This Supply Chain Matters commentary is our third update concerning our attendance at Kinexions 13, the annual customer event sponsored by Kinaxis, Inc. held last week in Scottsdale Arizona.
Readers can view our previous two commentaries by clicking on either of the two web links below:
The focus of this commentary reflects on the product strategy side of Kinaxis.
At the conclusion of last year’s 2012 Kinexions event, this author concluded that Kinaxis stood at an important crossroads. With the 2013 Kinexions checkpoint, the transition continues from both a product and organizational -wide perspective. At this year’s event, CEO Doug Colbeth again stressed Kinaxis’s ability to consistently grow its revenues 30 percent each year, while continually to delight customers. Yet that growth path, by our view, continues to present challenges of scale and cadence. Kinaxis is a company that has successfully anticipated market needs for supply chain responsive planning and simulation capabilities across multi-industry supply chain environments. Each year, Kinaxis RapidResponse, the application, matures to support these needs, while the Kinaxis product development and solutions teams continue to address even more complex customer challenges along with other opportunities for market growth.
This year’s product presentations identified 3 released RapidResponse product updates in 2013, with another 2-3 product updates planned for 2014. Functionality breadth includes the addition of attributes-based planning support including shelf-life and expiry based planning which are highly important considerations for life sciences and pharmaceutical focused supply chains. Support for feature-based bill of materials has been added specifically for automotive industry needs, while both single and multi-echelon inventory optimization support is being introduced. The cadence of product functionality releases is dramatically accelerating, along with added opportunities. . In one session, we heard customer banter related to losing track of what are now major vs. other releases and keeping-up with the cadence.
After viewing four product strategy sessions focused on product development we tend to summarize current RapidResponse development efforts in the following buckets:
- Enhanced functionality requested by specific industry customers
- Added scalability, reliability and speed
- More simplified RapidResponse configuration tools
- Enhanced data and systems integration including master data management interfaces with external systems, and out of the box SAP iDoc interface support.
- Increased support for mobile devices
- New opportunities for growth beyond supply chain planning and response management
A scan of this listing will indicate a company responding to multiple needs for breadth, depth and coverage of functionality. They are classic signs of the growing pains of a technology company responding to increased opportunities for market growth while attempting to preserve a high-touch customer culture. That in itself is not an easily achievable objective without increased scale, industry partnerships and laser-like focus on product development and support activities.
In his keynote session, Kinaxis Chief Products Officer, John Sicard, showed a slide that traced the current history of the company from its origins as Web Plan, the “fast MRP company” to today’s far different Kinaxis that is tackling multiple dimensions of more predicative supply chain planning and decision support. We believe that this specific slide, along with the associated messages and implications to the future path of company growth is the most important takeaway from 2013 Kinexions.
The Robert Frost poem, The Road Not Taken, is sometimes cited as an analogy to a crossroads. Frost cites his conflict as to which road to take in the forest and decides to take the trail path less trodden as the chosen path:
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
That is the current analogy for Kinaxis,- which road to take. The one less traveled or the path often traveled.