When everything is analytics, nothing is analytics...?

The widespread adoption of the term “Analytics” reminds me of the evolution of the term supply chain management.  Initially supply chain management was a term seemingly focused on supply chain planning.  It focused on demand and supply balancing and the heuristics and optimization tools that came out of APS Advanced Planning & Scheduling.  Over time everything was included under the supply chain banner.  I remember leaving SAP, where I focused on their APO supply chain planning solution, to pursue the hot start-up era of ecommerce.  Initially I was sad to be leaving my beloved realm of supply chain planning.  Suddenly procurement was considered part of supply chain management.  I was right back in “the game” again working for i2 Technologies as a result of their ecommerce acquisition.  I remember feeling disheartened that something as “analytically non-sexy” as procurement was considered supply chain, and yet I felt fortunate that I had expanded my supply chain background into procurement ahead of the wave.  Procurement was joined by warehousing, transportation, service parts and everything else under the sun….it’s all supply chain now, as you know. 

And now it seems it’s all about "Analytics".  Most solution vendors seem to have an analytic positioning for their solutions.  Take a look at most of the supply chain planning solutions today.  Odds are you’ll see the solution has a “supply chain analytics” capability.  These capabilities appear to predominantly be some form of a reporting module.  In the good old days this was just called reporting, and was expected in a solution.   As I joined SAS to work in their global supply chain practice I had a hard time with the term analytics.  I wasn’t sure how they would be able to claim market leadership in a supply chain analytics context.  Supply chain planning was analytics from the very beginning.  Analytics were so inherently embedded in supply chain planning DNA.  “Analytics” seemed redundant. 

Sorry for the personal preamble, but finally I’ll get to my point, my analytic epiphany.

Analytics is a lot more than just the mathematical, the optimization, the modelling and the reporting.   Sure, these are a vital aspect of analytics, but there is so much more involved.  It’s the foundation layer that I am focusing on today.  A true analytic solution or platform includes the fundamental tools that better enable the analytic process and lifecycle, whatever the business process.  An analytic platform is a software foundation that’s engineered to generate insights from your data in any computing environment.  Built on a strategy of using analytical insights to drive business actions, this platform supports every phase of the analytics life cycle – from data, to discovery, to deployment.

Whether you are focused on Supply Chain, Manufacturing, Production Quality, Retail/CPG, Finance, CRM, Insurance, Fraud, Service Parts, Marketing Optimization etc…  These all have a need, similar to supply chain, to source the data, manage and automate data maintenance, improve data quality, automate the planning process, distribute the results to stakeholders, alert on the results, visualize the results and uncover actionable insights.  This means that an analytic solution goes far beyond the optimization, math and heuristics.  It means providing the mathematical components along with the following kinds of components to make up a flexible and extendable supply chain analytic platform; 

  • Data Integration

  • Data Quality

  • Master Data Management

  • Data Mining

  • Text Mining

  • Sentiment Analysis

  • Contextual Analysis

  • Model Building

  • Model Scoring

  • Model Management

  • Event Stream Processing

  • Data Visualization

  • Optimization

  • Simulation

  • Predictive Modeling

  • Forecasting

  • Visual Statistics

  • Machine Learning


The supply chain solution providers who are marketing and positioning integrated reporting as “analytics”  in their solution suites are doing you a big disservice.  Some of the clients I work with are now seeing the possibilities and benefits of incorporating a true analytic platform into their supply chain strategy.   Their supply chain environments become more flexible, extendable and customizable to their needs.  Their planning processes are no longer constrained by the usage scenarios and "analytic capabilities" supported by the specific supply chain solutions they have purchased and implemented.   In the end this equates to hitting those KPI targets that drive shareholder value and a better return on supply chain solution investments.

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Comments (1)

  • Very insightful. Thank you so much!!!

    SAP Consultant (SCM)

    Jan 10, 2017