Friday, September 28, 2007

Software Potpourri for $500, Alex | AMR Research

Software Potpourri for $500, Alex | AMR Research

Software potpourri could be a future category on Jeopardy, “America’s favorite quiz show.” If you’ve never seen the TV show, a contestant picks a one of 30 blocks on a six column by five row grid. Game show host Alex Trebek reads the answer. If the contestant gets it right, he/she collects the points for the correct response: “American History for $100, Alex.” If not, the other two competitors can respond. For example, the answer might be: “Team that won the World Series in 2004.” Of course, the correct response would be “Who are the Boston Red Sox?”

In addition to the television program, there is a home version, an online game on the website, and even a version for your cell phone. While we don’t have the space to replicate the whole six columns of categories and five rows of answers, here is a chance to play FTM Jeopardy.

Thursday, September 20, 2007 - Kommentare - Leitartikel - SAP - Mit den Kleinen wachsen - Kommentare - Leitartikel - SAP - Mit den Kleinen wachsen

Der Softwarekonzern SAP ist auf dem richtigen Weg: Das vorgestellte neue Produkt für den Mittelstand eröffnet dem weltweit führenden Anbieter von Unternehmenssoftware neue Wachstumsperspektiven. Diese Perspektiven sind nötig, denn im Geschäft mit Großkunden ist der Spielraum ausgereizt.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007 / Technology - Control of the supply chain turns critical / Technology - Control of the supply chain turns critical

Control of the supply chain turns critical
By Stephen Pritchard

Published: September 19 2007 00:54 | Last updated: September 19 2007 00:54

An efficient supply chain is a prize worth striving for. According to Accenture, the consultancy firm, “supply chain leadership” can increase a company’s market capitalisation by between 7 and 26 per cent above the industry average.

But for a business, even competing for that prize demands a significant investment in resources. In sectors such as consumer goods and retailing, established companies have already achieved the easiest supply chain efficiencies.

“Things that are likely to move the dial have to make a significant difference, rather than be technology experiments,” says Stephen Proud, a partner in Accenture’s supply chain practice.

None the less, an efficient supply chain is a must for a widening range of businesses. Fashion, hi-tech and grocery retailers grasped early on the importance of ensuring the right stock reached the right store at the right time.

No one wants a warehouse full of summer dresses in October, or indeed shelves of last season’s mobile phones in the run-up to Christmas. But the supply chain is now moving up the agenda in slower-moving sectors such as heavy manufacturing.

Effective supply chain management is the only way to make efficient use of global sourcing strategies and especially, the huge manufacturing capacity of China and the Pacific Rim.

Although globalisation has reduced production costs in a wide range of sectors, the trend to source components or even finished goods from China and elsewhere has made the supply chain manager’s task far harder.

“Our internal systems handle more than 700 suppliers,” says Christian Verstraete, worldwide supply chain expert at Hewlett-Packard. “We have to be able to ex-change messages not just with them, but with their suppliers.”

Supply chain managers in many sectors are looking for greater visibility of what is happening in their supply chains and faster access to more accurate data.

This means that if there is an unexpected event, be it storms affecting shipping or a production shortfall, companies can divert stocks or bring in alternative suppliers.

“Companies are not just asking suppliers why there is a problem with an order,” says Sanjiv Sidu, president of supply chain management software vendor i2. “They are asking: ‘When did you first know, and why did you surprise me?’”

In sectors such as retail, supply chain problems lead to “stock outs” or empty shelves, which send customers elsewhere. In heavy or complex manufacturing, supply chain problems can lead to cancelled orders running into billions of dollars, or severe penalties for late delivery.

As manufacturers move away from vertically integrated production, the supply chain suddenly becomes critical.

“In aerospace and defence, we are 10 years behind the hi-tech or even automotive sectors and how we improve the performance of our supply chain is quite a challenge,” explains Bill Black, chief quality officer at aerospace manufacturer EADS.

“The cost of running our supply chain logistics is minor, set against the $100m cost of an aircraft. But the cost of failure is enormous.”

About 80 per cent of the cost of an aircraft is accounted for by suppliers and partners,” says Black, making EADS “architects of complex products”.

“I need to know if an event can affect our master schedule and that means that I need to know what is happening, not just with my tier one, but with tier four, five or six suppliers.”

The increasing demands of customers, as well as the drive to cut supply costs, are causing manufacturing companies in particular to renew their investment in supply chain technologies.

But efficient supply chain technology can also open up business opportunities.

For Kautex-Unipart, an automotive component manufacturer based in Coventry, in the UK, supplying BMW’s Mini production line with fuel tanks came with an onerous condition attached. The company had to achieve 100 per cent delivery accuracy, matched to BMW’s JIS 5000 manufacturing process.

Kautex-Unipart is BMW’s sole tank supplier for the Mini plant at Cowley, in Oxfordshire. It has to supply 250,000 tanks each year, in exactly the order specified by BMW, for each of the 13 tanks used on the Mini car.

The tanks even have to be stored the right way round in the shipping containers. If they are not, BMW’s production robots cannot fit them.

The company used a photographic identification system, Visidot, from Israeli vendor Image ID to ensure that tanks can only leave Coventry if the order exactly matches BMW’s requirements.

“Getting supply wrong is the cardinal sin in the automotive industry,” says Jan Parylo, IT manager at Kautex-Unipart. “But the BMW contract has also brought us benefits. We used to have 24 to 48 hours’ visibility of orders. Now BMW can give us six days. As a result, we have more flexibility in our manufacturing and supply processes.”

Visidot is one of a number of new technologies that are helping businesses improve supply chain visibility and the speed at which they collect supply chain data. Others include radio frequency identity (RFID) tags as well as three-dimensional and even colour bar codes.

“In the past, for manufacturers [supply chain] visibility stopped at the batch or lot level,” says Krish Mantripragada, head of RFID and Auto-ID solutions at enterprise software vendor, SAP. “But recalls and quality issues are putting a lot of pressure on companies to make their data more granular, and to be able to track single items.”

The response to RFID, however, differs from industry to industry. Mr Mantripragada says that interest is greatest in sectors such as pharmaceuticals, aerospace and defence “where complete traceability and product integrity are the priorities”.

In other industries, some companies are looking to use RFID to make their supply chains more efficient, but they are finding the costs to be higher than expected. The costs of RFID tags may be heading downwards, but there is far more to a supply chain project than the tags alone.

RFID, for example, produces a unique serial number for each product, while conventional tracking systems may be designed just to record a product’s stock code, and assume that each product with the same code is identical.

“It is partly an infrastructure problem, with the need to deploy sensors. But the second problem is serialised data management,” says Mr Mantripragada. “Many production processes batch supplies, so business processes need to adapt to handle serialisation.”

Business processes that are already designed around items with individual serial numbers often lend themselves best to technologies such as RFID; for others, bar codes or similar scanning technologies might be good enough for some time to come.

“We are certainly not wedded to RFID as a technology. If the project is about better serialisation and that could be done as well with coloured dots, that would not be an issue. And there are environments where radio frequency technologies are not applicable,” says Mr Proud at Accenture.

For businesses considering their supply chains, the most important step is to look at the business process and how it could be improved, and then pick the technology that fits best.

Nick Costides, portfolio manager for UPS Supply Chain Solutions, based in Atlanta, says: “As an express delivery company, barcodes meet our needs. But in the long term, there are opportunities. For example, if every item in a warehouse had an RFID tag, it would make taking physical inventories much easier.”

Companies also need to consider how access to item-level data, or indeed more up-to-date status information from the supply chain will support decision making.

“Distribution centre operators clearly have different needs from C-level executives,” says Mr Costides. “We give them the information they want to see, so they are not overwhelmed.”

Fortunately, modern enterprise IT systems have the capacity to handle the increased data coming in from systems such as RFID. But technologists caution against relying on a single change to improve supply chain performance.

“There is not one killer application but rather a series of incremental steps before we see the ground shift,” says SAP’s Mr Mantripragada. “Some customers have seen significant returns on investment from better data accuracy and visibility, but no two customer scenarios are the same.”

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007

Friday, September 14, 2007

pVelocity: Software Plumber for Profit Leakage | AMR Research

pVelocity: Software Plumber for Profit Leakage | AMR Research

Some Northern Exposure on Software Innovation | AMR Research

Some Northern Exposure on Software Innovation | AMR Research

We recently spent a couple of days in Toronto to meet with a leading Canadian venture firm and three software companies. While it had been years since my last trip to Canada, the combination of beautiful late summer weather and the buzz around the start of the International Film Festival made Toronto the ideal September destination.

The trip was proposed by Derek Smyth, a partner at EdgeStone Capital Partners, whom we first met when he was COO at Ironside Technologies, one of the e-commerce pioneers. Ironside was acquired by SSA Global Technologies in June 2003. While at Ironside, Mr. Smyth helped grow the company from zero to C$50M (Canadian dollars) in four years.

While many U.S. venture firms shy away from enterprise software startups, EdgeStone focuses almost exclusively on this sector. In fact, the firm’s preferred role is to be the lead investor in early stage companies by taking a healthy equity position in exchange for cash and expertise.

Best early bets: SlipStream, Taleo, and Workbrain

The EdgeStone Capital Venture Fund I raised C$104M in 2000, which as been invested in 15 companies. Key investments included Workbrain, Taleo, and SlipStream Data. Workbrain and Taleo went on to have successful initial public offerings, while SlipStream was acquired by Research in Motion (RIM) (Blackberry owners) in July 2006. To date, that fund has returned 1.6 times in invested capital to investors, ranking it near the top of all North American tech venture firms in the post-bubble period.

Four years later, EdgeStone raised C$108M for Fund II. I was struck by two differences between the portfolios of the two funds: the newer fund broadened EdgeStone’s portfolio outside of enterprise software and beyond Canada, too. To date, Fund II has been invested in eight companies. There is capital available for one or two additional investments.

The Fund II portfolio includes Solace Systems, pVelocity, Shoplogix, CiRBA, RedMere Technology, Varicent Software, MusicIP, and RapidMind. On our trip, we met with pVelocity and Shoplogix (see below). The others seem intriguing, too. Solace is in the XML routing market. CiRBA, with its virtualization software, would love to be the next VMware. RedMere is an Irish fabless semiconductor company that serves the consumer electronics and multimedia markets. Varicent provides incentive management software. MusicIP is a digital-music platform, which helps listeners discover similar types of artists that map to their favorite music. RapidMind provides development tools for multicore platforms.

Steady deal flow, fewer VCs, tighter pockets

EdgeStone has begun raising money for Fund III. The goal is to build a C$150M fund. The Canadian VC market has changed dramatically since Fund I. In 2001, there were 55 early stage Canadian VCs; now there are 12. More than C$4B was raised in 2001 compared to C$1.5B in 2006. Despite the contraction, deal flow has remained relatively constant over the same period. EdgeStone looks at 150 to 160 deals a year, before settling on the two or three best.

One advantage of investing north of the border is the R&D tax credits that the Canadian government provides for early-stage companies. This can result in a 45% lower net cash cost compared to their U.S. counterparts. In some provinces like Quebec, the net cash cost delta is even greater. On the flip side, the primary challenge for firms like EdgeStone is finding experienced CEOs to run the startups. As a result, Canada has a greater percentage of first-time CEOs.

EdgeStone is well-positioned to take advantage of gyrations in the tech market. Its parent company is GMP Capital Trust, one of Canada’s leading investment banks with a strong technology investment practice. In addition to its venture group, EdgeStone has a buyout/later stage equity team. That side of the firm has raised nearly C$1.35B for its three funds. These have gotten progressively larger. Fund I raised C$179M in March 2000. Fund II took in C$361M in October 2003. Fund III generated C$800M in summer 2006.

Meet the portfolio companies

Our journey took us to two companies in EdgeStone’s portfolio, three if you count the Shoplogix customer we also met with, and one company not in its portfolio, but with which Mr. Smyth is highly enamored. For each of their stories, click the following links:

pVelocity: Software Plumber for Profit Leakage”
Shoplogix: A Single Version of ‘Machine Truth’”
Panorama: Silicon Valley Meets Toronto”.

SupplyScape Adds New CEO to Team and $10M in Financing

We also recently met with Mark O’Connell on his sixth day as CEO of SupplyScape, the fast-growing provider of software and services for the life sciences industry. If the name is familiar, Mr. O’Connell was the former CEO of MatrixOne, a leading product lifecycle management (PLM) software company. At MatrixOne, he led the company through several milestones: a successful IPO in March 2000; achieving the status as the largest independent provider of PLM software ($145M in revenue); and the successful sale of the company to Dassault Systemes for $408M last year. Mr. O’Connell joins SupplyScape as president and CEO.

On the same day, SupplyScape also announced it raised $10M in Series C financing from its existing investors: IDG Ventures Boston, North Bridge Venture Partners, Pilot House Ventures, Bethesda Partners, and Pfizer Strategic Investments Group.

SupplyScape is an interesting company to watch. The 70-person company has emerged as the software leader in the nascent e-pedigree market. E-pedigree is designed to secure the distribution channel for pharmaceuticals as finished goods move from the manufacturer to the dispensing point (such as pharmacy or hospital) and guard against counterfeit products and diversion. To date, the company has 63 customers, including many of the best-known pharmaceutical manufacturers and top retailers and pharmacies.

Coming next week: salesforce’s Dreamforce and SAP’s A1S launch

By the time you read this, we will be at’s annual Dreamforce user conference in San Francisco. This event has traditionally provided a sneak preview of the future of software. From there, we head to Manhattan for the official launch of SAP’s new business offering, code-named A1S, for the small and midsize market.

As always, I welcome your feedback and ideas. Is EdgeStone smart to focus on the enterprise software market? If you were a gambler and could only pick one, would you bet your retirement fund or kids’ college fund on pVelocity, Shoplogix, or Panorama? Will Benioff surprise the world at next week’s Dreamforce? Is A1S truly designed exclusively for the SMB market or will this ultimately become the R/3 replacement product? Let me know—

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Bridgestream Buy Positions Oracle as a Top IAM Suite Vendor

Bridgestream Buy Positions Oracle as a Top IAM Suite Vendor

A complete identity and access management solution must include a role mining and role life cycle management capability. By acquiring the role management vendor Bridgestream, Oracle moves to the head of the IAM suite vendors.

Oracle's acquisition of Bridgestream, a Gartner 2005 "Cool Vendor," is the first attempt by a large user-provisioning vendor to enter the broader IAM market, which Gartner defines as including user provisioning, role management for enterprises (RME), identity auditing and resource administration. Three smaller user-provisioning vendors — Beta Systems, Courion and Voelker Informatik — already have their own RME capability. Other large software vendors — such as BMC, CA, IBM, Novell and Sun — have partnered with RME vendors (including Bridgestream) for some time.

Friday, September 07, 2007

MCA Solutions: Weekdays With Morris… and SAP | AMR Research

MCA Solutions: Weekdays With Morris… and SAP | AMR Research

Over the last few months, we have had a series of meetings with executives from MCA Solutions, one of the pioneers in the service parts optimization space. We have also had the chance to interview four customers, including several that were among the first in their industry to use MCA, and another that qualifies as the most recent to go live.

Google “MCA” and the search engine returns lots of listing for various art museums, a club for Ford Mustang fans, the Music Corporation of America, the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency, and a company offering “superior clay roofing tile.”