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Where is the Supply Chain Technology Market headed?
Naresh Hingorani
Vice President, Global Strategic Market Enablement-Bristlecone
Wednesday, January 2, 2013
Today, supply chains are becoming increasingly global, multi-tiered and complex. Agility, responsiveness, compliance and risk management are the driving factors of differentiation for both manufacturers and retailers. Customers are leveraging software platforms and service firms to drive process-oriented and organizational changes focused on achieving corporate goals. The big software firms in the supply-chain space – SAP, Oracle, Ariba, JDA Software, Manhattan Associates, Infor and others have defined new trends that can be classified as:

Holistic Solution Landscape:

Supply chain is one of the next frontiers in the application space after ERP. Big software firms, relying on ERP, are expanding their functionality into supply chain and procurement with a renewed focus. This is narrowing the gap in functionality and creating a single-stop approach around the 'end-to-end' process. This goal is achieved through both organic (higher product R&D budgets) and inorganic means (example: acquisition of Ariba).

Cloud and Mobility:

The common deployment model has been on-premise since deploying data outside firewalls posed various threats. The success of cloud vendors in CRM and HR has prompted new acquisitions. Cloud-based deployment trend is a steady and irreversible one. Software companies, who initially struggled with it due to the adverse impact in upfront license and ongoing maintenance revenue, are now embracing it. Mobility is another upcoming trend to address processes like order fulfillment, approval work-flows and reviewing dashboard analytics. Work places now enable employees to leverage a single device for personal and official communication. As such, software firms now compete to offer this channel for their workflow and analytic applications.

Big Data and Analytics:

The shift in the deployment and consumption model has resulted in the 'Big Data' trend. The collection of objective and subjective granular level data calls for fast in-memory processing, robust databases and tools to consume and analyze the data. The software firms that can link an overall decision making planning system such as sales and operations planning or network optimization systems to the granular planning and execution system in a ‘measurable’ closed-loop basis stand poised to dominate market-share.

Collaboration and Social Networking:

Inter-company and intra-company supplier and customer networks, collaboration and social networking for business to business purposes during different supply chain processes are gaining traction. Customer and supplier collaborations also generate the Big Data that needs to be constantly crunched and analyzed. The question is if software providers of the future will continue to be product functionality providers or become either content or platform providers? We may find out later, but right now software firms are extending their supply chain and procurement applications to address this trend.

Compliance and Sustainability:

Software companies continue to build initiatives for providing a platform for organizations to work through their green supply chain or their trade and compliance mandates. This is embedded in both their planning applications to ensure that contract negotiations abide to the trade compliance rules for vendor selections and in execution software, where custom regulations for transit and export regulations are adhered to.

So - back to the basic question. Where is the supply chain technology market headed? The nature of the best of breed innovation culture itself is changing and the answer lies in the above trends. Those software or services firms that will be able to figure out the magic formula will be the ones to watch out for.

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