JDA FOCUS 2013 Wrap-up: Are Your Store Associates Part of Your Supply Chain?

by | May 24, 2013

“Are your store associates part of your supply chain?”  That was the question that I pondered as I arrived at JDA FOCUS 2013.  FOCUS is JDA Software’s user conference.  And, I couldn’t get this question out of my head in an event dominated by JDA’s slogan touting themselves as “The Supply Chain Company”.

This was my first time attending FOCUS and was there due to its acquisition of RedPrairie earlier this year.  JDA had positioned FOCUS as its “coming out party” where it would unveil its post-acquisition product strategy.  Like our clients that I saw at the event, I was anxious to hear how RedPrairie Workforce Management fit into those plans at “The Supply Chain Company”.

For those that may not be aware, JDA already had a WFM solution before it acquired RedPrairie.  Originally, called SoftThought, it was later acquired by Timera which was eventually acquired by JDA and became JDA Workforce Management.

So, one of the questions after the RedPrairie acquisition was what platform is their go-forward WFM solution?  The answer out of FOCUS is “both”.  JDA plans to merge the solutions, taking the best features of both.  This will take several years and each product will continue to be developed and supported along the way.

From the RedPrairie WFM perspective, much of the current development focus is on mobile and tablet.  This is clearly influenced by RedPrairie’s acquisition of mobile-WFM provider Vortex Connect.  It seemed that almost every presentation or demonstration of RedPrairie WFM included a tablet.

JDA also featured a new product called Schedule Modeler which comes out of RedPrairie’s acquisition of Quebec-based Planora, Inc., last summer.  Schedule Modeler provides analytical tools for business users to view and analyze the impact resulting from changes to their scheduling systems configuration.  With Schedule Modeler, users can model changes to business processes, legal requirements, or scheduling rules and understand how these changes influence the cost and quality of the schedule.

While a lot of development is going into WFM, how does it fit into JDA’s overall strategy?  JDA believes virtually any transaction performed in their systems – warehouse management, transportation management, merchandising, etc. – creates work for somebody.  Their vision is that these transactions feed into their workforce management system creating workload which affects the schedule and tasks managed in their store execution management system.

This is a heady vision.  It is also unique in the WFM market. Let me explain:

In the last few years, we’ve seen a “horizontalization” of workforce management vendors.  I spoke briefly about this in a post-NRF video. While people have always contended that WFM was part of human capital management, WFM has remained, largely, a best-of-breed application at most clients, and the most successful vendors have been WFM specialists.

More recently, Kronos and Ceridian (as a result of and since the Dayforce acquisition) have expanded their footprint to include human resource, talent management, learning management, hiring, and other applications that squarely fall in the HCM domain.  Empower and Infor recognize that their past acquisitions give them a broad HCM footprint (see “Three Reasons Why Workbrain Clients Should Be Excited After Inforum 2013” for my write-up on Infor’s Unified HCM strategy).

On the other end, HCM solutions – such as Oracle and SAP  – have always offered a part of WFM but these solutions have lacked depth which gave rise to the best-of-breed solutions.  However, Workday’s recently released of their time tracking module and SumTotal’s acquisition of CyberShift demonstrate that HCM vendors have their eye on WFM, too.

JDA, on the other hand, is making a purely vertical play.  They are aligning their WFM strategy with their retail suite of applications with their WFM-as-the-hub strategy.  The cynic would argue “what else would they do since they lack HCM assets” but that would be missing the point.  It also takes us back to the question that I had at the beginning: Are your store associates part of your supply chain?

Of course, the answer is “yes”. You may not have traditionally thought of your store associates as part of your supply chain but they are.  Your in-store staff unloads trucks, gets product on the shelves, takes inventory, executes merchandise plans, answers product questions for customers and, of course, sells among a multitude of other things.  With the rise of omni-channel and new tasks like in-store pick-up and in-store fulfillment, the store associate plays an even bigger role in your supply chain.

Does this mean that JDA “wins”?  Does this mean that this vertical strategy will beat the horizontal strategy of other WFM vendors?  I can’t say but the strategy provides a clear place and purpose for workforce management at JDA, which is what RedPrairie customers are looking for post-acquisition.

Now, one last thought before I wrap-up: As I mentioned above, the market is bifurcating horizontally and vertically, but one interesting question that is yet to be answered about this horizontal and vertical movement in the WFM market is about the remaining best-of-breed players.  How does WorkForce Software, Workplace Systems and Reflexis in the new world order?  Now, that will be an interesting topic for a future post!

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