Takeaways from Manhattan Associates’ Momentum 2017 Conference

The recent WannaCry cyber attack exploited a problem that exists at most companies today: the use of outdated software systems. In WannaCry’s case, hackers exploited vulnerabilities in Windows XP — an operating system still in wide use today, even though it was originally released in 2001 and Microsoft stopped supporting it in 2014.

A similar problem exists with supply chain and logistics software. Many companies are using applications that haven’t been upgraded in years, running multiple versions behind the latest release. Why? Because the time, cost, and effort to upgrade would often be as much as the original implementation, sometimes even more, especially if the application has been heavily customized. The net result is that companies are unable to respond quickly and efficiently to customer demands and market changes because they’re constrained by outdated, inflexible, and unscalable IT solutions.

Addressing this problem is at the heart of Manhattan Associates’ Active Solutions, which the company introduced a couple of weeks ago at its Momentum 2017 conference. As the press release explains:

Today’s commercial enterprises are facing unprecedented market pressures. The business environment is changing rapidly, and updating complex, highly-customized enterprise software solutions can be both costly and time consuming. While new software releases that improve both the effectiveness and efficiency of store, warehouse, transportation and inventory management are frequently introduced, adoption of the latest technologies is often slowed by the need for significant capital investment or change management requirements.

The new Manhattan Active Solutions suites address these challenges, with products and services that are always current and automatically include the customer’s latest extensions and modifications, reducing or eliminating both downtime needed for upgrades and additional fees. Manhattan Active Solutions can run in Manhattan’s cloud or in the customer’s choice of a public or private cloud environment. Customers who prefer on-premises deployments can also be accommodated with “always current” technology.

I’m not a technical expert, so I’m not exactly sure how “always current” is achieved with companies that choose on-premise deployments, but one of my key takeaways from the conference is that Manhattan Associates (a Talking Logistics sponsor) is taking a more aggressive step toward the cloud, something the company has not emphasized in past conferences (the notable exception is transportation management, which Manhattan has offered in a software-as-a-service model for several years).

The best example of this move is the design and architecture of its Manhattan Active Omni Solution, which the company describes as an “omni-channel-as-a-service platform for enterprises” that fuses “order management and store fulfillment applications with next-generation, point of sale and clienteling applications on a single platform that is cloud native, versionless and fully extensible.” I attended a deep-dive session on this solution and I was impressed by its microservices architecture and approach to extensions, updates, and future development. In short, I walked away feeling like this was a start-up within Manhattan Associates taking a modern and cloud-native approach to product development and deployment. How much and how quickly this approach gets leveraged across the rest of Manhattan’s solution suite remains to be seen, but it was encouraging to see that the journey has begun.

As always, Momentum offered plenty of learning and networking opportunities. I participated in the transportation management track, where I delivered a presentation on the future of transportation management, covering some of the emerging trends in the industry, including driverless trucks, drones, 3D printing, and blockchain. The slide below summarizes my advice for shippers on how to prepare for the changes ahead:

I also attended the session led by Gregg Lanyard, Director of Product Management at Manhattan Associates responsible for TMS, where he shared some new product enhancements (Gregg was also my guest on Talking Logistics a few weeks ago, where we discussed “Making TMS an Enterprise Priority”). Among the 50+ enhancements made over the past year was the release of TMS Mobile, “a new mobile app to more easily enable customers to connect and engage small to medium sized trucking firms…The software enables real-time shipment tracking, freight management, shipment status updates and network operations monitoring via an in-cab mobile device.” Manhattan also established partnerships with MacroPoint, FourKites, SPS Commerce, and HERE.

Among the enhancements planned for this year:

  • Adding photo and signature capture capabilities to TMS Mobile
  • Strategic transportation modelling capabilities
  • Dynamic Cross Docking capabilities
  • Appointment Scheduling and Yard Management enhancements
  • User Experience improvements

Ann-Marie Daugherty, Sr. Director of Transportation at Giant Eagle, presented a great customer case study on how the company transformed its transportation operations. In the past, Giant Eagle had a very fragmented and inconsistent approach to transportation management, with delivery windows ranging between 2 and 10 hours, each location doing its own outbound routing, store orders being transmitted in large batches, and the use of four different transportation management systems (one for inbound, one for outbound, one for procurement, and one for dispatch).

Fast forward to today and Giant Eagle now does daily deliveries to the stores and allows multiple order schedules; time windows are now 2 hours; outbound routing is now centralized; union contracts were renegotiated to allow drivers to haul freight from multiple yards and locations; and it has simplified its TMS landscape, using Manhattan’s solution for inbound, outbound, and (soon) procurement.

The transformation resulted in significant benefits:

  • Cube improved by 7 percent
  • Empty miles reduced by 8 percent
  • Total miles down 7.7 percent
  • Incremental inbound revenue of $2.2 million

How many companies still manage their transportation operations like yesterday’s Giant Eagle? How many are still leaving significant cost savings and other benefits on the table? The answer is way too many, which is why despite the fact that TMS solutions have been around for decades, the future remains bright for vendors like Manhattan Associates.

Final thoughts: In the press release announcing Manhattan Active Solutions, Eddie Capel, president and chief executive officer of Manhattan Associates, states that this “next-generation technology is designed to be always current, to run anywhere and to be seamlessly interconnected, enabling the enterprise to adapt to change at a faster pace [emphasis mine].” This is especially true and important for retailers, a key customer segment for Manhattan, which is experiencing significant headwinds at the moment. “We expect that retail market headwinds will persist throughout 2017 as many retailers address strategic challenges with enterprise transformation,” said Capel in Manhattan’s Q1 2017 press release.

Adapting to change faster is not only important for retailers and other customers; it’s also important for Manhattan Associates and its peers in the software industry. Also, faster is not enough — everyone needs to adapt to change at a much lower cost too.

Smarter. Faster. Cheaper.

The three most important words in supply chain management today.