Thursday, April 30, 2009

JDA's FOCUS 2009 Conference: An Emphasis On "What's Next" Vs. "What's Now"

There was no ignoring the figurative 800-pound gorilla in the spacious Gaylord National Resort ballroom as JDA Software Group's top executives spoke at FOCUS 2009, JDA's annual global user conference (April 26 to 28, National Harbor, MD). The recessionary economy dealt JDA two blows in the past 10 days.

First, one week prior to the conference, the company announced that its 2009 first quarter net income had dropped 50% from the same quarter in 2008 ($2.64 million vs. $5.35 million). Second, FOCUS 2009 attendance fell by up to one half from 2008 levels, according to several estimates, likely because of retailers' tightened travel budgets.

JDA's leaders, however, chose not to dwell on the grim economic conditions that are afflicting their company and the broader retail market today. Instead, they focused on the opportunities that lie ahead, and how JDA hopes to help retailers take advantage of them — quickly. "For our customers, we need to provide real results real fast," COO Chris Koziol said.

In his State of the Company Address, CEO Hamish Brewer challenged retailers to ask themselves: "What's the next step to unlock value in my company?" JDA's own answer to that question is an enhanced focus on its Managed Services for retailers, "our number one initiative for 2009," according to Brewer. JDA's Managed Services encompasses four specific areas: hardware and software administration, advanced customer support, optimization services, and help desk/transition services. It can help retailers improve supply chain efficiencies, strengthen IT operations, and integrate customer service offerings.

During the numerous breakout sessions I attended later in the conference, JDA software users provided retailers with real-world case studies demonstrating how JDA products can be used unlock the value Brewer referred to in his opening remarks. Brooks Brothers, for example, implemented JDA Allocation software to help its analysts drill down to size-level data within each of the company's 111 U.S. retail stores.

Using the new software application, Brooks Brothers analysts were able to allocate sizes based on each store's size-selling tendencies, as well as leverage assortment plans by style, color, or SKU. Plus, "implementation was on schedule and under budget," said Jon Westergreen, Brooks Brothers director of allocation, replenishment, and store planning.

Retailers are looking for those kinds of good-news stories these days, ones that end with increased operational efficiencies and the words "on schedule and under budget." And JDA certainly hopes that next year's FOCUS conference, to be held at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, will have more retailers on hand to tell — and hear — such stories.

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