Optimization of Supply Chain Software Solutions is Questioned

As software converges, it is more capable of being all things to all supply chain managers

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The 2,600 primarily customer attendees at this year’s JDA FOCUS were looking for lots of things. They wanted to know how JDA’s acquisition of RedPrairie is going, four months later, and what it will mean to them. They wanted to learn about JDA eight, a cloud-based bundle of more than 30 supply chain software products built on a single platform. And they wanted to know how any one of those products – WMS, TMS, SCMP—might improve their businesses.

But according to Hamish Brewer, JDA’s CEO, they would do well to think beyond the individual benefits of each product.

“For most of you, there is more potential value in connecting nodes in your supply chain than in drilling down into any one silo,” said Hamish during his opening address to the audience on Day 1. “The consequence of siloed thinking is that if you have a problem in any one of them it will be relatively easy to fix it in that silo. But if you have a problem across three, it gets difficult very quickly.”

This sentiment is not so subtly hidden behind the release of JDA eight, which emphasizes the notion of convergence of software applications. Common platforms make each of the traditional software silos work better with one another, but that can be accomplished to some extent with any mixture of software, middleware, and IT infrastructure investment.

The message at FOCUS this year is that there’s a better way to do business.

“We’re encouraging customers to stop talking about individual products at all, because that just reinforces the silos,” says Prashant Bhatia, vice president of industry strategy for JDA. “Instead, we should talk about roles and functions.”

For instance, what does a warehouse’s receiving supervisor need to know? He needs information from both the WMS and the TMS. What does an online commerce manager need to know?

Most best-of-breed WMS are ready out of the box to cater to a company’s siloed habits. The wealth of configuration options means customization, or one-off code written to suit a company’s homegrown processes, is rarely necessary or advisable. But that doesn’t mean the configuration options that have been standardized into core products are necessarily good for business either, says Tom Kozenski, vice president, marketing, JDA.

As software converges, it is more and more capable of being all things to all supply chain managers. But a company might do well to shed some of the things it’s been doing. This is particularly evident in the multi-channel boom, says Kozenski, wherein a customer might have operated three distinct supply chains for each channel: wholesale, retail, and direct-to-consumer. The convergence of channels – the collapsing and combining of strategies for the movement of goods—is driving the convergence of software. A convergent TMS now needs to include long haul, fleet and parcel carrier options to serve all three, says Kozenski, in addition to relaying information smoothly to and from the WMS.

“Optimization is a funny word,” he says. “You can optimize a WMS. You can optimize a TMS. But if you optimize a platform that sits above them, it might be one plus one equals three. We love to pitch the platform approach [such as in JDA eight], but the customer buys by silo. They think the platform is interesting, but only as long as it solves the problem in the silo. For many of them, siloed behaviors, thinking and budgets are hard to get away from.”


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