New Link in Supply Chain Apps: Modularity

Supply chain management software developer i2 Technologies Inc. is getting ready to put the best face possible on what is expected to be a disastrous quarterly earnings announcement this week.

Supply chain management software developer i2 Technologies Inc. is getting ready to put the best face possible on what is expected to be a disastrous quarterly earnings announcement this week.

Meanwhile, rival Manugistics Group Inc. continues to build momentum after posting record revenues for the quarter and announcements of additions to its supply chain suite.

The difference in the two companies fortunes has as much to do with how their respective SCM products are sold as with what is in them.

Whereas Manugistics has taken a modularized approach to selling its software, some IT managers claim that i2s big-deal sales mind-set is too much. In addition, Manugistics specialized in a number of vertical markets—such as government and defense—that may have weathered the economic storm better than i2s high-tech vertical focus.

For the second consecutive quarter, i2s financial results will come in below expectations. The company will report a second-quarter loss of about $2.11 per share, or more than $1 billion, according to a pre-earnings warning it made earlier this month.

To right the ship, i2 has embarked on a 120-day reorganization plan that will realign its sales force so it sells smaller SCM and SRM (supplier relationship management) components, rather than its traditional big e-marketplace software, such as its TradeMatrix suite.

To get away from selling monolithic implementations of the suite, the Dallas-based company this week is expected to announce a partnership with a major services provider that will enable it to offer more value-added services to customers through its TradeMatrix Open Commerce Network.

i2 also will introduce a series of free half-day seminars, called the Value Delivery Series, that will showcase i2 apps.

In addition, the company in September will make available Version 5.2 of its TradeMatrix business-to-business platform. New in Version 5.2 will be technology from RightWorks Corp. that adds collaborative e-procurement capabilities in negotiation, buying and order management to i2s SRM applications. Version 5.2 will also have a new order management system, a Dynamic Value Chain tool that provides visibility across the supply chain and tighter integration with enterprise resource planning applications. TradeMatrix 5.2 also will introduce a common Web user interface to the entire suite.

Meanwhile, Manugistics is taking an aggressive stance in filling out its supply chain suite. The Rockville, Md., company will announce a partnership to add strategic sourcing to its namesake SCM software at its Envision user conference in Orlando, Fla., this week.

This fills out Manugistics need for more technology on the buy side of e-procurement, said Karen Peterson, an analyst at Gartner Inc., in Stamford, Conn. "All they have now is the ability to release procurement signals," Peterson said. "They have no ability to analyze, to do purchase order or requisition."

Recently, Manugistics strengthened its lineup through licensing Part Miner, a component database of about 10 million parts, and SpaceWorks Inc.s Web-based order management technology and order transaction engine. Manugistics also made a strategic alliance with Centric Software Inc. last month to add supplier collaboration capabilities.

Such alliances have served Manugistics well, since it has done a good job making its various components work well together, said Greg Harris, corporate logistics and production planning manager with Bandag Inc., of Muscatine, Iowa, and a Manugistics user who once evaluated i2 products.

"The look and feel of all items are similar, even if [they were] bought from a third-party vendor—its seamless," Harris said. "Once I got into [i2s] supply chain strategy, they bought another product, and you started to get different looks and feels and it took more to integrate."