There’s a splendid kind of irony that in the week that a study comes out informing us that supply chain management (SCM) issues dominate the business priorities of the food and beverage industries that two of the leading proponents of SCM should find themselves on the receiving end of some less than great ‘kick off 2003’ stories.
According to the study of food and beverage firms, SCM is a top priority in the coming 12 months, with a need to improve and tighten up the entire process. The bad news for vendors though is that nine out of ten companies want to cut down the number of suppliers they’re dealing with, concerned as they are both about the complexity of the supply chain and the perceived dubious cost benefit that’s being achieved.
In that light, the decision by SAP US to refocus its sales force away from vertical focus - where there would be sales people specialising in food and beverage companies - to a geographically horizontal approach - in a bid to get them closer to local customers - is an interesting move. Other vendors, which have been keen through 2002 to achieve more of a vertical focus, will watch with interest the impact that this has both on SAP US’s sales and its customer relations.
Over at i2, there are other matters to be concerned with. Nuclear Research - fresh from tugging the tail of the Siebel lion last year - has moved on to i2 with similar claims that customers aren’t seeing the ROI that they should expect from deploying its applications. As with Siebel last year, i2’s first reaction has been to cry that the survery is statistically dubious, covering as it does only around 20 companies.
The company has a point - statistically it is pretty dubioius, until you realise the twist in the tale is that the sheer cheek of Nucleus’ approach is only to poll customers which are listed as flagship customer success stories on the vendors websites. So it may only be 20 or so customers, but they are the very customers that i2 and Siebel have touted as being good examples of their software in action. I suspect Nucleus is on a bit of a roll here and is enjoying the coverage it’s been picking up. With that in mind, perhaps the PR flacks at Oracle, SAP and PeopleSoft might want to give some thought as to who’s going to be next...
Personally I’m glad to see SCM move into the spotlight again. I’ve recently been involved in looking at a lot of UK public sector IT projects and the thing that strikes me is how much many of them are being miscategorised as customer relationship management (or citizen relationship management) projects. As Oracle’s Andy Smith explains below, public sector CRM is vitally important and we’re going to hear a lot more about it in the coming months and years.
But major projects such as CJIT - which will overhaul the entire justice system in the UK - or the NHS IT Strategy are essentially supply chain initiatives. For example, CJIT is all about getting a commodity - in this case, a criminal - from one end of the supply chain - the police - to the other - the jail - passing as smoothly and efficiently as possible through all the various intervening stages.
SCM was a hugely popular bandwagon for software companies a few years ago, but its fashionability has been overshadowed of late by CRM and eprocurement. Maybe it’s time we all started revisiting our SCM thinking to see if we’re giving it quite the attention we ought to be?