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Tech and the global supply chain – Who’s the MVP for work over the past ten years?

At AMR Research we constantly study the question of applying technology to supply chain to make it work better.  Lots of old-school Lean freaks like to believe process is everything, sometimes implying that technology doesn’t really matter.

At AMR Research we constantly study the question of applying technology to supply chain to make it work better.  Lots of old-school Lean freaks like to believe process is everything, sometimes implying that technology doesn’t really matter.  I dispute this.  Neither works well without the other, but it is certainly safe to say that without technology there would be no real global supply chain.

This got me to thinking, who, if I had to choose one, deserves the title of Most Valuable Player?  Which technology vendor has created the most business value in the global supply chain since the peak of the bubble?  A few obvious candidates come to mind:

SAP - SAP is the biggest application vendor to corporations who actually build and run the global supply chain.  Lots of senior executives, if asked “what is your supply chain system,” will answer “SAP.”  But in practice, those who actually use the applications for their daily work often have some serious complaints about functionality and ease of use.  Plus, value has to measure what you get in return for what you paid – if it’s SAP, you paid a lot.

Oracle - Essentially everyone runs their applications on Oracle databases and from its five year acquisition binge, Oracle has assembled quite a stable of specialty tools with well-regarded functionality from Demantra to G-Log.  In practice, again, it’s rare to find a customer who loves Oracle or can confidently show a solid ROI.

i2 Technologies - For a while, i2 was king of the hill in this discussion.  They blew their reputation by massively overselling at the peak of the bubble, leaving many customers embarrassed for having been taken.  In action though, i2 users have built hundreds of very large scale, successful supply chain systems.  The credit may be due to a smart and loyal user group as much as to i2 itself, but real results are definitely out there.

Manhattan Associates - Emerging from the crowded and confusing supply chain execution world, Manhattan somehow has managed to keep doing well in the field with less fanfare than the other large application vendors.  Typical users have been running their systems for years, and like i2, generally with some pretty huge volumes.

There are a bunch of others worthy of discussion including Red Prairie, JDA, and Infor.  Less obvious but important candidates are companies like Sterling Commerce, who probably enables more connections in supply chain than anyone, or Microsoft, who does a lot with the mid-market, and could get credit for the number one supply chain application in the world, Excel.

For my money, the leader is i2.  I’ve seen more tangible results and more volume from their customers’ systems than any other.  What do you think?