Today was keynote and announcement day at the Sterling Commerce Customer Connection 2010 Conference. The various morning keynotes highlighted a number of major Sterling announcements as well as internal business changes.

One of the most important, in my view, was the introduction of “as-a-Service” computing options for the Sterling Order Management and Multi-Channel Selling product suites, in essence offering the entire Sterling Selling and Fulfillment capabilities as a cloud deployment option in addition to the traditional ‘behind the firewall’ model.  The implication is rather significant, since so many organizations and indeed our Supply Chain Matters readers often deem this area of capability as ‘mission critical’. Customers, however, wanted and need more choices in deployment options because the business models they are supporting are changing rather dramatically.  The post-recessionary economy presents opportunities to finally increase top line revenue growth or seize market share, but the implication noted was the need for more business agility, more business reach, and extended needs for visibility.  The pressures however to continue to significantly reduce supply chain fixed and discretionary costs continue.  This presents a quandary for both the IT and supply chain communities, and hence the need to push at vendors such as Sterling to provide more options that can help accomplish both objectives.  What has become clear from many of my interviews with Sterling and other executives is that this announcement was driven more by the needs of customers.

Other announcements included the availability of version 9 of the Sterling Selling and Fulfillment suite, with the most significant added feature being built-in business intelligence capabilities provided by use of IBM-Cognos BI components. Sterling also unveiled a mobile applications deployment strategy by providing certain mobile device access to the core Sterling Selling and Fulfillment and Business Integration Suites.

Six new mobile applications for the iPhone have been identified, and more will be introduced in the coming quarters.  Prototypes of mobile selling, channel or store devices can be viewed in solutions centers, and customers have been invited to participate in identifying additional mobile applications needs.

Bob Irwin, Sterling President and CEO contrasted the dramatically different customer business environment of just one year ago that included so much negative news.  Today the sense is that business is ‘getting better’ and the interest to optimize and transform business collaboration networks, and do it better than the competition, is a refreshing objective. Sterling, itself, has reorganized its sales account teams to become much more industry focused.  Product development and marketing has been centralized under a single umbrella focused on suite-wide needs. I also find it rather refreshing to observe a software company CEO humble enough to thank customers for their continued business and continuing to seek their candid feedback and input on meeting customer objectives.  The entire Sterling senior management team was introduced to the audience with the notion that each of them is available to receive customer feedback.  How interesting that the software industry changed in the post-recessionary world where meeting customer objectives every day has finally become the most important objective.

Bob Ferrari