Blue Yonder ICON 2022: Charging Ahead
Just a few weeks ago, I mentioned in a review of the Aptos Engage 2022 user conference that it’s been a long two+ years since most user conferences went “virtual” as a result of the pandemic, but that attendees were excited to be able to attend real user conferences once again. I saw the same phenomenon when I attended the Blue Yonder ICON 2022 event in Orlando, Florida on May 24th – attendees seemed genuinely glad to once again be able to interact with each other and Blue Yonder staffers.
It was definitely time for an in-person event. Blue Yonder has been through a lot of changes in the last several years – consider this timeline:
- In July 2018, JDA acquired Blue Yonder GmbH, a market leader in AI based solutions
- In February 2020, JDA changed its name to Blue Yonder
- In early 2020, the company cancelled the ICON 2020 event in consideration of the global pandemic, instead offering a virtual conference (RSR covered the virtual event in May 2020)
- In July 2020, Blue Yonder acquired Yantriks, a provider of “smart omnichannel fulfillment solutions”
- In April 2021, Panasonic completed its acquisition of Blue Yonder (RSR offered an opinion about this in a Retail Paradox Weekly blog)
- Also in April 2021, Blue Yonder officially cancelled its ICON 2021 event in consideration of the pandemic
- In February 2022, Blue Yonder CEO Girish Rishi stepped down, and the company announced an interim CEO, Mark Morgan, who to that point was the company’s executive vice president (EVP) of Worldwide Commercial Business.
What’s Past Is Prologue
That’s a lot of change to absorb in the space of a few years! But for JDA/Blue Yonder customers, it’s the latest in almost twenty years’ worth of tumultuous changes, such as the acquisition of Manugistics in 2006, I2 in 2007, and the company’s acquisition by Red Prairie (which in turn had marketed and supported the McHugh Freeman warehouse management solution) in 2012. And in 2016, Veras agreed to acquire, support, and extend JDA’s retail point-of-sale system. In between all of that, the company made several attempts at developing a future roadmap that unifies its considerable solutions portfolio, starting with an alliance with Microsoft all the way back in 2004 to “accelerate the development… of the JDA Portfolio suite based on the … Microsoft .NET technologies”.
It’s enough to give someone a serious case of whiplash. But as RSR partner Steve Rowen reported in May 2020, “Blue Yonder sees itself at an inflection point: with a new management team in place since 2017, the vendor has been steadily been moving from its legacy on-premise-based solution set to a software-as-a-service model – and in a committed way, at that.”
Charging Ahead In 2022
By all appearances, Blue Yonder is sticking to its guns when it comes to the Luminate platform, and has made a tremendous amount of progress since its announcement in 2017. It is likely that Executive Vice President and Chief Product/Technology Officer Desikan Madhavanur has a lot to do with that. At the ICON 2022 event, the technologist highlighted the company’s Unified Commerce platform as offering these six capabilities: “accurate demand based forecasting”, “cognitive inventory management”, “intelligence substitutions” (a key capability of the company’s category management solution set), “precision ATP”; “order orchestration”; and “fulfillment”.
Given what’s going on throughout the retail world with omnichannel shopping, the company’s acquisition and integration of the Blue Yonder AI and Yantriks solutions seems incredibly timely. Order management systems are now the nexus of the retailers’ selling environments, connecting what happens in the direct-to-consumer world and what happens in the store. Just as importantly, Blue Yonder offers retailers a way to accurately map demand with available inventory anywhere within the enterprise in real time to make the “best” fulfillment decision (depending on the retailer’s objective: lowest cost, fastest delivery, etc.). And a predicate for those capabilities is a dynamic demand planning capability, which Blue Yonder offers by virtue of its AI engine and data science.
As CEO Mark Morgan pointed out during his keynote, “70% of new DC’s are micro-fulfillment oriented”. That factoid speaks volumes about how hard consumers are pushing retailers – and Blue Yonder is ready to support it.
It’s All In The Cloud
It would be easy to get completely absorbed with all these new capabilities, but there’s a lot for “legacy” customers too. Many if not most retailers have some Blue Yonder (JDA) code somewhere in their portfolios, and the company hasn’t forgotten it. The company has successfully modernized its solutions for workforce management, planning, and merchandising, as cloud based offerings via its partnership with Microsoft on the Azure platform. The company is focused on its category management capabilities for grocery and convenience by offering “strategic assortment and space” planning capabilities. Additionally, the company is offering an “out of the box” solution called Luminate Store Execution focused particularly on convenience retailers, that enables common experience (consistent customer experience across all stores), hyper-localization (localized assortments and pricing), mobile-first UIs, and management-by-exception reporting.
Finally of course, Blue Yonder is busy implementing its workforce management (WFM) capabilities all around the globe (rather than going on about why this is so important, I’ll merely refer you to RSR’s latest benchmark on the state of WFM in Retail).
Perhaps all of the activity that Blue Yonder has experienced since 2017 is a case of someone having read the tealeaves just right. While I don’t think anyone could have predicted how much COVID-10 would accelerate the rate of change in the Retail industry, it certainly appears that Blue Yonder is right there at the right time.
My only complaint about the Blue Yonder ICON event might be that like most events held in Orlando, the venue itself it just too darned big. It’s very hard to create a sense of community among conference goers when the space overwhelms the attendees. Blue Yonder had an answer for that too: a poolside party and a rock concert.
I’m glad I went and would do it again – and I hope we’re back on track to meet in person to keep up with fast-paced advances in tech-driven and innovative solutions like Blue Yonder was showing off.