Last week I went to PLANET2000, the i2 user conference in San Diego.
Now, for the uninitiated, i2 is a very successful software company that provides supply-chain solutions and Net marketplace platforms that help businesses plan and monitor the physical movement of goods from factories to store shelves.
i2 is certainly enjoying its day in the sun since supply-chain management has become the cornerstone of e-business strategy for many companies. This point was emphasized throughout the conference, and it was very clear that e-business has become the focal point of business.
One of the major themes communicated last week was collaboration. Established companies like Sun, Texas Instruments, Caterpillar, and Philips are making huge investments in building Internet infrastructures that enable their customers, suppliers, and partners to exchange planning information and demand estimates up, down, and across the supply chain.
The motivation behind all this effort is cost savings, improved customer satisfaction, and better return on assets. JB Hoyt, director of Global Logistics at Whirlpool, summed it up nicely: "Supply-chain collaboration, enabled by the Internet, has the potential to produce step-function savings that we could not have dreamed of before."
The realization by large manufacturing companies that improving the health of their supply chains can result in tremendous value creation has been a boon for companies like i2. At this point in the game, i2 stands clearly above its competitors in terms of product offering, customer base, and, most important, mindshare.
This was clearly evident as I walked the floors of the expo hall. Every known service and solutions vendor in the technology space pitched their wares and described their added value to i2 solutions. It was like watching drones serve a queen bee to the background tunes of Don Henley.
Some of the interesting technologies I checked out included personalization solutions from SeeCommerce that enable companies to create event-driven communities within e-marketplaces. And a package from OrderFusion that supports sellers in e-markets with everything from presales marketing to postsales analysis.
The amazing thing about the expo hall was the companies' degree of convergence. Not too long ago, it would have been pretty difficult for companies to draw clearly the relationship between customer-facing activities like marketing and sales, with back-office or planning functions like inventory management and demand planning.
That is no longer the case. As communication improves within companies and across enterprises via the Internet, it becomes clear that supply-chain management is an integrated set of customer-facing and production-side activities. That is why CRM vendors like Siebel or web-commerce server companies like BroadVision can comfortably interact at a supply-chain conference hosted by i2. There is a mandate for integrated solutions.
Overall, I thought it was a great event, and I would recommend attending future i2 conferences to anyone. They are a great way to evaluate new technology, gauge the pulse of B2B, and interact in this booming new movement called e-business.
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