i2 Launches New Business Planning System

Targeted at faster and better business decisions, the supply chain vendor's new S&OM solution rolls together a workflow engine, Scenario Management tool and consulting services.

i2 this week launched a solution aimed at catapulting S&OM (sales and operations management) to the "next generation," where software and services will help customers make better and faster decisions in response to todays rapidly changing and increasingly complex business problems.

The first prospects for i2 Technologies Inc.s new S&OM Solution will consist of companies in the CPG (consumer packaged goods), high-tech and auto industries, in which supply and demand has gotten "so variable that (sales) plans often fail," said Karen Laucka, i2s solutions director for S&OM, in an interview.

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Laucka acknowledged that many of i2s competitors also provide S&OM functionality. But, she added, i2s solution represents the start of a "next generation" approach to S&OM, providing users with BI (business intelligence) that will support quick, flexible, and effective decision-making.

Some analysts agree that supply chain vendor i2s new S&OM Solution puts it way ahead of the rest of the pack.

"S&OM is a business process to balance demand and supply. [All businesses] do that," said Stan Elbaum, an analyst at the Aberdeen Group.

But S&OM has changed dramatically in recent times, according to the analyst. "Historically, [businesses] would do S&OM on a monthly or maybe a quarterly basis. Now, some of them are balancing demand and supply every day," he told Ziff Davis Internet News.

"In the past, if sales said there would be more demand, it was the job of the supply side to figure out how to meet that demand. [But today], the supply side might ask, I have excess capacity, so why dont I tell sales to push harder?"

Companies often change courses in midstream, when it turns out that their original forecasts were wrong and their plan havent worked, Laucka said.

Playing into the increased complexity are wide variances in the profitability of different products, according to Elbaum.

To Elbaum, i2s approach differs from that of smaller business process flow specialists, as well as S&OM offerings from both i2s supply-chain rivals and big ERP giants such as SAP AG and Oracle Corp.

"But i2 has managed to translate into software the whole system of planning, execution, analysis and re-planning," he said. "There might be others out there who can do this, but at this point, we havent seen anything else that can."

Next Page: Scenario Management looks at "what-ifs."