Friday, May 4, 2007

Event Report: i2 Planet 2007, Orlando, FL

Given the recent consolidation in the industry and increasing dominance of both Oracle and SAP, I couldn't help but wonder if supply chain had gone the way of CRM or if it was a specialized field that would continue to stand out like business intelligence. In fact, I normally don't specialize in supply chain but was at this year's i2 Planet mostly to get caught up to speed on i2's order management cycle capabilities and Agile Business Process Platform (ABPP). Here are a few quick observations from the event:
  • Lots of interest and enthusiasm for the new generation supply chain. Customers expect demand-supply synchronization and related real-time demand management integration to provide faster time to results and greater flexibility. More importantly, customers expect demand shaping to drive visibility across the value chain. You could see the eyes light up and the energy levels go up especially in the TMS (Freight Matrix), POS Demand Sensing, and demand shaping sessions.
  • Supply chain continues to be a proactive discipline. More than ensuring that the right product reaches the right customer at the right time, users expect to drill into the root-cause and rapidly apply corrective actions. New generation supply chains deliver on the convergence of visibility, planning, collaboration, control, and analysis. Customers continued to express the need to be vigilant.
  • i2 has developed significant expertise in the front end sub processes. By besting SAP at Lenovo, i2 proved not only the strength of its order fulfillment to order completion, but also its ability to move into opportunity to order capture via not only its configurator but also its multi-channel capabilities. Believe it or not, the complete order management cycle on the Lenovo site runs on i2.
  • ABPP provides the technology foundation for i2's future. After some extensive discussions with both Sanjiv and Pallab it became clear that i2 has a clear understanding of its role in the future of solution centric software ecosystems. I believe i2 intends to emerge in the next 3 to 5 years as a complete supply chain solutions provider with a platform that will support a wide range of deployment options, solution options, partner extensions, and professional services. This will not be an easy task to deliver, but the intention is to provide customers and partners with flexibility via the toolkit (e.g. MDM and business content library).
  • Many SAP customers continue to choose i2 while Oracle customers remain hesitant. From talking to customers and system integrators, i2 continues to hold its ground and gain some momentum in the SAP install base. Key factors include user reluctance to upgrade to NetWeaver and i2's continued lead over SAP in advanced capabilities. Penetration and growth in SAP accounts parallels the experience of BI vendors Cognos and BO who have entrenched themselves with business users in "SAP only" environments. However, i2 needs to figure out how to win over Oracle customers. To date, I see Oracle customers more likely to explore hot acquisitions such as G-Log and Retek while holding on to their latest release of JD Edwards or Oracle EBS.
  • i2 remains a thought leader in the industry. I often joke if i2 stopped building software it would be the supply chain consultant of choice like an Ann Grackin at ChainLink or AMR Research. The conversations I had with all levels within the company showcase their bench strength and passion. Discussions in the breakout sessions and throughout the event showed that a good majority of the best of the best were i2 customers.
Despite the current industry consolidation and shift to the next generation of software, I believe i2 can pursue a strategy similar to Amdocs and succeed in not only a horizontal capability but several industries with end to end solutions and services. The push to solutions selling and services revenue on a flexible platform is the first step. The real story is how much investment in R&D and innovation capabilities will i2's board allow in a post- Mike McGrath era.

(The personal contents in this blog do not reflect the opinions, ideas, thoughts, points of view, and any other potential attribution of my current, past, or future employers.)
Copyrighted 2007 by R Wang. All rights reserved