Can supply chain data become so cool that its adopted by more business people such as marketers and sales folks? FusionOps is betting on it.
Metrics such as inventory turns and supplier health were typically relegated to procurement experts and manufacturing wonks. FusionOps' argument is that the data can be freed up for the rest of the business to improve returns.
FusionOps falls into a category where multiple vendors are playing. First, FusionOps could be considered an industry cloud player, but is more horizontal than focused on one industry. More importantly, FusionOps is one of many vendors playing to lead in the analytics layer. This layer of the enterprise software stack revolves around pulling data together from multiple sources and making data visualization friendly to the business user.
Consider that SAP has its analytics play, Amazon Web Services is trying to take more workloads and Salesforce has its Analytics Cloud. Toss in the likes of Tableau and dozens of other vendors and it appears that the analytics layer is the place to be in the enterprise.
With that backdrop, we caught up with Gary Meyers, CEO of FusionOps, in our New York office recently to talk shop. Among the key points:
"Salesforce of the supply chain." FusionOps is positioned as a cloud player that can democratize supply chain data. As retailers go omnichannel and pharmaceuticals need to track ingredients at every step, the days of supply chain data in silos just can't continue, said Meyers. And just as Salesforce managed to put sales and marketing on the front burner for every executive, FusionOps is hoping to do the same with metrics such as inventory turns, supplier ratings and inventory data. "The largest companies have been flying blind," explained Meyers. The issue: Supply chain data wasn't connected between various systems and the front end. Supply chain is directly connected to revenue and sales. You'd just never know it at most enterprises. The reality is that salespeople should know the supply chain forecast simply to set prices and move inventory and discount if needed.
The cloud approach. FusionOps uses the cloud to aggregate data, apply its content and things like pricing algorithms for analytics. "Once the data inside business is surfaced the returns are there," said Meyers. "Supply chain data is then opened up to finance, sales and marketing as well as manufacturing." SAP and Oracle have largely specialized in business intelligence and lack the cloud connections to go across the enterprise. It's worth noting that both vendors are changing that equation. FusionOps typical deal is a one-year agreement under a software as a service model and then a larger pact in the future, says Meyers.
Content matters. FusionOps' Meyers said that his company's biggest asset is its library of content and knowhow across industries. "Any metric a company wants to track can take up to a year to build," said Meyers, who noted that FusionOps algorithms are the secrete sauce. That content allows FusionOps to be 80 percent functional right away with 20 percent needing the fine tuning specific to a company.
Use cases. Meyers said that much of FusionOps' impact has been in retail on order fulfillment. If you can increase on time deliveries dramatically, it improves the bottom line. While we take it for granted that Amazon can tell you inventory, shipping and adjust on the fly, many omnichannel retailers are struggling. For pharmaceutical companies, the key supply chain them is taking one pill and knowing all the active ingredients and where they came from. The returns of such tracking and tracing is a decline in counterfeit drugs, said Meyers.
Big data. FusionOps uses big data techniques and tools such as Hadoop and in-memory processing to deliver its analytics. "In some ways we're like a data warehouse in the cloud," said Meyers. The aim is to use big data and data science to build out predictive capabilities. The FusionOps architecture is set up to account for the Internet of things, which to Meyers is "just another data point."
Talent. What's interesting about FusionOps is the way it has built out its data science roster of talent. The company is in Mountain View, but has development locations in Romania and India among other areas. "Our approach is to find talent and go where the talent is," said Meyers. "We want a group of people who can work as a team." That approach explains why FusionOps is in Romania. Meyers said FusionOps found one developer who was excited about the supply chain, data science and algorithms and had strong English skills. "We asked him if he knew other people," said Meyers. "We built a team around him and it became a hub." Now FusionOps has two locations in Romania. "We want to find someone we can build a team around and understand how the company works," said Meyers. In India, Meyers basically took one of FusionOps' engineers who wanted to go home and built a team around him. "Silicon Valley is a tight market and you can't find everyone you want there," said Meyers.