Apply for a SuperNova Award – Recognizing leaders in digital business

Every year the Constellation SuperNova Awards recognize eight individuals for their leadership in digital business. Nominate yourself or someone you know by August 7, 2015.

The SuperNova Awards honor leaders that demonstrate excellence in the application and adoption of new and emerging technologies.
In its fifth year, the Constellation SuperNova Awards will recognize eight individuals who demonstrate true leadership in digital business through their application and adoption of new and emerging technologies. We’re searching for leaders and teams who have innovatively applied disruptive technolgies to their business models as a means of adapting to the rapidly-changing digital business environment. Special emphasis will be given to projects that seek to redefine how the enterprise uses technology on a large scale.

We’re searching for the boldest, most transformative technology projects out there. Apply for a SuperNova Award by filling out the application here:

SuperNova Award Categories
• Consumerization of IT & The New C-Suite – The Enterprise embraces consumer tech, and perfects it.
•  Data to Decisions – Using data to make informed business decisions.
•  Digital Marketing Transformation – Put away that megaphone. Marketing in the digital age requires a new approach.
•  Future of Work – The processes and technologies addressing the rapidly shifting work paradigm.
•  Matrix Commerce – Commerce responds to changing realities from the supply chain to the storefront.
•  Next Generation Customer Experience – Customers in the digital age demand seamless service throughout all lifecycle stages and across all channels.
•  Safety and Privacy – Not ‘security’. Safety and Privacy is the art and science of the art and science of protecting information assets, including your most important assets: your people.
•  Technology Optimization & Innovation – Innovative methods to balance innovation and budget requirements.

5 reasons to apply for a SuperNova Award:

• Exposure to the SuperNova Award judges, comprised of the top influencers in enterprise technology
• Case study highlighting the achievements of the winners written by Constellation analysts
• Complimentary admission to the SuperNova Award Gala Dinner and Constellation’s Connected Enterprise for all finalists
(November 4-6, 2015) lodging and travel not included
• One year unlimited access to Constellation’s research library
• Winners featured on Constellation’s blog and weekly newsletter

Learn more about the SuperNova Awards.

What to expect when applying for a SuperNova Award. Tips and sample application.

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Plex manufacturing makes happy customers – which leads to healthy growth

I recently attended PowerPlex, Plex Systems’ annual user conference, the largest in their history with over 1000 attendees. It was hosted in the biosphere that is the Gaylord Opryland in Nashville Tennessee; I think I have finally figured out how to navigate the vast property (anyone who has been there knows that the place is absolutely massive, over a beer I am happy to share a funny experience…it involves different shades of green and trying to enter the wrong room).


Show me some numbers!

Enough about my issues with hotel lay outs, what was not confusing from my time spent in Nashville was the positive energy that was running throughout the event. The high level of enthusiasm as well as the positive attitude flowed through the event – Plex truly is living up to their goal of making their customers “happy ERP customers.”

Some highlights from the event:

  • It is all about being the best manufacturer possible – Plex’s community of customers is truly touching a large part of the global economy. From main stage, CEO Jason Blessing, highlighted some impressive numbers of what Plex solutions are powering throughout their installed base:
    • 6m items are being produced weekly.
    • 41m quality checks are taking place per year.
    • $25b worth of customer revenue generated annually.
    • 945b pounds of materials handled on an annual basis.

Some impressive numbers indeed. The lesson to be drawn from these figures is that, as manufacturing remains a vital driver for the economy, Plex continues to play an important role in making this happen. Bottom line as Jerry Foster, VP of Research and Development, said, “Our job is to ensure manufacturers can manufacture more efficiently every day.” It was clear from main stage as well my hallway conversations that Plex remains true to this mantra. They are completely laser focused on how they can partner with their customers to be the best manufacturers possible.

  • The core is solid, but now it is time to improve the edges – The core functionality for Plex is humming along, while Plex certainly is not resting on their laurels, there was discussion around the work Plex has been embarking on with complimentary aspects of their solution. One such area was an emphasis on a new and friendlier user interface, calling it Plex UX. This is not a minor challenge for a company like Plex and the customers they are servicing. Unlike other software providers, the Plex software is truly being leveraged from shop floor to top floor. Plex UX has to be adaptive to a shop floor, which contains many environmental challenges, as well as users who maybe interacting with the software while wearing gloves or other manufacturing gear. At the same time a head of manufacturing, CFO or COO needs to interact with the same software in an office environment. Not a simple design challenge. Look for this to be rolled out in Q4 of this year. The interface is also only as useful as the data and insights that are available, that is where their Plex Insight comes into play. This offering empowers Plex customers to extract the right data from their systems, truly giving a full understanding of data that is being processed. A third new offering is Plex Connect, a platform to connect the vast expanse of data generating parts of the Plex environment. This is most exciting, to this author, when it comes to tying the data being produced from IoT enabled parts of the manufacturing and supply chains. Potentially a real game changer for Plex. In addition to these new offerings, Plex spoke at length of their partnerships with Workday, Demandcaster and Salesforce. Highlighting their focus on bringing together enhanced cloud based offerings to their customer base.
  • Lets get serious about some toys – Apple watch, Google glass, wired clothing, GoGlove and wristband technologies from the likes of Myo and Nymi were all highlighted as areas of continuing focus for Plex. Good. At Constellation Research we are constantly challenging our customers to think about and to be willing to explore areas of digital disruption that can and are impacting their industries. Plex’s continue efforts to explore how they can leverage new technologies and more importantly how they can work with their customers to utilize these new offerings will continue to pay dividends. Plex’s work in the wearables space is of particular interest. For example, they discussed working with clients on connected vests to make the shop floor safer. Environments where heavy machinery, such as forklifts, are constantly in motion, being able to have safety measures such as IoT enabled vests, which can alert drivers of workers on the floor – preventing accidents. The opportunity for Plex is to take some of these learning and offerings and push into areas they currently do not have a presence – think warehousing and even yard management. As IoT, wearables and even drones become more prevalent on shop floors, look for Plex to continue to explore how to make sure these allow companies to manufacture more efficiently.

As I wrote a few months ago after attending the Plex analyst day, the company continues to push towards some lofty heights. Based on the financials the executive team shared with us this growth is being reflected in the numbers, especially impressive is their average annual revenue per customer, which is trending upwards. It is clear that Jason and the executive team are also putting more wood behind the arrow as they are targeting another 100% increase in quota carrying sales executives by end of year. It was also evident in the customer stories from the likes of Accuride, Sanders Fine Chocolates, Fisher & Co, American Axle and Floracraft to name a few.

Of course the road ahead is not without challenges. The company is pushing up stream into larger accounts, which will start putting them head to head with a new batch of formidable competitors. There is also global expansion. While their solutions are being used in over 20 countries, at some point Plex will need to target and close business with manufacturers that are not headquartered in the United States. While they argue there remains plenty of business in the domestic market, for Plex to truly achieve some of the goals they have they will have to target some global geographies.

A good challenge for Jason and his team, one that will determine how far Plex can go. As long as they focus on making “happy ERP customers,” Plex will continue to have success.

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Capgemini continues the journey to becoming the innovation company

Two weeks ago I was on the road again…I know I know…. what a surprise! I can’t complain since I was home, Paris France, where Capgemini was hosting their summer analyst day at their fabulous training center (see picture). While the setting at Les Fontaine captured the tradition and history of France, the discussions with Capgemini were dominated by the theme around innovation and looking forward. How Capgemini is working with leading firms across a variety of industries to infuse innovation into their every day DNA.

Not a bad place for a 2 day meeting.

Not a bad place for a 2 day meeting.

Capgemini is correct in focusing on how the digital revolution we are undergoing, will have a wide and deep impact on industries. While there were a number of examples from all the businesses they work with, the ones that caught my attention were, no surprise, around supply chain.

  • Capgemini and large European retailer discussed their thinking around an important customer centric project. At the base of this project is the need to implement a large and comprehensive CRM system. Speaking with an executive from the retailer, it was evident that they recognize the importance to create a 360-degree view of their customers. The goal being to nurture the customer experience, constantly and continually. The notion of a sequential relationship – customer has a need, customer seeks solution, customer buys product and transaction is consummated – is no longer how the retail/consumer relationship works. The retailer has identified the need to be much savvier when it comes to their consumers’ data. As they work through the technological needs, it was clear in my discussions that they are exploring new and powerful ways of leveraging the information they expect to extract from their CRM solution to better service their customers, which is really about providing an enhanced retailing experience.
  • Speaking with some of the Capgemini executives it was clear that they regard supply chain improvements as holding great opportunity. The thinking focuses on how digital is disrupting the entire supply chain, and the opportunity to target the parts that are “hidden” from the general public. Of course this is music to my ears. A wonderful example of this in action is the work Capgemini is doing with Nokia and their world class supply chain. The Finnish telecom giant has looked to Capgemini to overhaul their production and sourcing processes – to harmonize the supply chain. The work is not simply about buying a new software solution, but rather about identifying the business processes that must change and some that need to be adopted. Not a small task. But the work Capgemini is accomplishing at this level with Nokia could and should lead to more transformative projects within their supply chain – leveraging the digital transformation for future business cases.
  • The Internet of Things (IoT) and the impact it has with manufacturing. Digital manufacturing within such areas as the automotive industry was highlighted as well. Speaking with the Capgemini heads of the automotive sector, the discussion revolved around the base line use cases many companies are using IoT for: asset management, predictive maintenance and field enablement. However in my discussions around this topic we began to explore the possibility of new use cases emerging from IoT. Around greater customer experience, enhanced store utilization and new business models between manufacturer and customer. Some of which may never see the light or day, but Capgemini is clearly thinking about disruptive this technology will truly become. More importantly, Capgemini is partnering with their customer base about how to take advantage of IoT.

Following up from my meetings with Capgemini this March in Chicago, the digital disruptive theme continues to be a vital theme to what Capgemini is executing on with their customers. Their ability to continue to help their customers innovate around digital, will determine how successful Capgemini is in becoming a leading services firm in this space. Companies, from all industries, will need these types of partners as their industries become transformed and disrupted by digital changes.

We are all witness to the transformation every day – for example while in Paris with Capgemini we were subject to a strike by an traditional business, taxi drivers, against a digital disruptor Uber. We are all seeing and thinking about how each industry will be impacted by this change, companies like Capgemini are working on a valuable services partner to help navigate the journey.

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Filed under Current Events, IOT, Supply Chain

Lifesciences IoT opportunity – will privacy issues slow it down?

This week I met with an executive from Biogen. We spent time discussing their business, the usual areas where covered: how they were dealing with the patent cliff, their diversification of offerings, how they were working internationally to name a few. But the one area that really got my juices flowing was when we touched upon how IoT impacts the pharmaceutical space. From my discussion it appears that there are two interesting plays for IoT in pharmaceuticals.

  • The first is in their supply chain. From manufacturing, to storage and distribution, IoT holds great promise. No surprise as we see a large majority of manufacturers across a large spectrum, leaning on IoT to provide data that leads to greater efficiencies within their supply chains. For heavily regulated industries such as pharmaceuticals, the promise IoT holds out with regards to greater visibility as well as enhanced track and trace addresses a key issue these companies must address. Unlike a clothing manufacturer where a defect lot can lead to lost sales or a public relations night mare (think Lululemon’s recall with transparent yoga pants) if a pharmaceutical company has a defective batch of products the potential results are much more serious. They could have dangerous even fatal consequences for the end user. For the manufacturer or distributor they are under threat of heavy fines and even arrest. Not what either the end consumer of the manufacturer wants. Pharmaceutical companies, if they aren’t already, should be looking at IoT solutions that can allow them to secure the handling of their products. For example leveraging sensors that can monitor how product is handled through the transportation nodes: was it maintained at the proper temperature or was the container properly handled: Sensors could also be leveraged to ensure that there was no tampering with the product. Of course sensors can also be used in the manufacturing process to measure and optimize the factory process.
  • The second potential usage of IoT is with the product itself. Now this is where there is the potential for some great insights and good, but also raises a potential red flag. Companies like Merck are already talking about and exploring the development of “digestables.” That is right, IoT enabled drugs or devices that consumers would eat. The hope is that the data that we can extract from these products revolves around how the drugs interact with our bodies, how are they truly interacting and simply if they are being taken properly (read as doctors tell us to!). From a medical devices perspective we already see companies like Boston Scientific who make pace makers that are IoT enabled. Anyone who is a fan of the HBO show, Homeland, knows the potential risk that poses! Much of this is only being tested in the labs or thought about in development meetings, but it does bring up the question about privacy. An enormity that might hold back IoT is how is the data going to be handled and protected? There are already rumblings around simple data that our iPhones or Fitbits collect about how many steps we took today, our heart rates or how many calories we burned. What happens when there are devices that are throwing off data about the health of our intestines, how often we go to the bathroom or if we are showing early signs of diabetes? Richie Etwaru has a wonderful model for IoT where as the IoT enabled product gets physically closer to a person’s heart, the greater the possible issues, especially around privacy. Digestables might be just a few inches away from the heart…from the inside.

Pharmaceutical companies should absolutely be exploring how to leverage IoT. When it comes to managing their supply chain, they are a prime industry to unlock the greater visibility and monitoring of the processes within the supply chain. The real issue is when pharmaceuticals start to productize IoT what will the privacy ramifications be? They better start thinking and preparing for this issue today.

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Filed under IoT, Supply Chain

GT Nexus crossing the bridge to greener pastures

Last week I spent part of it in a much warmer and sunnier location – Hollywood Florida – attending the GT Nexus show: Bridges 2015. The event format was, no surprise, the usual roster of executives and customer stories paraded out on main stage as well as more intimate break out sessions.

On main stage GT Nexus CEO Sean Feeney kicked off the event with an overview of where GT Nexus is and where it is heading. With over $156b worth of goods passing through the GT Nexus systems and over 100k active users, GT Nexus has a clear foundation for continued success in the supply chain world. Mr. Feeney also highlighted the following areas of focus moving forward:

  • GT Nexus transportation management will remain a core offering, one that the company will continue to build on. Good to hear since this is really their bread and butter, and should continue to be their foundation.
  • The Internet of Things (IoT) will become an important play for GT Nexus as the data surrounding their clients products and goods only continues to grow, GT Nexus will be working to drive deeper into the insights this information can offer. Clearly with the explosion of sensors and the data they are throwing off, it makes strategic sense for GT Nexus to put together a strategic offering around this space.
  • Growing mobility ties into the added data GT Nexus will be looking to leverage, since all the data does not mean much if the insights cannot be gained as well as shared wherever and whenever the business dictates.
  • Greater supply chain intelligence. This is GT Nexus’ #1 focus for R&D. Think of this as the platform that will allow clients and partners to move up the ladder to the ultimate goal of becoming more prescriptive rather than simply descriptive.
  • AppXpress, GT Nexus offering a PaaS for their customers and partners to develop applications on their backbone. Clients such as Patagonia and Adidas have already been leveraging this for a year. Look for more clients and partners to take advantage of this offering.

These directions for GT Nexus are natural continuations of their existing business initiatives, but what was an interesting undertone for the firm is their continual work around their platform play. An interesting statement from main stage, and one that I would argue is the most important that came from Sean Feeney was around the amount of data that GT Nexus has passing through their solutions. With continual focus and improvement on this data the greater the results that can be derived from these supply chains.

This notion of becoming the platform to empower their customers with greater visibility is key to the future growth for GT Nexus. Companies such as Deckers, Patagonia and Caterpillar all provided varied uses cases for how they are leveraging the GT Nexus platform, visibility first and then the use cases that emerged. Greater efficiency with supplier relationships, streamlining global movement of inventory and being more efficient with the ability to track & trace product were highlighted via customer discussions. Use cases that might not have the “wow” factor, but use cases that lead to real results and measurable ROI.

What do all these use cases have in common? GT Nexus is the platform being leveraged to provide the necessary data and insights for these companies to implement new use cases. Can GT Nexus continue to build on this platform? There is not reason to believe that with a continued focus and commitment that GT Nexus’ platform play will lead to greater opportunities. It could lead to much greener pastures.

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Filed under Current Events, IoT, Retail, Supply Chain

IBM isn’t about dark suits and starched shirts anymore: focused on providing tailored customer experience

Beginning of last week I was in San Diego for IBM’s Amplify customer and partner conference. While I have been fortunate to have had traveled to some interesting places in our world, this was the first time I had been to San Diego. One of those oddities of my travel. It certainly did not disappoint, unfortunately I was not able to visit any of the beaches nor were the Padres in town. But I digress.

IBM had over 3700 attendees and large number of their partners in attendance at Amplify 2015. Not surprising for a company of IBM’s stature. The show kicked off with Alex Banayan, Author; Venture Associate with Alsop Louie Partners on stage followed by Deepak Advani the General Manager for IBM Commerce. Nothing of great notice other than the fact this is IBM and you had a millennial hosting and IBMers presenting wearing denim rather than the pin strip blue suits and starched white shirts! But this contrast is not lost on what IBM is looking to do with retail and eCommerce. From main stage the message was clear – we are here to empower our clients to provide their customers with an experience that is second to none. IBM is gambling that their wide breadth of offerings, from software to services all tied back to powerful analytics powered by…you guessed it…Watson is a winning formula. A timely message for a market that is ripe for new business models for addressing customer demand and desire. Hardly a gamble, but more a sound strategy to gain market share within retail.

So how is IBM ready to provide the framework necessary to meet this growing need? Deepak outlined 6 pillars that IBM is building their solution around. They are split between customer engagement and partners & suppliers. Around customer engagement they are:

  • Marketing
  • eCommerce merchandising
  • Customer analytics

Focusing on the partners & suppliers portion, IBM is focused on following three areas:

  • Procurement
  • Payment
  • Integration B2B


Screen Shot 2015-05-22 at 11.30.56 AM

Deepak and IBM are betting on the belief that these areas of focus will allow them to provide retailers, and really anyone in the commerce supply chain, the framework to address many of their business issues as well as allow for new business models. These pillars allow IBM to leverage their large portfolio of products and more importantly – services – in a well-articulated offering.

The one area that is lacking is with regards the retail execution and fulfillment portion. An aspect of the commerce supply chain that during my numerous hallway and formal conversations was not lost on both IBM executives as well as customers. It will be something to watch as they have a partnership with the likes of JDA and Pitney Bowes that should address this gap in the their offering. In the long term it will be interesting to see how these partnerships evolve. Does IBM stand to lose some control of their relationships with certain opportunities if they cannot also offer these execution and fulfillment offerings from their own suite? How could this impact both their sales forces and those of their partners, aka who will lead in certain deals? What happens if an implementation of the solution does not live up to expectations, which side will shoulder the responsibility?

Clearly IBM is not shy about partnering to augment their offerings or fill in gaps. They announced during the event a partnership with Facebook, which coupled with the partnerships with Apple and Twitter, demonstrate that IBM is not averse about pulling a wide variety of players into their ecosystem. These partnerships are cleaner since for the most part they are to provide IBM with some powerful and rich data sources to feed their growing analytics machine. When it comes to filling out the pillars Deepak mentioned, in the long run will IBM want to have the remaining pillars to be IBM blue or can partnerships suffice?

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Filed under Current Events, Retail, Supply Chain

Digital Disruption from the Peach State – but where can you buy peaches in the future?


Last week I was in Atlanta with our founder Ray Wang as well as with my colleague Alan Lepofsky. We were hosting a successful second road show event for Ray’s wonderful book – Disrupting Digital Business. During the event we were able to listen to leaders from Adobe and Infosys about how they are dealing with the rise of digital in their businesses. Of course we also heard from Ray on main stage about the key findings of his book. Click here for a link to the tour information.

Alan and I had the opportunity to host two round tables. Alan focusing on how these trends will impact the future of work and collaboration while I focused on retail and the supply chain.

As for my round table, both sessions had lively discussions around how this digital revolution is fundamentally changing the retail and overall supply chains. Here are some take aways:

  • Digital is impacting the future of the store. What is the role of the storefront? eCommerce, mobile, social were a few areas that have had deep impact on how we trade and the role of the store front. We covered such areas as stores becoming multifunctional assets – acting as both traditional stores as well as distribution centers. Or even becoming primarily show rooms. One of the issues that this creates is how the financials will also have to change. Revenue per square foot may not be a true measure of a store’s usefulness with these new functions. Savvy CFOs need to be aware of this shift and figure out how to navigate those waters.
  • Can players within the supply chain work to do a better job with data sharing? A question we have been dealing with as long as there have been supply chains. Anyone who has played the beer game can attest one of the biggest hurdles is to have better data exchange amongst all the players in the supply chain. While all the parties know that conceptually this would help all their causes, the ability and desire to actually share data continues to be an issue. Clearly based on our discussion at the round table this has not been adequately solved. An ever increasing infusion of digital technology within the supply chain is not a panacea. The ability to have players within the supply chain to share more information is all about process change, cultural transformation and trust. What digital and data can provide, are some hard numbers to demonstrate the value of being more open. But remains a challenge.
  • Our shopping experience has only seen the beginning of disruption! We spent a good amount of time thinking ahead, what will the retail experience look like in 10 years. Everything from virtual reality shopping, similar to what Burberrys has attempted in London, to shopping experienced leaning on driverless vehicles that would whisk us from our homes and through stores to purchasing products in customized packages, quantities, sizes – true customization for the individual. All great examples, all that could come true due to the digital revolution we are in the midst of. Of course few CxOs are willing to invest capital in futuristic concepts that do not have a tangible ROI. As with many of these changes, CxOs need to focus on the use cases that can provide returns and benefits in the short term, build on these use cases to lay down the digital rail road tracks that will be necessary for the more futuristic opportunities.

A whirlwind tour last week, between being in San Diego and Atlanta, but the Digital Disruption tour was a wonderful event. Selfishly it was great to spend time with companies such as Coca Cola, Carters, Adobe and Infosys to name a few and discuss how digital is impacting their businesses. The road show will continue, now swinging through Europe. Well worth attending.

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Filed under Current Events, Supply Chain