Last week I got out of Boston just ahead of the massive blizzard that covered much of the area with over 3 feet of snow (I was not so fortunate this week, as I watch another foot of snow fall). My destination? A much warmer and sunnier San Jose, where I spent a busy 2 days with Oracle at their annual Oracle Value Chain Summit. The main theme for the visit, similar to what was discussed at Oracle’s Open World conference at the end of the 2014 was the importance of cloud within the portfolio of Oracle solutions. Oracle also showcased the wide breadth of solutions and case studies they have in the supply chain space – a testament to the mega vendors solution portfolio.
Here are my take aways from the two days I spent on the west coast.
- Oracle is doubling down on the cloud. The main stage sessions on Tuesday, January 27,placed a heavy emphasis on the efforts and growth of the Oracle cloud offerings. Both Oracle CEO Mark Hurd and Steve Miranda, EVP of Applications Development, spent extensive time discussing the success Oracle has seen with their cloud solutions and continuing to make the case for a greater number of solutions being moved to the cloud. Highlighting the success they have had with the cloud for their HCM (more than 950 new applications cloud customers), CX (more than 1100 new customers) and ERP solutions (more than 250 new customers), it is clear that Oracle is doubling down on the cloud for 2015. This next year should be interesting with regards to which solutions in the Oracle Value Chain portfolio get heavily invested into the cloud. Mr. Hurd has a vision of a few mega vendors providing a full suite of solutions that allow supply chain solutions to be fully stitched together. As we know, for the supply chain space that entails a complex and wide array of solutions. Oracle has already put many of these in the cloud, 2015 will be an interesting year to watch as this cloud push continues to pick up steam.
- Oracle is happy to sell you the point supply chain solution you need. One strategy that has serviced Oracle well is their willingness and ability to sell some point solutions, which allow them to gain a foothold within accounts. Rather than always trying to push a larger suite solution sale, the point solution strategy gives Oracle great flexibility when it comes to account targeting. Organizations such as Mason Companies and Ricoh are leveraging the Oracle WMS offering to manage their distribution networks, but see this investment as a first step to address greater supply chain needs. Areas such as greater system optimization or after sale management could conceivably grow from this WMS foray. Oracle’s long running strategy of acquiring strong point solutions such as G-Log, Retek and Demantra to name a few, allows the flexibility to sell these solutions into accounts as opposed to have a “one mega size” fits all offering. Oracle will be well served to continue this tact.
- However there remains room for best of breed providers. While Mr. Hurd argues for a handful, or fewer, of large vendors providing a one-stop shop, there will always remain room for best of breed vendors. Why? Because these mega vendors cannot service every solution and need of the user at the highest-level possible. That is no knock on these mega vendors. A recent article in the Economist pointed out that even in the world of mega vendors – such as Google in search – that smaller vendors still hold an important role. They are in existence to address specific areas that the larger vendors cannot properly address. For example, speaking with a manufacturer who looked to leverage Oracle’s global trade management (GTM) offering was disappointed in the level of maturity of the solution. They had to lean heavily on their solution integrator to fill in the gaps of the Oracle GTM offering. A candid story to say the least, but not surprising. These large vendors have such an extensive portfolio; across so many different industries that one cannot expect that each solution has received the same level of development and attention as one another. Customers need to keep this in mind when making vendor selections – sometimes a vendor that focuses on one specific supply chain problem offers the best solution.
As Mr. Hurd said from main stage “supply chain is hard,” there is no doubt about that! Oracle spent over two days giving us a host of case studies and presentations of how they are tackling these hard problems. The sessions I was able to attend provided a wide swath of stories about how companies from global automotive suppliers to General Electric Power & Water are leveraging Oracle to better manage their supply chains.
It will be interesting to watch how Mr. Hurd’s theory in the rise of the mega vendors plays out. Something to watch in 2015 and beyond.
You better watch out
You better not cry
You better not pout
I’m telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town
Santa Claus is coming to town
Santa Claus is coming to town
Yup, the big guy dressed in red is getting ready to make his annual appearance. Bringing all the girls and boys, as well as some lucky moms and dads, presents and gifts for their Christmas trees. And all he expects in return is maybe some milk & cookies or even a carrot for his reindeer. But did we ever expect Santa Claus to provide us with some simple lessons that are applicable to our supply chains?
He has the global fulfillment thing down…
- He makes and list and checks it twice. Sage advice about how to handle all the data and information that extended supply chains produce and leverage on a weekly and daily basis. Many of the conversations I have had with supply chain practitioners and service providers comes back to getting a cleaner and more complete view of all the data that their supply chain produces on a weekly and daily basis. Look at what Santa is able to do – put all those wish lists in one aggregate list. He does check it twice to ensure consistency and correct for errors. Also good advice. Since we all know what garbage in gets us…companies like Avaya have worked with solution provider Kinaxis to create a more clear and single view of their distributor network and the data that is the connecting glue. One clean and unified view! Make sure to clear out that garbage before it gets into the system – or on Santa’s list.
- Gonna find out who’s naughty or nice. Yup Santa also looks at his data to segment his customers. Granted he has two simple categories. Our supply chains’ customers and suppliers are also segmented and they do not fall into simple “naughty” or “nice.” But maybe the simplicity of how Santa does his segmentation should drive our own. The key is identify what key variables matter to our businesses and supply chains. Determine which variables you need to identify and focus on to create the most effective segmentation. Santa might not explicitly state it, but his segmentation like our supply chains leverages a greater number of predictive analytics to drive better clarity. For example service providers such as Infosys work with a large office products manufacturer to better understand customer segments to establish service level engagements. Santa and our supply chains need to lean on tools and service providers that can help identify the variables to effectively and efficiently segment our target audience.
- He sees you when you’re sleeping …He knows when you’re awake. Maybe Santa has a secret deal with the NSA to eves drop on our calls…okay I joke…I think…but Santa makes sure he is aware of his consumers’ characteristics and where they are in the gift receiving pipeline. If we are awake he wouldn’t deliver our presents! Your supply chain needs to be sensitive to customers and where they are in the buying cycle. Think of how companies such as Steelwedge and Salesforce have worked together to help their customers better with the S&OP process by tying in the data coming from the Salesforce CRM to get a clearer view of where customers are with regards to the transactional pipeline. It is not simply about identifying our sleeping patterns, but understanding where we stand in terms of the buying cycle what our demand is and might be – are we in a position to have our gifts delivered by Santa?
- Santa’s a busy man he has no time to play…He’s got millions of stockings to fill on Christmas day. Wow, talk about solving the delivery to the home enigma. Santa and his reindeer are able to criss cross the global, in one night, and accurately deliver a vast number of packages, of different shapes and sizes, to millions of locations! Unbelievable. Santa is also ahead of the curve as he has been able to provide home delivery since day 1. Now I am not saying we can all find a Rudolfo with his nose so bright to guide our fulfillment and logistics departments, but there is something to say about how integrated Santa’s workshop is with his distribution center and his logistics. He cannot be expected to demonstrate this level of efficiency is he stocks the wrong goods, doesn’t properly load them to his sleigh and then takes poor routes to his delivery locations. Clearly the value for supply chains to integrate the warehousing and transportation is what Santa’s efficiencies demonstrate. Vendors like Oracle with their integrated WMS/TMS and now yard management (that is like what Santa does with regards to managing the elves and ensuring their are efficient) or JDA with their TMS integrated with the WMS acquired in the RedPrairie merger, are prime examples of solutions that even Santa would appreciate to ensure seamless optimization between the workshop and the big red sleigh – ensure the inventory that he has to haul around the world on the night of December 24th is properly slotted and routed.
The one aspect Santa does not seem to have worry too much about, is with returns. He does not seem to have a good reverse logistics or after sales service department. But since he has gotten so much of the upfront part right he does have to worry about delivering the wrong items! Alas our supply chains do not have that luxury, and our supply chains do need to take into account reverse logistics, returns, maintenance and other after sales issues. But thanks to Santa Claus we have something to aspire to with regards to our supply chains.
Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays!
I just returned from a successful week spent at Oracle OpenWorld in San Francisco. A nice perk for being in the Bay Area at this time of the year was summer was in full swing! While it was raining buckets back in Boston, I was enjoying the close to 90-degree sunny weather…as I ran between meetings. The conference revolved around Oracle’s push into the cloud, talk of the importance of mobility, smarter access to big data and the demotion of Larry Ellison to CTO…okay the last item was some good humored self deprecation from Mr. Ellison himself while on stage for his keynote Tuesday. He even apologized for missing last year’s main
Not a bad trophy to have at your event…
stage demo since he had been pulled into watching some boat race. Anyways, the area I was focused on was what Oracle was doing in the supply chain and retail/CPG spaces. Oracle did not disappoint with the large number of sessions dedicated to these spaces. So let’s look at 3 things I took away from both the CPG/Retail sessions and the Supply Chain sessions –
The shift in power in the CPG-Retail spaces means a change in how we address it:
- In the retail space Oracle discussed a persona-based approach for their offerings. Clearly traditional retail sub segments are not behaving the way they once did – the customer persona is becoming the driving force not the retail sub vertical. Retailers need to approach personas when it comes to how they best address the consumer need. It is the consumer that will dictate what the rules are. The retailer, with help from their service providers, need to focus on addressing the different personas they are servicing and build the software and solutions around this. This is what we are seeing with Matrix Commerce – as the number of intersections between the consumer and commerce supply chain grows, so does the need for the solution vendors to offer more nimble solutions. Oracle provided an example of how they could work with retailers to equip the retailer with an enhanced view of the customer. They designed a system that allowed the retailer to associate a persona to the way the consumer interacted with the retailer – pulling information from all possible channels. Allowing the retailer to more effectively address the consumers’ needs. Oracle Retail, staying true to what was being discussed on main stage, highlighted the fact the solution had a mobile aspect. Why is this important other than following the buzz? It places the information and analytics in the hands of those working on the retail floor. The mobile delivery of data and analytics means the people at the store level can make better decisions and service the customer in a much more personalized and effective manner. Getting the information closer to the decision makers.
- We are all aware that consumer influence has increased vis-à-vis retailers and CPGs. Oracle highlighted how their solutions are helping CPG companies to be even more efficient and effective in their relationship with the retail channels. Once again it boils down to focusing on better usage of retailer data and the subsequent enhanced collaboration that allows an effective partnership between CPGs and their retailers to meet increasingly savvy consumer requirements. Sony discussed working with Oracle to overhaul their managing of sales and promotions for their PlayStation products and how it was sold through retail channels such as Wal Mart, Gamestop, Target, Amazon and Best Buy. At the core Sony and Oracle worked to harmonize and ensure they had the most reliable data and a system of record from which to build upon. From this they worked on putting together an S&OP process that allowed for Sony to do greater analysis of the insights they were getting from the retailers and how Sony could do a more cost effective and smarter job in marketing and selling the PlayStation. Sony was able to look across all their channels, coupled with other sources of data, to improve their planning cycles for the PlayStation. As they stated – they have a very large competitor, with very deep pockets…so Sony has to do it smarter and more efficiently. Focusing on the fundamental blocking and tackling with the help of Oracle gives Sony a competitive edge in the space.
- Finally, and this was something I heard through many of the sessions for CPG and retail, but there is a real emphasis on how to take advantage of the confluence of mobile – big data – analytics – cloud and focusing on how to drive down more intelligence closer to consumer touch points. This is really about empowering all the players that are close to the consumer, the best data and analytics to make the right decision on the ground. Think about it, you and I as consumers have gained tremendous power in the past decade. Between the transparency the internet has given us to the ability to carry that internet everywhere we go – we as consumers have suddenly put intelligence and insight right into our purses and pockets. The Oracle solutions targeting CPG and Retailers are looking to give the same level of intelligence to the store associates servicing these smarter consumers. The reality is the large systems used to drive CPG and Retail businesses are vital for running the businesses at a macro level. But the trick is how to empower those that are “on the front lines” to have a similar impact on the process.
The overarching theme for CPG and retail was to provide the complete end-to-end solution and platform that will allow for this transformation. Overall they touched many aspects of what we are seeing in Matrix Commerce. The ability to push data and analytics down to the closest touch point of the consumer is vital to reducing the friction that often flares up at those levels.
Supply chain continues to be about better planning…but also easier access to improved execution
- My kingdom for a better plan! Clearly planning remains at the heart of supply chain…really at the heart of business and dare I say life? Yet for some reason it has a bad connotation at times. Yes we all know that all plans carry one similar trait: they are WRONG. But the reality is we really cannot do much without those plans. What was interesting in the discussions of planning was not that Oracle was professing a 99.9% accurate plan, or a faster plan but looking at offering a more responsive planning method. Since being responsive is different that being efficient. Again pulling on the themes of big data – cloud – analytics, they discussed continuing to work on their planning engines that are digging deeper into the data as well as making them more accessible within the planning organization. Panasonic Avionics (they are the division of Panasonic that builds and maintains many of the in flight entertainment units you may leverage when you are flying) for example, has a very challenging supply chain to service. With long component lead times, capacity constraints, high demand volatility and a large array of materials to service (they mentioned that they still need to support some systems that use video tapes!), Panasonic Avionics really needed a system that was able to rapidly identify where the plan would impact the product. In order to properly achieve this, Panasonic and Oracle needed to ensure the planning engine could truly understand the complexity of the BOM and identify where each part of that BOM could be impacted by any fluctuation in the plan. They highlighted the ability to improve the granularity of the information being pulled into the planning process, as well as the ability to run multiple plans to provide the most robust scenarios. The speed at which Panasonic Avionics was able to refresh their plans allowed for rapid insights into potential issues.
- Embracing the cloud – but not just for lower TCO and faster implementations. Like many vendors, dare I say most vendors; there was a strong message around putting solutions up in the cloud. Good. I agree with this thinking. What I also agree with, and what Oracle made clear was this does not mean you have to ignore continuing to offer on-premise solutions. When I sat through a session on Oracle’s transportation and global trade solutions being moved into a cloud offering, what was refreshing was the fact that they made a point to discuss continuing to offer the solution on premise. And that both would maintain the same high level of functionality. The same was true for the discussion around supply chain planning functionality and its migration to the cloud. What was evident was that Oracle seems to grasp the notion that while the cloud is important; it does not prevent them from continuing to offer and support on-premise offerings. I do think that the strategy to give a choice is important and will allow them to target mid-market and individual business units in larger enterprises. Long gone are the days of massive system overhauls and implementations. Supply chains need nimble solutions to keep up with their ever-changing environment.
- Making supply chain solutions even more business friendly. Let’s face it, when it comes to the supply chain function within business, it is still fighting for a place at the big table. Yes we hear of more companies with CSCOs, but I would still wager that number is small compared to CMOs, CFOs, CIOs and yes CEOs. But my last take away from the supply chain discussions is the way Oracle appears to be addressing this issue. For example, they spoke of better tying in what is happening in the supply chain to the marketing side of the house. The solutions stressed the need to drive analytics and better information down the planning stack – get as much rich information where it matters. Decoupling the financial flow from the physical supply chain to better understand how the two interact. Individually these are all nice efforts, but put together they indicate a view of the importance of the holistic supply chain – one that starts on a solid platform where the right data is leveraged. This mirrors what was spoken about on main stage Tuesday, and the overall drive by Oracle to ensure cross channel and cross identity customer experience. How true that is at the core of supply chain – being able to ensure the best view of the customer’s needs and orders.
Oracle’s overall Value Chain solutions are all rowing in the right direction. When you add to the discussion the continuing evolution of Oracle’s Warehouse Management solution that has added Yard management – clients have the ability to access a full suite of execution modules. When it comes to Matrix Commerce, one key need for the commerce supply chain is to ensure the elimination of friction, friction that arises from supply chain blind spots. Not having the full view of your fulfillment can cause supply chain blind spots to sprout.
Oracle continues to maintain its status as a “mega vendor.” Their breadth and depth in terms of solutions and industries make them a serious contender in most situations on the market. We will continue to watch with intent how they address the area.
Today JDA announced the changing of the guard at the head of the company with long time JDAer – Hamish Brewer moving on. Interim CEO Baljit (Bal) Dail will take over until a full time CEO is found. From an outside perspective this is a surprising announcement. However, from a business stand point this makes sense.
Since the acquisition/merger with Red Prairie in April 2013, the dynamics for JDA has changed. What has been a strategy of acquiring new revenue streams – see Manugistics and i2 acquisition – could not be sustainable. At some point JDA will need to compete with organic development of its own and revenue if it hopes to challenge the likes of SAP and Oracle. It looks as if the board determined that Hamish was not the right person for this new challenge. Mr Brewer does deserve a lot of credit for being able to cobble together a family of supply chain vendors and not only keep the ship afloat but also continue to drive JDA forward.
Whether it is Mr Dail or a new CEO, they will face some challenges:
- How will JDA continue to drive and grow revenue. JDA has the classic problem of a large business, the good is they have a large portfolio of products the negative they have a large portfolio of products. In such verticals as automotive they are facing challenges from the likes of Kinaxis. In the S&OP space the likes of SteelWedge offer a viable option. Of course they always have the threat from SAP and Oracle.
- Speaking of product portfolios…JDA, like many legacy vendors, straddles the world of on premise and cloud offerings. While I think there remains room for both, I think the value that comes from being more “cloud heavy” will start to out weigh on premise. For example companies such as One Network or E2open have leaned heavily on the cloud and in doing so are able to bring added benefits of creating turn key networks. Users who need to integrate large networks of suppliers, customers and partners via their solutions into their supply chain network will lean more and more towards cloud heavy offerings.
The new CEO for JDA will face some interesting challenges. However, the company still has a number of arrows in their quiver. It will be interesting to see how the company moves forward. And what type of background the next CEO has will go a long way in determining where JDA finds itself in 5 years.
Disclosure: I worked at i2 Technologies for 5 years. I left i2 Technologies prior to being purchased by JDA in 2010.
When it comes to the supply chain space and solutions, there are three trends I am looking for in 2014:
- Software providers will strive to offer full supply chain solution suites. Mega vendors such as SAP, Infor and Oracle have been ahead of this game, just by their sheer size. A growing number of service providers such as JDA and Logility will continue to push in this direction –looking to offer their own supply chain solution platform. Practioners will seek service providers that can address larger and more inclusive supply chain challenges, rather than simply optimizing pieces of the overall puzzle. They recognise that optimizing parts of the supply chain can often times lead to unintended consequences in other parts of the supply chain. This does not mean that software providers that do not offer a full end to end solution will fall out of favour. These bolt-on solutions will continue to allow for targeted supply chain problems to be addressed. However, these solution providers will have to continue to demonstrate how their solution will be interoperable within the overall supply chain solution network. If you are already engaged with a mega vendor, lean on them to understand how their solution suite can address your larger supply chain issues. When it comes to vendors with smaller solution footprints, ensure that they can seamlessly tie into the solution ecosystem.
- Expect innovation from the non-usual suspects. Innovative solutions as well as thought leadership will not come only from best of breed providers or consultants, but also from such sources as 3pls and contract manufactures. These players will bring their unique perspective to the supply chain, and drive innovation and thought leadership from the manufacturing and transportation position….think about 3D printing from your contract manufacturers like Flextronics or Jabil and how they are applying this technology and how that innovation can impact your supply chain. Or how your logistics provider like DHL, FedEx or UPS will drive aspects like same day delivery or multi-channel retailing. Other logistics providers who can empower you to drive your supply chain into emerging marketing such as the likes of Agility or Imperial Logistics. Innovation in the supply chain had become more democratized; do not hesitate to look to all your service providers for innovative thinking.
- It will not be about big data but about actionable data. The notion of large amounts of accessible data will not diminish, on the contrary the amount of data we have access to for our supply chains will only continue to grow. But the vendors that are equipped to provide actionable data is going to be more important than big data. For example vendors such as IRI and Neilson can already provide large quantities of consumer data. Other business intelligence vendors have the ability to take massive data to cleanse and harmonize data. But practioners need to look for the vendors that are focusing on identifying that actionable data. To borrow a phrase from a conversation with SAP – “the haystack keeps getting larger and larger, and you are still looking for that needle” Solution providers will start focusing on identifying the actionable data, rather than just big data. Just because we can start looking at every last piece of data does not mean we should be doing so. Solution providers that offer the intelligence to find the key pieces of data within that haystack will be the ones that gain in relevance. Companies like Zyme are focused on the hi-tech space will be able to give companies like Barnes and Nobles a better understanding of what data they need to be aware of for products such as the Nook tablet. Work with your service providers to go deeper than just looking at big data – understand what types of data they are comfortable with and what industries they have deep knowledge of.
2014 should be another interesting year in the space…but then again isn’t every year that way?
Sales is responsible for executing on the now, Marketing is responsible for preparing for the tomorrow.
Anyone who has worked in either sales or marketing knows that there is always an underlying tension between the two organizations. At times this can be amusing and at times it can be down right counter productive. The reality is the two need to work together and the two need to understand that they each have specific and equally important roles to play. Sales needs to close business now…and generate revenue. Marketing needs to get things lined up so that when the tomorrow becomes the now, Sales can be successful.
Today’s announcement by Salesforce.com to acquire ExactTarget for approximately $2.5b is an indication that vendors are realizing the importance of providing an end-to-end tool for marketing and sales. This follows on the heals of Oracle acquiring similar marketing automation firm Eloqua in December of 2012. Both Salesforce and Oracle are looking to integrate these marketing automation companies into their existing CRM offerings and beyond. Really starting to move towards being able to provide a “funnel to funnel” view of the customer acquisition journey. Companies, small and large, need the ability to clearly understand and measure how they target, acquire and convert their leads. Marketing automation tools are a natural extension of what Oracle and Salesforce have developed with their own CRM offerings.
The question becomes, for clients who may have had ExactContact for marketing automation and Oracle or another vendor for CRM, will they be “encouraged” to migrate to a Salesforce offering? Same goes for Eloqua. The other burning question is who targets Marketo? They would appear to be the next domino to fall. Will SAP or Microsoft potentially start sniffing around Marketo?
Yes that is $1.3 BILLION that the German software maker will have to pay to Oracle in damages for a scheme to steal customer support and software from Oracle so that SAP could lull those customers over to their solutions. Ouch. SAP’s after tax profit last year was $2billion…wow. This will have some serious repercussions in the software and business world. I would not be surprised if you will hear of more law suits against SAP – similar to the one filed and won by i2 Technologies a few years back.
These law suits are too common in the software world, however they have always been difficult to prove and even more difficult to assess damages – how can you really place a monetary figure on supposed lost sales or clients? And how can you really prove a line of code was stolen? Yet this finding marks a signal that the courts are becoming more savvy in presiding and passing judgment over these matters. The impact of the this announcement will be felt throughout the industry and business:
- SAP will be seriously hamstrung to go out and acquire other players in the space to bolster their business. The major dent in their cash as well as market value could make them an enticing acquisition target themselves – Microsoft anyone?
- Oracle will be bolstered by this and they might go out and look for new targets to acquire. Not that they were in need of cash, but getting a nice check for $1.3 billion can make shopping during the holiday season much easier! Could they go out and target a firm like JDA – small fish I realize. Or maybe one of the system integrators out of India…What about Infor?
- New lawsuits, couple this verdict plus SAP’s willingness to pay off i2 in that lawsuit and I am sure you have every vendor that did business with SAP calling up their legal departments to determine if they can get shot at the giant. SAP’s ecosystem is far and wide so I would not be surprised to hear of many more small and large lawsuits being filed.
Part of me also wonders if SAP knew this might happen, reason why I have been seeing what appears to be a major uptick in television ads from SAP. A preemptive marketing campaign to remind us all how wonderful they are and how many of the things we enjoy “rely” on SAP software.
I am sure that Larry is going to have a very happy Thanksgiving, I wonder if this means he will purchase a new yacht to race in the America’s Cup regatta?