We pen this commentary from the beautiful Aria Hotel in Las Vegas which is hosting supply chain technology vendor JDA’s annual Focus customer conference for three days this week.   This was the first time since the inception of Supply Chain Matters that we have been invited to attend Focus, and we praise both the JDA social media and industry analyst relations teams for their recognition of the influence of supply chain social media platforms such as ours. By the way, the Aria has some pretty nifty high-tech laden rooms.

We begin our initial commentary with some general first impressions garnered from day one of the conference.

One of the more pleasant surprises regarding this conference was to note the sheer presence of slightly over 2000 attendees at a conference dedicated to enabling supply chain business processes with technology. That should be an indicator that either conference education budgets are far healthier, or that the focus by many businesses on enhancing supply chain capabilities is a lot more focused.  We hope to gain a better sense of this in tonight’s networking reception.  Attendees are reading these commentaries are welcomed to share their motivation for attending.

Another impression to share is the announced strategic shift in JDA’s product strategy over the next five years.  In the opening keynote, president and CEO Hamish Brewer announced to his assembled customers the intent of JDA to move toward a cloud-based solutions provider, with JDA Cloud being positioned as a prime business development offering. Brewer’s message to customers was to not overtly change the current collection of product offerings but to give consideration to moving to the cloud delivery model over the next 3-5 years.  That statement comes with a lot of open questions for JDA as well as its current customer base.  The specifics as to what components are to be included in JDA Cloud seem to be a bit vague after day one.  This author managed to attend a customer presentation delivered by Lenovo’s E-Commerce business, which was an early adopter of JDA hosted systems. While we were able to gain some additional knowledge of what is being defined as Managed Services, JDA will need to get much more specific since the target buying teams now include functional supply chain and IT constituencies.

Late this afternoon, JDA hosted for invited industry analysts, media and influencers a specific demonstration of a rather cool product being termed JDA 3D, which was jointly developed by JDA and Red Dot Square Solutions. Our best description of this product is a combination of simulated retail merchandise planning, retail planogram, and 3D visualization wrapped together in software. The application fuses the needs for retail assortment planning, sales and marketing effectiveness and product demand sensing in a single application.  The application is being positioned to either help consumer goods manufacturers inspire customers to buy their products, help retailers to design a more pleasant and effective floor environment, and allow product development teams to virtualize how a product might fare in the market in a digital simulation.  Lots of possibilities for this application and hopefully JDA will provide more specifics.

Our final observation relates to the conference access that JDA grants to industry analysts and bloggers.  This is one of the very few technology providers that restricts attendance to certain product or customer presentations.  I was informed by long-time industry analyst attendees that the restricted list is narrower this year than in previous years, and thus JDA’s outreach teams should be commended for practicing some internal change management.    That aside, if a technology vendor believes in its products and its abilities to solve customer problems, than it should be willing to be transparent.  Heck, even enterprise vendors SAP and Oracle provide total access to all presentations.

Bob Ferrari