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i2 Revises Supply Chain Management Suite

While many companies have seemingly cleared their decks Thursday for the hullabaloo surrounding Microsoft Corp.'s XP release, some firms are having none of it, setting aside the hype for their own products. Dallas, Texas' i2 Technologies Inc. was one of those firms, as it rolled out a new business platform designed to improve supply chain management processes.

Dubbed i2 Five.Two, the software suite makes it possible for enterprises to improve sales, inventory turns, gross and net margin, and concept-to-cash within their own business and across their value chain. Supply chain management (SCM), though an unsexy term for running the nuts and bolts of business processes, is the practice of overseeing the facilitation of information, materials and products as they go from supplier to manufacturer to wholesaler to retailer to consumer. Ideally, SCM applications will improve the time-to-market of products, reduce costs, and allow parties in the supply chain to better manage resources.

i2, whose software competes against, or works with, products from SAP, Siebel Systems Inc., PeopleSoft Inc. and IBM Corp. to name a few, feels it has gone beyond traditional supply chain management offerings, and characterizes Five.Two solutions as part of "Dynamic Value Chain Management."

i2 said Five.Two goes steps beyond traditional enterprise resource planning (ERP) to help manage business-to-business transactions properly because it is modular and allows for easy interoperability among intranets, extranets and the Internet.

"In these tough economic conditions, companies demand more than a vision, they demand fast system implementation and a rapid return on their technology investments," said Greg Brady, i2 CEO. "We've designed i2 Five.Two to be rolled out incrementally so that companies can tackle the critical part of the value chain that will yield them the highest ROI at the lowest risk. We act as a partner to support them throughout the process."

Aberdeen Group Vice President of Supply Chain Research Tim Minahan praised the approach.

"Collaborating across the value chain requires an entirely new standards-based, architectural framework that is flexible enough to bridge the gap between planning and execution, and intuitive enough to facilitate adoption by all value chain members," said Minahan. "i2 Five.Two is a significant upgrade to i2's existing product suite and provides a solid foundation to manage and execute collaborative activities across the value chain."

And i2 should have no shortage of service providers to sell its products to, as research firm IDC said recently that it believes the market for supply chain services will top $83 billion by 2005, fueled by e-commerce.

"The use of the Internet as a communication medium and the increase in business-to-business e-commerce are fueling supply chain services growth," said Ting Piper, program manager for IDC's Supply Chain and eLogistics Services research. "B2B ecommerce spurs the need for automation of supply chain processes among multiple parties and increases the need for timely supply chain implementations done by specialized providers."

Indeed, Sprint Corp. Thursday agreed to bundle i2's supply chain software with its managed hosting capabilities and advanced communications network services.

I2 Five.Two features: Distributed Order Management, a new product designed to solve the problem of end-to-end order fulfillment by aggregating, managing, and brokering orders across multiple applications, divisions and enterprises; Inventory Visibility and Execution, designed to help companies collaborate across multiple enterprises to control all supply chain processes simultaneously, including production, inventory, distribution and transportation; Procurement, an enhanced addition to i2 SRM, designed to assist companies manage e-procurement transactions, including requisitioning, purchase order creation and settlement; and improved pre-configured industry templates, with each one built to address the needs of a specific industry.