Girish Rishi, CEO of JDA

Becoming a Supply Chain Icon


JDA’s journey to re-invigorate themselves, with all the tough decisions, hard work and money invested are beginning to pay off big time. And this is the time to lead as we go through a significant Supply Chain Transformation on a global scale.



We all know the story, but it is worth contemplating, because a positive outcome was not guaranteed. Groundbreakers in supply chain like Manugistics and i2, themselves icons, stumbled and were acquired by JDA. Then Red Prairie’s investors gobbled up the stumbling JDA. It could have been a slow road to mediocrity, as is often the case with the fallen. However, after a change in leadership and core leadership’s drive, not just for survival, but to climb to the heights they knew were within them, JDA is emerging as a force — again — in the supply chain market.

In the tech field, we have witnessed a few great successes during the last few years.1 JDA is one of those successes, but the road back has been filled with tough decisions, we heard at JDA’s ICON conference.2 Some very important decisions, for example, allow JDA to hire and retain some of the best employees in supply chain tech. To do that, JDA makes it a focus to improve the work/life balance by improving the policies to allow employees to live their lives.3 This is often overlooked, yet it is the most important foundation of a company that wants to stand tall.4 This philosophy comes from the highest level: Girish Rishi, CEO of JDA, said, “Raising kids is the most important thing we do.”

JDA’s Platform

JDA, like many companies that are composites of many acquisitions, has the challenge of putting all the pieces together into a new, modern architecture that not only solves integration issues, but positions the company for further technology transformation (while not leaving customers behind, forcing them to spend dollars on upgrades — dollars that they may not have or want to spend). This is a period of great danger, as building a flexible foundation is often not technically successful (as the first attempts by JDA were not). As well, it is a time of potential customer defection due to lack of change — or too much change.

While you are grappling with all this, the world of business and technology is rapidly changing, and competitors are ready to exploit any weakness.5

Two Paths Emerged —

… and JDA took the one less chosen.6 As Girish, leader of the emergent JDA, has said, “We are a technology company … a platform company,” providing an environment, not just for JDA’s own IP, but to invite partners into the environment to create a rich supply-chain experience for customers. That stands at odds with a lot of supply chain solution providers, who mostly emphasize functionality.7 As Desikan Madhavanur, Executive Vice President and Chief Development Officer, said, “We are not a general-purpose platform,” but one geared for supply-chain problems.

Source: Image by ChainLink Research
Girish Rishi, CEO of JDA

OK, poetry aside, what is that road less traveled? A big decision facing so many software companies undergoing platform re-invigoration is whether to choose the public or private cloud option. After a huge analysis which included: continued proprietary development, Google, Salesforce, Oracle, AWS (not really a contender due to JDA’s retail customer base) and Microsoft Azure, JDA selected Microsoft’s cloud services. However, making that work in a timely manner, again, involved uncertainty. The world was going public cloud. Networks have an important position, especially in supply chain.8 So taking the private cloud option was a big gamble.9

Girish kept emphasizing the scale and size of JDA — a worldwide install base and billion plus dollars in revenue. The key point here was “we are a billion-dollar company and we need to spend $500M on development.” Thus, they have spent $200M plus in each of the last two years to modernize.

Again, success is not ensured, but it is all paying off for JDA, big time, now. Not only have they closed major deals, but as Fred Baumann, Group Vice President, Global Industry Strategy, told me, there has been more “development with customers wanting to co-develop than I have seen in the last twenty years.” Yes, it is a time of great innovation in the supply chain. Companies are embracing functions/process integration within the enterprise and with partners, as well as new technology enablers like machine learning and IoT.

The Platform

The ever-present challenge for application software firms, especially supply chain, is integration, and not just with other software packages. All the data we have accumulated to run our supply chains, basically, for the last 20 years is locked up in an, often, hodge-podge of enterprise systems, databases, and spreadsheets (as well as cloud sources and systems). This data is a strategic asset. So the challenge is how to get at that and make it useful today. A versatile API10 is required, and that is through partner, MuleSoft,11 and is only part of their story. Here, the Microsoft partnership helps ensure integration to all the other types of solutions: public clouds, filled with unstructured data;12 other commercial databases and packages; and device-level extensions.

All these are part of a modern supply-chain technology and data environment. It’s a complex world that users are depending on supply chain companies to seamlessly manage for them. As Fred Baumann said, “We thrive on complexity.”

Wayne Usie, Chief Market Development Officer, in fact, told us that their decision to move from Oracle to Microsoft Azure provided tremendous benefits. Oracle, it turns out, has antiquated (and expensive) license deals13 and doesn’t offer the kind of integration to any and all commercial applications and cloud instances that are so common today for supply-chain users. Today, JDA is working to migrate the last of Oracle to Microsoft, as well as the Google work they did to Azure.

At the heart of all this, though, is the unassailable fact that the twenty-plus-year install base and all those apps had to be preserved. In essence, JDA could not cast aside the old, just to bring in the new.14 However, as JDA executives and team members emphasized in so many ways, new features (like control towers) are not dependent on the system’s users having to be exclusively JDA’s in order to use their control tower.

“Open, easy to adopt, and extend” were key topics by Desikan Madhavanur. Desikan emphasized that partner landscapes are “unstable environments.” (We all know this is true as each tech company has its own nuances in architecture, data models, and release/upgrade cycles, which continue to obsess enterprise IT and tech company development teams across the globe. They gobble up huge amounts of capital that becomes unavailable for innovation.) Hence, the goal is to solve that issue not only within JDA’s development, but for the customer. Simply managing day to day is problematic, but Desikan also pointed out that because of this (and other issues), many SCM projects are big, expensive and have long implementation cycles. They wanted to change that.15

The last few months have provided the proof points JDA needed to see they were on the right track.

Source: Image by JDA
Figure 1 – JDA Platform and Objectives

A key goal that JDA also had was to create a platform that partners could use — even develop on. What is interesting to note is that by using this platform environment, several JDA partners developed applications from scratch that work within the platform and leverage JDA core applications. An example is IoT in transportation (which had sessions throughout the conference). One that is quite handy in the JDA customer base, that Desikan talked about, is a cold-chain application which a partner developed leveraging JDA’s SCM Platform. A module they developed called a “device board,” which collects information on the product in motion (vibration, temperature, location, etc.), integrates to JDA’s TMS, providing end-to-end track and trace of goods and their condition along the journey.

For JDA, going forward now is a dual strategy: Protect the core investments that customers have made over the last twenty-plus years, while building out applications within the new SaaS world. As Desikan said, “So many of the JDA applications were hardwired. We had to disintermediate all the connections without breaking core applications.” Many customers have spent millions of dollars and years of their time using and fine tuning their supply chain applications, so their expectations for results were high. They did not want obtuse technology sales pitches and mediocre results.

It is true that some customers, especially new ones, will totally embrace SaaS and the singular platform. It is also true that some supply-chain applications, such as manufacturing and warehouse management, may gain little by migrations. But even here, the on-premise WMS can still take advantage of SaaS features such as the control tower and API/B2B library offerings to integrate to other SaaS instances of partner applications. In our research and discussions with end-user organizations, we see that most organizations will live in a hybrid world for many years to come. Not that SaaS doesn’t have the richness in functionality, but many installs work fine just as they are, thank you, and afford other benefits such as extremely high performance for high speed manufacturing and warehouse requirements.

Product Highlight

One of the presentations that clearly showed the audience what “you get” in the modern JDA was led by Paula Natoli, Group Vice President, and members of her team. This was a see it in action demonstration/walk-through of supply chain from planning through logistics execution. Beyond the cool UI there were rich new data sources from external and JDA applications, leveraging JDA advanced algorithms and the beginning of the use of machine learning within applications, even warehouse management.

It is becoming apparent that tech companies now understand that supply-chain applications are not enterprise-centric. Even planning, in addition to performing the traditional, centralized product forecast, now features forecasts and inventory visibility: which products at which customer at which location.16 Manufacturing planning, as well, has gone from being merely plant- or line-centric to one that is a multi-enterprise collaboration between multi-tier suppliers and their customers.

Source: Image by JDA
Figure 2 – JDA Digital Supply Chain Environment (with example partners)

JDA will make all the metadata available on their SCM platform, across applications. These types of broadening in functionality and data availability mean a lot more data to deal with. Thus, one area JDA has focused on is faster, smarter optimization techniques; for example, a new solver, SPARQ, which combines several solvers (MAP, Deep Tree, and others), runs two to five times faster. And, of course, machine learning is embedded within applications, and integrates the AI work that the customer’s own data scientists have developed.

These kinds of conference sessions take us beyond messages to the actual working products and how we can use them.

Supply Chains in Transformation — from the Customer’s View

Of course there were lots of customer presentations. A common theme we see, not just at ICON, are the bold, and all-encompassing supply-chain transformations going on in every manner of company — across industries, through service providers, across the globe. Comments from customers such as, “This is not just a supply chain transformation, but a company cultural change — ,” “Our employees are used to heads-down focus on their tasks and we have had stumbles in changing as we look to them to work beyond their walls and tasks — ,” or “Everyone in our firm touches supply chain, finance, even HR,” adding that it was a huge challenge to engage them.

Or most tellingly, “Our most significant challenges are cultural and behavioral — department silos, fear of taking risks, difficulty acting on a single view of the customer.” To address this, they often have JDA involved in participating in forums and sessions about customer-centricity and culture and driving change.17

JDA is committed to being part of these changes in the customer’s environment, being part of the solution, not part of the problem, as tech companies can often be. As Girish Rishi said in his keynote remarks, “My commitment to you is to ensure seamless delivery and faster implementations. I am consumed with faster deployments. This is my magnificent obsession, so you can see benefits in months, not a couple of years out.”

If supply chains — digital in nature, which means moving almost at the speed of light — are to achieve their objectives: intelligent, connected, accessible, working just like our minds and hands need to, then adoptability is as crucial as the speed of continuous technology development.


1 Witness, in the recent past, the turnaround at Descartes under Art Mesher, and Epicor under Pervez Qureshi. — Return to article text above
2 JDA ICON (The Intelligent Supply Chain Conference) was preceded by a developer’s conference, JDA DEVCON, with about 500 attendees — partners and users — who focus on the technical side of implementing JDA applications. — Return to article text above
3 Today, tech, in general, has a bad rap due to the long hours and intrusiveness of the job — weekends, lots of travel, and so on. — Return to article text above
4 Our best values need to be prominent in our work environment to create the kind of teams that thrive and do their most creative and accomplished work. This author relished, at the Logility, Descartes, and JDA conferences, in seeing how committed and happy the members of these organizations are. They like their companies, their jobs, and customers. After all, we bring ourselves into everything we do. How can we do our best when the environment does not support that? — Return to article text above
5 To note: The re-invigorated JDA offers an alternative to SAP users, in particular. I met many attendees who are evaluating JDA and getting off APO and other SAP supply-chain applications. — Return to article text above
6 “Thought” borrowed from Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken.” — Return to article text above
7 For example, most ERP companies, no doubt, have some high revenue dollars from SCM, but often they lag in technology innovation, and generally also lag in functionality. — Return to article text above
8 Read: Multi-party Solutions for Supply Chain. — Return to article text above
9 A year ago it looked quite risky to do this. Today, with all the concerns about cybersecurity and privacy and data violations, large companies just don’t want to take the risk.

  • Nor do they want to share their innovation, crafted after years of work and investment, with the whole network. Of course, they expect to acquire the tech partner’s innovations, but they want to keep their work proprietary. There are places, such as transportation logistics, where sharing creates an advantage in the supply chain.
  • Flexible architecture is critical, too. The tech company’s technology has to support seamless integration with whatever the customer has.

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10 More in The Road to Integration. — Return to article text above
11 MuleSoft was acquired by Salesforce in 2018. — Return to article text above
12 Read Geospatial Intelligence in this issue. — Return to article text above
13 Bloomberg Law: “INSIGHT: Understanding Your Oracle/Java License — Not Everything Is as it Seems” — Return to article text above
14 In reality, the bigger enterprises have developed a dual strategy — build a modern architectural environment, or acquire it; migrate the best IP onto the new platform, but retain and support the on-premise world. — Return to article text above
15 That is also a big change for JDA, moving beyond the era of the JDA 7 +++ stumbles and lack of application integration even within the portfolio. — Return to article text above
16 JDA’s Luminate Demand Edge is in the cloud and includes social, weather, IoT; and uses cognitive, machine learning. JDA’s Luminate Store Fulfillment will include collaborative data from retail and fulfillment inventory and evaluate safety stock levels and plan replenishment to retail. — Return to article text above
17 Read Supply Chain Transformation in this issue. — Return to article text above

To view other articles from this issue of the brief, click here.

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