i2 Syncs Financial, Supply Chain Goals

The company rolls out a Sales and Operations Management solution for retailers and manufacturers.

i2 Technologies is releasing its Sales and Operations Management, a solution designed to allow retailers and manufacturers to bring together financial planning and analysis with supply chain operations.

i2 announced the release of the solution April 28.

"Sales and Operations Management sits on top of supply chain and ERP [enterprise resource planning] systems, and allows reporting on the entire sales and operations process," said Amarnath Thombre, director of manufacturing solutions for i2. "You can orchestrate the entire process in one system."

Thombre said the sales and operations process typically involves a series of meetings and reviews, ending with a final executive meeting where decisions are made. Because typically sales and operations are managed with an array of disparate systems, he said gathering data for review requires significant manual effort and becomes a "data collection exercise."

"It stops people from doing meaningful analysis on the data, and the data quality is poor," Thombre said.

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Utilizing the Sales and Operations Management built-in constraint engine, he said, companies can perform impact analysis, run multiple scenarios to determine potential benefits and risks resulting from different decisions, and select options to solve problems from a built-in library.

In addition, Thombre said the solution serves as an accountability tool.

"One big problem is that people keep making changes to plans, and then it's hard to find out who is responsible when problems occur," he said. "Sales and Operations Management serves as a corporate memory and enforces accountability for plans that everybody signed up for."

Thombre said the solution measures and monitors compliance with sales and operations plans and also serves as a repository and tracking device for KPIs (key performance indicators) associated with different supply chain activities.

In a 2008 benchmark report that analyzed more than 250 manufacturers, the Aberdeen Group found that best-in-class manufacturers are leveraging automated decision-making, investing in cross-functional capabilities and creating real-time interoperability across disparate cross-functional systems. Report results indicate that best-in-class manufacturers realize 17 percent higher on-time deliveries and a 26 percent higher level of raw material use than their peers.

i2 Sales and Operations Management features a complete interface with Excel 2003 and 2007, with added functionality to allow process management within Excel and automated, editable tables that display aggregated data at any level. The system runs on an Excel/.Net framework built on an i2 ABP (agile business process) platform and Oracle database with built-in i2 data schema. i2 offers process and strategy consulting and services around the solution.

Dan Berthiaume covers the retail space for eWEEK. For more industry news, check out eWEEK.com's Retail Site.