My friend and colleague CJ Wehlage has weighed in on what he believes will happen on the Gartner Top 25.
CJ is most certainly being bold and I cannot fault his analysis beyond the usual carping that the Top 25 generates. Instead I want to focus on what seem to me to be major trends that are maybe below the surface but will inform a lot of the discussion. I go to and speak at a lot of conferences so I hear a mixture of over stated claims, future initiatives, and concerns about the state of Supply Chain Management. Over the past 3-4 years Sales & Operations Planning (S&OP) has seen a resurgence in interest, including the many variants such as Integrated Business Planning (IBP) and SIOP. More recently there has been a lot of discussion, including from Christian Titze, Ray Barger, and others at Gartner on Visibility, usually coupled with the term end-to-end. What I have been hearing more and more recently, let us say late 2013and early 2014, is end-to-end planning. Kinaxis led the charge in this space first calling this a Control Tower in 2012-2013, but that was quite confusing because the 3PLs were already calling their capabilities Logistics Control Towers. Which got even more confusing when Visibility became more popular because how is that different from a Logistics Control Tower? To me this is all semantics. At the core what people are trying to do, whether during execution or within operational, tactical, or strategic planning is to bring in a wider set of data so that they can investigate more alternatives during the planning phases and get early warning of things not going to plan during the execution phase. Perhaps even more importantly it is about getting different functions within the organization and even across organizations to work together to resolve issues, which is of course the essence of S&OP: Sales and operations planning (S&OP) is an integrated business management process developed in the 1980s by Oliver Wight through which the executive/leadership team continually achieves focus, alignment and synchronization among all functions of the organization. Substitute the words “executive/leadership” for any other group and you have what I am hearing over and over as End-to-End Visibility and End-to-End Planning. It is about lowering the walls between functions and organizations so that we can finally replace inventory with information. But this isn’t what is in the core of the bubbling cauldron. End-to-End Planning and Visibility are driving a core need for a rethink of the entire supply chain data layer. Gartner went through this rethink a few years ago, and, as much as I hate to admit it, they were ahead of me. This is when Gartner moved from a 4 stage demand-driven maturity model to a 5 stage model in March 2013 by inserting a stage in the middle called Integrate. (Introducing the Five-Stage Demand-Driven Maturity Model for Supply Chain Leaders, 26 March 2013, Noha Tohamy, Matthew Davis) Gartner states that what is required to achieve this stage of Integrated DDVN are
Technologies to support end-to-end supply chain processes; improved data rationalization and integration capability. Cross-functional decision making across internal supply chain; process-focused COEs to enable the business.
I bring out these description of technology and process needs because they show the dependency of the process on the technology. They also show that my statements above are totally consistent with Gartner’s perspective. But the elephant in the room is the technology. In fact it is really the data. Many companies have several instances of ERP, each deployed differently. Despite many moving to a single instance of ERP there are still many ‘shadow IT’ required to do what the core ERP solution cannot. And then there is the planning layer, which is even less harmonized or standardized. Most business people consider this an IT problem. Guess what? It isn’t going away until the business makes solving the data issue their issue. And it isn’t about consolidating down to a single ERP system. Even though consolidating down to one ERP instance is a step forward, with manufacturing outsourcing accelerating in many industries, heterogeneous data sources are here to stay. The question is what will the future data layer look like? As Josh Greenbaum states in a blog published just today and titled “Security, Privacy, Big Data, and Informatica: Making Data Safe at the Point of Use”
Our data warehouse legacy treats data like water, and models data management on the central utility model that delivers potable water to our communities: Centralize all the sources of water into a single water treatment plant, treat the water according to the most rigorous drinking water standard, and send it out to our homes and businesses. There it would move through a single set of pipes to the sinks, tubs, dishwashers, scrubbers, irrigation systems, and the like, where it would be used once and sent on down the drain. But data isn’t like water in so many ways.
My bold prediction is that the data layer isn’t going to be ERP centric as it is now. And we are not going to repeat the marketplace craziness of the late 1990s. Unless cloud native ERPs such as Kenandy, which is based on SalesForce, emerge with built-in semantics to absorb meta-data from many sources and pull data in when needed. But I predict we will see a whole new breed of data providers emerge, possibly out of the wreckage that is the EAI space, that will capture this space and serve up data for analytics and business purposes.