We all know that globally extended supply chains business processes add more complexity and added challenges to management processes.  More demanding customers and constant changes across business areas cause Sales and Operations (S&OP) teams to get involved in much deeper business scenario and project planning needs.  There are more frequent new product introduction cycles, constant fluctuations in customer product demand that is now focused for specific geographic markets and business processes need to be focused on supporting more supply chain responsiveness. At the same time, global operations imply a multitude of information sources spanning multiple software applications and systems spread across the value-chain. Supply chain and S&OP professionals are also much more mobile, finding themselves to be loyal members of airline frequent flyer programs as they visit multitudes of suppliers and trading partners.

Often, when senior executives poll their S&OP teams for options and timetables related to many of these challenges, there are often lag times as teams query multiple information sources and analyze all various options to make the most appropriate recommendation.  While the goals of the S&OP process and indeed the overall end-to-end supply chain are often focused on enabling more predictive capabilities to stay in-front of constantly changing business needs, challenges in finding and analyzing insightful information become bogged down in elongated information analysis and search for insights. If there was ever a business process capability that can best benefit from advanced analytical capabilities, it is managing the end-to-end supply chain.

The good news for manufacturers, service providers and retailers is that leading-edge software vendors who understand these supply chain decision support needs now “get-it”.  Newer, more analytically driven decision support and business intelligence tools are making their way to you, business end users.

Here are some examples of capabilities now coming to market just within the last few days.

S&OP process support provider Steelwedge announced this week the enhancement of process support capabilities adding a Steelwedge S&OP Insight module, powered by a separate analytics engine, that combines online analytics and planning to deliver contextual planning to analyze decisions related analysis of product demand segmentation, inventory segmentation or service level planning for key customers. We found, after witnessing a demo, a neat provision for customers to be able to add other analytical “apps” to these capabilities, and then incorporating them into the S&OP process. This is indeed a new opportunity area for S&OP teams to add more responsive analysis and decision support tools to their process framework.

Collaborative B2B execution provider E2open has this week announced the addition of E2 Rapid Resolutions, extending the E2open Business Network with cross-network prescriptive analytics for decision support.  This added capability leverages next-generation integrated data, process, and analysis across the end-to-end network for continuous monitoring, earlier detection, and faster resolution of supply chain disruptions. Supply Chain Matters will feature an additional commentary regarding this capability in a separate forthcoming commentary.

Response management and adaptive planning provider Kinaxis has added deeper analytical planning capabilities including the ability to present analytical planning and decision support information on mobile devices.

Here at the IBM Smarter Commerce Summit, Emptoris, an IBM Company has outlined its roadmap to build the one-stop information repository for procurement, adding broader analytical and decision support capabilities leveraging Cognos analytics capabilities.  IBM also announced that its Watson based analysis capabilities made famous in the Jeopardy game challenge, is now going to be directly provided in areas of customer service and support for manufacturers, services providers and retailers. IMB further announced support to leverage SAP HANA capabilities, particularly related to SAP APO, for those organizations utilizing IBM DB2 database technology.

The takeaway for our readers is that the community of technology providers focused on supporting supply chain and B2B support needs are now quickly responding with deeper business intelligence and predictive analytics support options.  Deployment options include cloud-based, hosted and behind-the-firewall.  Now is the time for your supply chain organization to have a strategy on how to best leverage the benefits of these tools. Your options are getting far broader.

Bob Ferrari


Disclosure: Both Kinaxis and E2open are named sponsors of Supply Chain Matters and clients of the Ferrari Consulting and Research Group.