The following posting posting can also be viewed and commented upon on the Supply Chain Expert Community web site.

This is our fifth and final posting concerning the Kinaxis Kinexions 2011 conference held last week in Phoenix.  Readers can review previous commentaries by clicking on the following links:

Dispatch One

Dispatch Two

Dispatch Three

Dispatch Four

The persona of Kinaxis events frequently includes three consistent themes, Learn-Laugh-Share, and Kinexions 2011 did not disappoint in terms of an enjoyable experience.  We genuinely like to attend Kinaxis events. Attendees once again were treated to the humor of Bill Dubois and the Late, Late, Show format of speaker interaction. The presentations and conference content were all very informative and the customer appreciation event was a lot of fun. Congratulations to Kirsten Watson and to all of the Kinaxis conference planning team for conducting a great conference.

Besides the usual complement of enthusiastic customers, the headline for Kinexions 2011 was the announcement that the company’s core product will be renamed Kinaxis RapidResponse Control Tower. The implication of this announcement is that the existing RapidResponse functionality of supply chain planning and response management along with S&OP process support will be expanded into areas of sales force optimization, profitability analysis, workforce and sales force optimization.  The concept of supply chain control towers coupled to more predictive analytics is gaining lots of interest in complex, highly outsourced supply chains such as the high tech and consumer electronics industry, and no doubt, Kinaxis management wanted to steer the functionality of RapidResponse toward supporting these needs.  One of the thoughts we “tweeted” during the conference is our belief that customer needs and technology developments are aligning toward a new era of supply chain predictive analytics.

No doubt, Kinaxis wanted to gain an upper-hand in being identified with offering supply chain control tower process support, but more importantly, to be recognized as the single supply chain decision platform that can best assimilate all supply chain related decision-support information. Kinaxis is currently working with four other development customers on various aspects of deployment, and it will important to monitor how these deployments impact business results over time.

It will be interesting to also watch one other provider of control tower functionality that Supply Chain Matters has noted. Business process management (BPM) provider Progress Software has developed a control tower type application to support supply chain process execution and visibility.

An obvious open question remains as to whether prospects and customers will embrace a “cloud” deployment of this functionality, given the mission critical and security sensitive nature of global supply chain related information.  While not a lot of cloud deployment information was openly shared during the conference, we suspect that Kinaxis management will continue to provide flexibility in customer deployment options. Our hallway conversations with some select Kinaxis customers noted some concerns in gaining access to non-core supply chain information sources such as financial planning, product management and CRM.  The implication is that Kinaxis sales teams will have to target more education to the IT audiences of prospects.

Supply Chain Matters often looks forward to hearing the customer presentations delivered at Kinexions, as well as the hallway conversations.  The primary reason is that the Kinaxis customer base represents many tiers of global supply chains, from the most innovative OEM’s and product innovators such as Amgen, Cisco, and others, to large-scale contract manufacturers and mid-market companies.  What you often find is that the mid and lower tier supply chain players, that have to manage single digit gross margins are often the most innovative in finding methods to innovate planning, response and customer service process needs.  These players are often tasked by larger, more dominant supply chain partners to provide broader visibility and more responsive response to changing business needs, and as Jabil astutely pointed out, they must also be able to out maneuver large OEM’s in terms of periods of short supply or supply chain disruptive events.

Make no mistake, innovation occurs at all levels of global supply chains.

As we noted in our detailed commentary, the Kinaxis team also decided to invite a broader group of well recognized industry analysts, systems integrators and bloggers to this year’s conference in order to broaden the visibility of the company.  Kinaxis is a privately owned company and this overt step to broaden the company’s visibility in the market may be a prelude to other options down the road, perhaps taking the company public.

The influencer track provided a great opportunity for invited guests to gain a broader understanding of RapidResponse capabilities, including its current scalability among customer deployments.  Some scalability numbers shared were 20 million plus input records processed per second and 20,000 planned orders or 300,000 dependent demands processed per second in MRP calculations.  We have noted in past commentaries that this application is unique in that it spans well beyond just supply chain planning utilization support and includes aspects of supply-chain wide visibility, S&OP process support, and other uses.  It is not uncommon to hear that some RapidResponse customers have end-user counts in the hundreds and thousands. A persistent layer of broad-based supply chain planning information, business scenario related data modeling, and most importantly, the business rules surrounding the data are all housed within the RapidResponse engine. This lends itself to a viable interactive decision-support platform for planning and managing the supply chain. It is no surprise that many of Kinaxis’s newest customers have been attracted by support for their respective S&OP and other broad based decision oriented processes.

It was also rather important for Kinaxis management to clarify that RapidResponse does not exist without the existence of current backbone ERP or legacy systems.  Rather, it enhances the need for supply chain and business planning decision-making without having to rip-out existing ERP systems or endure disruptive upgrading of applications and ERP vendor technology stacks.

In summary, we believe that Kinaxis remains as a technology provider with lots of momentum in the market, with the potential to provide further innovation in predictive analytics and supply-chain decision support.  We believe that next year’s Kinexions may well provide more customer evidence of these evolving capabilities.

Bob Ferrari

Added Note: Kinaxis is one of other named sponsors of the Supply Chain Matters blog and the author provides services to this vendor.