Q&A Part One: Discussing JDA’s Convergence of i2 and Manugistics TMS

Grudge Match: Manu versus i2 TMS

I Hate You, I Hate You! But, Yet I Find You Strangely Attractive…

Two JDA TMS Consulting Experts – Two Different Perspectives

In this first article, we bring the JBF Consulting i2 TMS Lead (Utpal Patel) together with Brad Forester – Managing Partner and TMS Practice Lead for JBF Consulting. In the first part of the article, we discuss some of the differences between the Manugistics TMS and the i2 TMS and some of the highlights of the JDA TMS.

Grudge Match: Manugistics TMS versus i2 TMS

I started working with the Manugistics TMS back in 1996. At the time, I was a Transportation Manager for Lucent Technologies and was responsible for the implementation of the Manu TMS – then version 4.7. I enjoyed working with the product and the people of Manugistics so much that I decided to join the software company during it’s heyday in 1997.

Back in 1997, this was the pre-bubble boom of best-of-breed supply chain software. There was an explosion of new 7 and 8-figure license deals, and competition became quite fierce between the ‘rival’ i2 Technologies competing offering and the Manugistics TMS. At the time, I loved Manugistics…and loathed i2 – and the rivalry was fierce and frothy, to put it mildly.

Many years have past, and many bubbles have burst – not only the stock market collapse of the early 2000’s. Retail-focused software company, JDA acquired Manugistics in 2006 and then picked up i2 in 2010 – effectively bringing together two staunch ‘enemies’ from a product (and arguably from a people / culture standpoint).

In trying to make heads-or-tails of their purchase (not to mention the addition of RedPrairie TMS in 2012), JDA decided to employ a ‘best-of-both’ approach and cobble together core modules from both the i2 and Manugistics TMS product platforms, and embed some of the core technology that most other JDA applications work from.

JDA released this plan for ‘convergence’ in 2010 and is still in the process of merging the two platforms. As part of this convergence, JDA has promised a clear path forward for existing users of either the Manu or i2 TMS platforms. At the time of this article, JDA has begun getting some traction with the converged solution – though many ‘legacy’ clients are still on the fence waiting to see some additional success or uptick in adoption of the converged solution (specifically for migrating users).

This dialogue is geared towards those existing users of either Manugistics TMS or i2 TMS, to highlight some of the changes that you might expect from this converged product. Discussing this with me is Utpal Patel, a partner in JBF Consulting’s TMS practice since 2012. Utpal has worked with the i2 product since 1999, with consulting exposure in industries ranging from High-Tech, Oil & Gas, Government, and Industrial.

JDA As Mediator

JDA As Mediator? They’ve Done it Before…

The Odd Couple: Can Manugistics get along with i2?

BRAD: So – let’s just get this off the table first. You spent several years at i2 during the ‘boom’ time. Did you hate us (Manugistics) just as much as we hated you?

UTPAL: We did loathe Manu as it offered stiffest competition with our prospects, especially in the TMS space!

BRAD: Well, at least we are in agreement on that! Now, we know that JDA will essentially be utilizing the i2 ‘engine’ for the majority of the TMS’ horsepower. But, if you are a legacy Manugistics client – you must be skeptical about how easy JDA can possibly make a ‘migration’ into the Converged solution. Considering the level of effort clients will ‘likely’ need to move into the new JDA platform, what do you think the biggest benefit will be for existing Manugistics TMS users (at any level – whether IT or Business)?

UTPAL: There are many benefits to the converged solution. The strength of the i2 engine has been its richness in representing real world transportation constraints and advanced solving techniques that address broad class of distribution problems. In their major release 8.0 announced last year, JDA has taken a major step in providing solutions for international logistics with multi-mode legs that include vessel bookings. They enhanced the data utilities that are supported out-of-the-box to allow existing clients to leverage existing integration methodologies. Legacy Manugistics TMS (prior to version 7.5.2) clients will also appreciate the introduction of the concept of Smartbench in the major release which enhances the usability of the transportation planning and management functions and I believe this was picked and integrated from the Manugistics solution.

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BRAD: Yes, in my view – the biggest weakness of the legacy Manugistics TMS platform was it’s functionality in International Transportation. I recall numerous implementation ‘workarounds’ to allow the Manu TMS to plan Ocean & Air international. We had some shortcomings on the rating side, which were improved in the 7.6+ releases…but, there was still a very manual approach to international execution. Bookings were manually assembled, ocean and air schedules were difficult to import. So, it seemed that the solution was still very reliant on the in-country Freight Forwarder to play a big role. There wasn’t the process automation and direct integration with ocean and air carriers that many shippers (and the industry analysts) were envisioning.

To your latter point, I think the Smartbench is a great tool with a lot of inherent flexibility in the design (though to be fair, JDA offered this on the Manu product since 7.5.2). There are myriad different ways for a user to customize their experience – which is a definite step in the right direction for JDA. But – in my opinion, the Smartbench is more of an ‘Analyst-Level’ tool and not a ‘Load Planning’ tool. The architecture of the Smartbench makes it rather sluggish and the UX flexibility actually makes it more complicated for Load Planners. Those are the biggest dings against an otherwise good front-end.

We are still missing Dashboards though. Will Manu clients get any additional benefit from the i2 parts with respect to this? I have many clients that want tactical views of their aggregated data on a real-time basis. Competing products like LeanLogistics LeanTMS do this very well. They aggregate or ‘roll-up’ a cut of the data to provide a snapshot of all loads for a particular user. It might display high-level metrics of things such as ‘Load Count by Status’ so the planner quickly sees how many Loads were Rejected (for example). Side by side with other things like ‘New Orders to Plan’, ‘Loads in Exception’, etc. To date, JDA (Manugistics) has relied on the Reporting engine for this. But, in my view it’s not ‘real-time’ enough for a Load Planner (nor is it easy to use).

Any improvements to speak of that might address this? Or, are we stuck in the Reporting abysss?

UTPAL : It is interesting you made a point about sluggishness of the Smartbench and how it can be viewed as an “Analyst-Level” and not a “Load-Planning” tool based on your Manu experience. JDA has made significant improvements to empower the load planners to get summarized views about the happenings in the network on the key load metrics( total weight, total volume, total distance travelled, cost etc.).

The Smartbench has been enhanced not only to give dashboard views about happenings in the transportation network but it also supports drill down to specific loads and shipments for exception management. Users can customize the views for the load and shipment metrics of interest and set up alerts for violations. Violations are flagged in the Smartbench and could be also delivered as notifications on your cell. This is very powerful as users get immediate visibility into issues and can investigate rather quickly by drilling down into load and shipment details and can invoke appropriate workflows for remediation. In my opinion, this feature was long overdue. Many of my past large clients expressed their desire to embrace exception driven transportation processes and with the usability enhancements that I have seen in Load Building and Load Processing workflows driven from within Smartbench, both the existing legacy Manugistics TMS and i2 TMS customers will benefit from the upgrade.

One of the major usability technology improvements JDA implemented in their last major release was adopting Rich Internet Technology (RIA) that provides dynamic interface to the users with high level of performance. The interface could be configured to embrace grids, gantt charts,maps etc in a single view thereby enhancing usability of the solution. In the past, i2 TMS could be beaten on the usability metric and we used to resort to performance management and analytics solution outside TMS to wow the prospects. JDA definitely has got it right with release 8.0 and when I spoke to a senior JDA product strategy executive at FOCUS 2013, he assured that their roadmap includes continuous improvements on usability aspects of the solution with specific emphasis on Role based UI improvements and expanding mobility features in TMS execution for “real-time” actions.

BRAD: Okay – I’m such a geek, but I’m officially excited now! I can’t tell you how long the market has been waiting for enterprise-class applications to adopt 21st century technology around user experience. When I started using the Manugistics TMS product, we were still on ‘green screens’ and then client-server. The ‘apps’ that today’s software vendors are rolling out in the cloud are simply beautiful (SmartSheet, Basecamp, Harvest, GoogleApps, Apple, etc) and the focus has been on usability over feature functionality.

In my view, it’s unfortunate that the enterprise-class vendors started this whole ‘feature function’ arms race back in the 1990’s. They should have been focusing more attention on the user experience. I see so many clients struggle with the sheer volume of configuration options and product complexity. These clients would rather “jump ship” because it felt like too much functionality for their needs, as opposed to investing in learning and leveraging the functionality.


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