i2 Aims for Innovation
with Caution"> i2s new applications are aimed at supply chain visibility, material management, consolidated procurement, demand management and collaboration/lean replenishment, among others. "i2 is still where a lot of customers want to be," said AMRs Hillman. Recently, the company has been gaining more traction with customers in a number of areas, especially inventory management and strategic network design, according to the analyst.The vendor is trying to apply innovation to its consulting practice, too, according to Cummings."We have some of the most brilliant supply chain [consultants] in the business, and theyre solving problems now, rather than selling software. Its a subtle change of mind-set, [but] it differentiates us to a certain extent," he said. Beyond software sales, i2s consulting arm performs application delivery and some design, helping customers with everything from exception management to data cleanliness, according to Cummings. "It also helps that were taking a more vertical approach," he said, adding that i2 now runs separate consulting practices for verticals such as retail, consumer products, transportation, high technology and industrial/aerospace. The vendor is playing things more cautiously, though, when it comes to operating platforms. Despite i2s recent partnership deal with Microsoft Corp., only one product in the recent crop of applications runs on the .Net platform. i2 hasnt yet decided whether to port the rest, according to Cummings. "We want to take a phased approach. First we need to understand how .Net works with demand management," he said. "i2 is now Microsofts chosen supply chain partner. The relationship is not trivial," according to Hillman. "Naturally, Microsoft would like its partners to move to .Net. Microsoft really wants .Net to take hold." Meanwhile, though, i2 is also keeping a watchful eye on Linux. "Weve had a lot of internal conversations about open source. It does seem to make sense, [in light] of the industry movement in this direction. But its something we need to keep evaluating," Cummings said. Its still too early to tell how i2 will fare with McGrath at the reins, according to Hillman. i2s future relationship with Microsoft contains a few question marks, too, he said. Microsoft also produces several ERP- and supply chain-oriented products of its own. The AMR analyst also suggested that i2 should take better advantage of the industry move toward hosted software models. The supply chain specialist already does offer a few hosted software services, including a service called Freight Matrix for transportation management, Hillman said. Hosted services impose fewer IT requirements, while at the same time letting customers gain financial efficiencies through an "on demand" model, according to the analyst. Editors Note: This article has been updated to include additional comments from Mark Hillman, an analyst at AMR Research. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news and analysis of enterprise supply chains.