While attending the recent Gartner Supply Chain Executive Conference in Phoenix, Supply Chain Matters had the opportunity to sit–down and catch-up with some CEO’s of supply chain software and services providers.  One distinct opportunity was a conversation with Joseph Shamir, CEO of supply chain planning and analytics software provider ToolsGroup.

This author has known Joe Shamir for quite some time, dating back to my days as an industry analyst at AMR Research (now absorbed into Gartner) focused on the supply chain technology market.  At the time, ToolsGroup was a start-up in the midst of making a stronger market presence with a core mission for supporting distribution and customer-centric supply chain planning needs. Briefings with Joe Shamir were often dynamic and quite interactive.

Joe is a colorful and knowledgeable figure in supply chain planning and he has not at all been bashful in sharing views related to planning practices, especially when it relates to leveraging granular data in planning practices.  I mention this specific history because he was, by my recollection, one of the strongest advocates for item-level and demand sensing practices. He has been and continues to be an advocate in the critical importance of a singular planning model to insure scalability and responsiveness in supply chain planning.

Much later, when this author was leading IDC’s supply chain management research, Joe would reference ToolsGroup efforts at Colgate Palmolive, augmenting existing SAP applications and addressing the need for supply chain planners to not over react to events. His passion was in letting the “system” plan requirements based on demonstrated fulfillment or promotional patterns of product demand. His belief was that planners needed to shielded from the day-to-day “noise” of events.

In our interview, I especially wanted Joe to reflect on his prior beliefs and where supply chain planning has morphed to become in the current era of supporting online and omni-channel customer fulfillment. Indeed with the advent of today’s online customer fulfillment needs, more and more distribution sensitive supply chain are now moving toward greater levels of item-level planning, network balancing and what ToolsGroup currently articulates as Predictive Commerce. The clock speed of business has dramatically changed.

Joe acknowledged that perhaps his thinking was ahead of the market, but indeed many of his beliefs have come to the fore.  However, Joe was quick to caution that from his observations, change management and talent management issues still remain to be overcome in addressing the changing needs and requirements of supply chain planning.  This especially relates to broader leverage of demand analytics and indeed, application of more predictive analytics applied to supply chain planning. The role of planner has become more strategic and skill requirements need to catch-up.

Shamir is especially excited about last week’s announced release of a new ToolsGroup simulation tool termed Instant Replay, an application that allows users to retrospectively analyze demand, inventory, supply and service events to ascertain how specific past events relate to key performance indicator (KPI) achievement. According to its announcement, the analogy of this application is one described as a ‘golf swing analyzer” for supply chain planning professionals in determining what actually happened, what should have happened based on the plan, with optimized recommendations as to what to address in subsequent planning. His analogy is one of “fly by wire” planning.

After last week’s interview it is indeed clear to this author that rather than resting on either the belief or laurels that what he predicted for distribution sensitive supply chain planning has indeed arrived, Joe Shamir will continue with his passion toward describing the next set of challenges while positioning his firm to be in the forefront of supporting said challenges with innovative technology. As he often describes, there is little time to rest.

Bob Ferrari

Disclosure: ToolsGroup is a current client of the Ferrari Consulting and Research group.