Charting a New Course Day 013: The View from the Road

(By Mike Raftery)

Notes from the road:

We hit the road this week to work with some potential clients on defining some new potential projects for SCM Connections.  The trip started off fairly rough due to some inclement weather, but I ran into an old friend at O’Hare which made for a very nice way to spend a weather delay.  So the trip was looking up.  But a few late nights traveling on 4 flights in 24 hours led to a very tired me.  Multiple terrible hotel coffees later, I got to work.  Without getting into the nitty gritty details of client presentations and plant tours, here are a few observations from the trip:

People are ready to build again.

This surprised me, but people are not grudgingly willing to invest; they seem to be eager to do so.  I saw this all over the place.  Many “help wanted” signs in the storefronts, restaurants and even on billboards were a welcome sight.  The stories we heard were also encouraging and had a similar theme.  Money has been tight since 2008; that’s 7 years.  Businesses have changed, grown and matured, yet the systems they run have not seem much love lately.  And they’re at their brink.  Business today demands faster, better response, and customer service is king.  The existing systems are not sustainable.  The combination of dated systems and an improving economic climate mean that people are ready to spend.  You see economic indicators on the news but I felt like I saw positive indicators everywhere I went this week.  It felt good.

Travel is getting better.

So I don’t travel much for my current job.  When I do travel, it is generally with my two toddlers, which is an experience it itself.  I flew: Delta, American and US Air.  I would rank them Delta first for outlets at my seat and a business focus, US Air second for a great crew, and American last because the plane was very old.  Amenities were aplenty, check in was easy, I had a preferred seat so there was always carry on.   All airlines were great with the updates via text and email.  I never felt out of the loop.

Here’s my advice.  This was a hard trip: 2 cities, 3 presentations in 3 days, all with late arrivals.  My advice is to spend on yourself so you can show up ready to go.  I spent a bit extra on a roomy seat so I could sleep, and it was worth it.  Business travel was actually tolerable, and it made me much happier every morning.

People are ready for Integrated Business Planning.

IBP or Integrated Business Planning is getting pull from the users.  People actually get it, and they’re looking forward to it.  There is one theme that keeps popping up that does need to be constantly corrected: there is a false assumption out there that you have to pick either APO or IBP.  And this is simply not true.  They are meant to work together as one, at least for now.  So you really can have it all: the trusted reliability of the APO supply and demand planning suite, working alongside the high powered advantages of S&OP and inventory to advance the supply chain.  It is a solution that can work, and is the best thing going at the moment.  A few years ago, you could only run APO.  A few years from now you can only run IBP, but right now, it’s a great mix for clients.  I’ll do a more thorough write-up of this proposed design in the very near future.

In summary, this was a big deal for SCM Connections.  We hit the road and felt confident, like we belonged there.  And I think we do.  We might not exactly know what the future looks like quite yet, however, the market forces look to be in our favor.  The winds of change in the SAP environment are at our back.  It really feels like the industry is ready to turn a corner, and we seem well prepared.  There weren’t many questions that we weren’t prepared for, and we felt confident in the solutions we were selling.  Feels like a good week, exhausting, but good.

Random notes:

– Town Place Suites calls their mini boxes of cereals and a bowl of bananas “breakfast.”  Um, no, that doesn’t count.

– I drove a Chevy Malibu and a Nissan Maxima.  While I didn’t love either one, the Maxima was more fun to drive.  Malibu feels like it was designed to be a rental.

– Amazing Manhattan at the Rye Bar in Raleigh.  I’m a big Manhattan fan and this was fantastic.

– No more Windows phones.  Will anyone notice? I want to want one more than I ever will.

– My favorite guilty travel pleasure is Adult Swim on Cartoon Network late at night.  I cannot resist.

– Sorry running shoes, I had good intentions, but we’ll get more acquainted this weekend.

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