JDA Previews New GUI for MMS at User Conference
May 12, 2009 Alex Woodie
Retailers that use the i OS-based Merchandise Management System (MMS) from JDA Software Group will soon have a new graphical user interface (GUI) option. The software giant previewed the new MMS GUI at its annual user group meeting, FOCUS 2009, held two weeks ago in Maryland, and plans to deliver the update next month. The tier-one developer of supply chain solutions also announced new labor management capabilities in its software.
Like nearly every major ERP software vendor that supports the IBM Power Systems (AS/400) platform, JDA is facing pressure from current customers and prospects to provide a user interface that’s intuitive and easy to use. In many cases, that means overhauling the old character-based screens that utilize the efficient 5250 protocol, which seem weird and foreign to people who grew up using graphical interfaces such as Windows and the Web.
JDA is almost done testing the new GUI, which will look much more like the non-IBM i supply chain planning and execution solutions that the vendor offers, and “brings it up to date a bit,” said Namita Dhallan, group vice president of product management for JDA Software.
“We announced a new fresh look on our MMS system [that does] not have that green-screen look,” Dhallan said in an interview with IT Jungle. “We were demo-ing that, and that went over nicely.” JDA received some help in the GUI-ization of MMS from a third-party vendor. The company plans to announce the general availability of the new release of MMS that includes the new GUI in June, Dhallan said.
The i-based MMS product–as well as the hundreds of large retail chains like IKEA that rely on it to keep track of the products they sell–are in a state of transition. JDA is trying to move away from older technology like RPG toward Microsoft .NET and other newer technologies. The company is committed to supporting the AS/400 platform and its AS/400 products through at least 2015. (It promised 10 years of support for the platform at the FOCUS 2005 conference.) After that date, though, it is unknown whether the company will renew its commitment to the platform, or start forcing customers to migrate to Windows. There has been some talk of allowing the AS/400 to remain as the database for a Windows-based MMS application, but JDA has not elaborated upon this plan or other possibilities in its roadmap, which it only reveals in depth to paying customers.
JDA also focused on workforce management at its user group conference. After merchandise, labor is the top cost at most large retailers, so effectively managing workers and their schedules is paramount to maximizing productivity. This has always been the case, but it is more evident in a down economy when profits are small or non-existent.
To that end, JDA announced that it will be delivering demand-driven workforce management. This effectively allows company planners to hook up their labor schedule to the long-range demand forecast for merchandise that JDA’s software produces. In this way, retailers won’t be caught understaffed when big promotions drive big crowds of shoppers to their stores, Dhallan said.
“Workforce management is not just a buzzword for us,” Dhallan said. “Demand-driven replenishment is something we’ve been doing for years. Now we’re trying to bring true consumer demand and insight to all of our planning and execution solutions.”
JDA held its annual FOCUS conference at the new Gaylord National Resort in National Harbor, Maryland (a new AS/400 shop, as it were). Attendance was down significantly, from the 1,600 or so attendees that attended last year, to about 800 or so, according to Dhallan. Many other IT industry shows, including the recent COMMON conference in Reno, Nevada, and Lawson Software‘s CUE in San Diego, California, saw similar drops.
If there was a silver lining in the big attendance drop, it was a renewed sense of urgency to make back office IT systems more efficient, according to Dhallen. Attendees “overwhelmingly” said the training they received at FOCUS 2009 was worth the money, and the vendors said they had better conversations with potential customers this time, she said.
“A lot of times, customers will talk about the roadmap, or this enhancement or that,” she said. But this time, customers came to vendors with specific problems they needed to fix. “It was really wonderful.”