduced to the SAP customer base is dizzying, and perhaps overwhelming. As users are well aware, while SAP applications have bullet-proof design and rigor, end-user productivity and simplicity have not been the strong point to-date. Thus the continued skepticism associated with the tag line: SAP Run Simple.

The now four-year effort for convincing customers to deploy the HANA in-memory based technology platform (including upgrades to major ERP business suite applications and other associated cloud-based applications supporting end-to-end supply chain business process needs) has customers in a predominately wait and see mode. A recent posting by Information Age has the headline, SAP users struggling to keep pace, citing research from the UK and Ireland SAP User Groups indicating: “74 percent of members indicating that SAP is bringing innovations to market quicker than their organizational ability to adopt.”

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 feel and sense that this is indeed representative of the broader SAP community.

IT support teams need to sort out the various cost, data and technology platform tradeoffs as well as the risks to added business disruption. Meanwhile, supply chain functional and operations teams continue to be challenged with increasing business fulfillment needs related to global markets and rapidly changing business events. The development and rollout timetable of SAP is not correlated to the current needs for increased predictability, broader supply chain business intelligence and more-timely decision-making.

This line-of-business and functional frustration is described in SAP Nation, specifically why existing best-of-breed and other cloud-based competitors are gaining increased attention and consideration. The  consequence is increased momentum of the “ring fence” of cloud-based applications that surround SAP applications. The strategies and purposes may have different motivations and timetables. Those committed to SAP will perhaps continue with their wait and see approach, but at the same time, will consider the deployment of augmented cloud-based applications to enhance extended supply chain focused decision-making and other line-of-business needs.

In an effort to assist our SAP installed base readers, Supply Chain Matters has called attention to various technology providers who possess deep knowledge of the SAP information landscape and understand the current business and functional needs for quicker time-to-benefit. We have called attention to planning and B2B business network support needs, but have not dived deeply into on-demand business intelligence until now.

We call reader attention to Netherlands based Every Angle Software , a self-service operationally focused business intelligence tool providing an extensive list of installed base customers with SAP backbones. We are further very pleased to announce to our readers that Every Angle will be a new Named sponsor of Supply Chain Matters, as this provider expands its footprint into North America from successful implementations and market presence across Europe and other regions.

Founded in 1996, Every Angle provides insights into the operational progress, status and performance of the entire supply chain along with a transparent overview of current and future supply chain focused bottlenecks, including root causes. They describe their value-add as transforming SAP data into simple actionable information in the language of supply chain.

In product briefings thus far, we have been impressed with their inherent in-depth knowledge of the SAP applications landscape applied to supply chain business process and decision-making needs, along with a clear user-interface. A glance of customer testimonials listed on the Every Angle web site have consistent themes of providing a powerful yet simple insights tool, offering end-user friendliness flexibility and impressive response times. Every Angle is quick to point out that rather than being characterized as traditional business intelligence (BI) that has a vertical information perspective, an Operational BI application is more horizontally focused on real-time operational analysis which is critical to extended supply chain decision-making and synchronization needs.

In the coming weeks Supply Chain Matters will provide added perspectives of ring fence strategies applied in supplier relationship and supply chain management environments, easier methods in tackling master data rationalization in SAP environments and other topics related to enhanced business intelligence time-to-value in SAP environments.

In the meantime, have a look at Every Angle Software. Readers can obtain additional information by clicking on the logo that appears on our blog sponsorship panel.

Bob Ferrari

Disclosure: Every Angle Software is one of other sponsors of the Supply Chain Matters blog.


The Marketing and Selling of Cloud-Based Technology

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In our previous Supply Chain Matters commentary, we called attention to the significant winds of change that are blowing across the high tech and consumer electronics industry. Much of this has to do with more rapid cycles of advanced technology including the advent of cloud-based software applications and IT infrastructure.

This author recently read a published Bloomberg Businessweek article that reported on the significant implications in selling cloud-based technology.  The article triggered me to share my observation and thoughts as to what is occurring in efforts related to the marketing and selling of supply chain, manufacturing, PLM and B2B business network support technology.

The Bloomberg article observes that classic sales techniques of setting high expectations for software, investing in numerous conferences and associated demo booths at industry conferences have become passé. Noted is that most technology buyers do their research online to ascertain the strengths and shortfalls of a particular application and/or vendor.  This author founded Supply Chain Matters for that specific purpose, and there are now other well recognized independent and unbiased sources providing online technology perspectives.  The days of traditional industry analyst firms, holding hostage with technology ratings and advisories is fast waning.

Bloomberg further notes: “The personality profile of the technology salesperson has shifted from aggressive and persistent to technical and smart.”

We could not agree more.

In my 16 plus years of observing and participating in the dynamics of positioning and selling information technology, I have witnessed many types of traditional sales personalities.  The profile often tended toward high energy, ego, social and aggressive. Traits included meeting and exceeding quota goals in spite of any barriers, garnering all forms of sales perks and selling the customer as much as possible. That sometimes called for last-minute super deals offered over the weekend at quarter-end. Those traits and requirements are definitely changing, perhaps for the better. Yet, some technology providers continue to hold to prior methods, constantly churning sales teams to seek the most aggressive performers.

More importantly, the selling of technology that will support mission critical business process needs reflected in many supply chain focused opportunities requires a consultative marketing and sales approach. It requires marketing and sales teams to fully understand both supply chain and B2B focused business process challenges, industry-specific nuances along with an awareness and full understanding of required line-of-business outcomes.  The prime buying audience of today’s cloud technology is functional and business teams, while IT teams provide architectural advice, counsel and input.

Consultative sales cycles related to cloud-based software can extend through many weeks and months, helping customers to gain initial proof-of-concept and early benefits, and later extending those benefits with broader scope deployments.  It is not a focus for seeking the 7 figure deal by end-of-quarter, but rather balancing customer sales cycles with required inbound revenue needs. Sales cycles are supported by industry and prospect education, continuous web-based content and ongoing interactions.

Building a trusted relationship with customer teams is thus essential. No longer can one just walk away to seek other opportunities. In essence, the marketing and sales model associated with cloud technology is akin to your neighborhood auto mechanic.  He or she knows all about the vehicle, continuously stays current with the latest technology, is willing to go the extra mile to help customers and strives to be always available in time of most need.

What about your perspective?  Do you feel cloud-based technology providers are adopting these new methods of interaction and support?

Bob Ferrari


Machine Learning Technology Now Available for Automated B2B Integration

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Machine learning technology, which is a form of artificial intelligence, has now made its way into the area of procurement process support.

A simplified explanation of this technology is that algorithms actually “learn” from data and information patterns to make subsequent predictions based on such patterns. Supply Chain Matters has previously pointed out how machine-learning has been applied to manufacturing and supply chain planning focused processes. The technology when leveraged to support B2B direct procurement support can bring added scale and improved value for direct spend supplier collaboration. The added benefit for this type of technology is the ability to leverage item-level business intelligence as well as to provide more timely and robust support in the area of master data management.

In a previous commentary, Supply Chain Matters raised awareness to the critical importance of seamless interoperability for B2B business networks. Teams are well aware of the pain associated with maintaining connectivity and end-to-end visibility throughout their constantly changing B2B network. Managing today’s complex supply chain networks therefore demands not only end-to-end transactional messaging management but key planning, replenishment, and supply-chain decision support.

Teams that are dealing with existing ERP backbone systems such as SAP, require and expect seamless integration. They often have the added challenge in assessing and evaluating SAP’s changing product strategies and application roadmaps related in support of supplier networks. In the specific case of SAP’s Ariba cloud-based network, there are elongated roadmap timetables concerning full direct materials processes support as well as migration to the HANA platform.

One of the major benefits of working with best-of-breed technology vendors is their ability to innovate at a quicker pace than larger ERP providers. Because such vendors often support customers with existing ERP backbones, best-of-breed vendors understand that they must integrate information as seamless as possible. In the specific area of procurement and B2B business networks, ERP vendors have often accelerated their own path to innovation by acquiring emerging cloud-based vendors.

Nipendo, a cloud-based global provider of B2B network based supply chain technology recently announced that it was awarded a U.S. patent related to: “automated reconciliation of cross-enterprise transactions and digital documents.” Nipendo Supplier Cloud leverages this machine learning technology in the automated reconciliation of Procure-to-Pay processes throughout the entire supplier base, including direct goods suppliers.

What makes Nipendo’s technology different among existing vendor approaches is its leveraging of best-practice process templates (business rules) that govern interactions among suppliers and trading partners. Rather than custom programming and field-to-field information mapping that is often required in EDI grounded processes, machine learning techniques are applied to automate the majority of processes. The business rule platform enables teams to more quickly exchange real-time information with suppliers, orchestrate supply chain processes, and reconcile transactions to existing ERP systems. The advantage to teams is noted as simplicity, speed, and scale in supplier collaboration, and we tend to agree.

In our observations of the procurement technology landscape, this was our first awareness to such leveraged use of machine learning techniques, and we were impressed.

For further information, readers can explore Nipendo’s B2B Integration Solutions web page.

Bob Ferrari

© 2015 The Ferrari Consulting and Research Group LLC and the Supply Chain Matters® blog. All rights reserved.

Disclosure: Nipendo is a current client of the Ferrari Consulting and Research Group LLC

 


Added Perspectives to the LLamasoft Acquisition of IBM LogicTools Application Suite

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In April, Supply Chain Matters alerted our readers to news that supply chain design and analysis technology provider LLamasoft had acquired IBM’s LogicTools supply chain network design applications business unit, including rights to LogicNet Plus, Inventory, Product Flow Analyst and Transportation Analyst. At the time of the announcement, our initial view was that this deal was one more related to customer acquisition and opportunities to up-sell existing LogicTools customers with broader LLamasoft applications coverage. Our suspicion was that LogicTools was an orphan within IBM’s Smarter Commerce supply chain management family of applications and services without a strategic fit.

Last week, we finally had the opportunity to speak with LLamasoft management and learn more about this acquisition, explore the strategy behind this acquisition as well as progress to-date.

Our conversation with Jeff Metersky, vice president for customer success at LLamasoft confirmed that the acquisition was a “no-brainer”, and afforded the opportunity to remove a recognized stand-alone supply chain network design technology competitor from the market as well as remove a burden from IBM.  Metersky acknowledged that while the LogicTools technology is dated, it is providing recognized value for its customer base. After the acquisition was announced, many customers directly praised LLamasoft management for the move and felt that their installed software would fare better in terms of being part of a broader supply chain network design expert community, ongoing support or added product migration options.

LLamasoft offered the small contingent of existing LogicTools employee’s positions and has now assumed software maintenance and support for existing customers.  Once more, the provider is now actively evaluating broader product strategy options related to its flagship supply chain network design application, Supply Chain Guru, which is in the midst of a major upgrade cycle. The opportunity is to provide existing customers the best from both applications while providing continued continuity for existing LogicTools customer who either continues with maintaining their current software, or consider an upgrade path to broader functionality. LLamasoft Supply Chain Guru currently supports a broad variety of supply chain design and analysis needs that include multi-echelon inventory, product flow-path and production modeling optimization. According to Metersky, in the currently planned new release, the application will be provided with a more modernized user-friendly interface and added functionality options including the best features of existing LogicTools applications.

After our post-acquisition briefing with LLamasoft, Supply Chain Matters is of the belief that while the acquisition was indeed focused on customer acquisition, existing LogicTools users will indeed gain benefits in attention and technology upgrade options. Existing LLamasoft Supply Chain Guru customers’ may have to wait longer for the next product release but now have the opportunity to collaborate with a broader community of supply chain network design multi-industry expertise as well as gain some added supply chain analytical functionality.

However, those remaining sales and operations planning or supply chain planning teams that are merely seeking to augment their supply chain management capabilities  with stand-alone supply chain network design or inventory optimization capabilities will face limited options.

The broader market implication is that LLamasoft remains on a competitive collision course with existing ERP and best-of-breed supply chain planning providers who are targeting predictive and prescriptive analytical support planning capabilities in their strategic growth plans. The more that supply chain network predictive analysis functionality is collectively sought, the more these two worlds collide.

We may well hear more news regarding this area in the week and months to come.

Bob Ferrari


An Excellent Supply Chain Executive Perspective

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A lot of electronic alerts come across the desk of Supply Chain Matters regarding web content focused on key topics and challenges involving today’s supply chains. We only elect to share content that we feel will serve the interest levels of our global based readers.

Thus we recently came across a blog posting on EBN: Talking about Supply Chain with John Kern, Cisco.

EBN Editor-in-Chief Hailey McKeefry recently interviewed the Senior Vice President, Supply Chain Operations at Cisco.  This author has heard John Kern speak at prior industry conferences and has spoken with John on past occasions. I find John to be a visionary leader.

In the EBN interview, John articulates the mission of supply chain management- namely on enabling the success of the company strategy. He further speaks to the uniques challenges underway within high tech supply chains, in-particular, customer shifts from capital investments to services investments.

John further articulates Cisco strategies regarding the challenge of demand and available supply of supply chain talent.  Pay particular attention to what is defined as the “landing zone”, which is defined as what the supply chain needs to look like in three years in terms of locations, skills, generational mix, roles and leadership.

By our lens, this is an insightful interview and worthy of reading and reflection. Take some time on the beach or in the yard to review it.

Bob Ferrari, Executive Editor


Oracle Expands Supply Chain Management Public Cloud into Order Fulfillment

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Oracle today announced an expansion of the Oracle Supply Chain Management Cloud with the inclusion of two new applications, Oracle Order Management Cloud and Oracle Global Order Promising Cloud. These new applications are part of Release 10 or Oracle SCM Cloud, not to be confused with the predominant on-site Oracle Business Systems (EBS) suite of applications which is currently within Release 12 versions. Eventually, both release nomenclatures will converge and perhaps provide more confusion for customers.  The takeaway however is that Oracle remains committed toward a broader development and release plan surrounding broad SCM applications in the Public Cloud platform than perhaps other competitors such as SAP. Both providers claim that they are responding to the stated needs of customers.

Oracle Order Management Cloud is an order capture and fulfillment Cloud application that is includes integration with Oracle Global Order Promising Cloud.  The application was designed to improve order handling across the order-to-cash process.  Pre-integration, centrally-managed orchestration policies, global availability, and fulfillment monitoring are included.

Supply Chain Matters spoke with Oracle SCM Vice President Jon Chorley, who informed us that these new SCM applications are linked with a dependency on Oracle CPQ (Configure, Price and Quote), the result of a prior Oracle acquisition.  According to Oracle, this totally cloud-based application is currently appropriate for small or large-scale firms that have a predominant quote-to-cash customer fulfillment driven process. Down the road, in future Oracle Public Cloud releases, other sales and distribution channel customer fulfillment needs will be targeted and supported.

The pricing model for the cloud-based order-to-cash application is pegged to a combination fee structure associated with internal users supported and with order lines being processed.

Release 10 Cloud further includes Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) support, including a Product Hub, a primary vendor facing, master data management support application and a front-end, product development support application.

In Release 11 of Oracle Cloud SCM, the enterprise technology provider will target additional manufacturing focused support needs, most likely to be announced at the upcoming Oracle Open World conference in the fall.

Bob Ferrari


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