Catalog to dotcom to dash: Ecometry path
November 7, 2012
Ecometry software was called MACS/3000 back in the days when HP was slinging new 3000s into a market eager for a 32-bit MPE system. But the software suite that was built for mail-order and catalog sales became an ecommerce tool when it was re-released as Ecometry during the dotcom heyday. Now after a sojurn in the Escalate Retail group, this 3000-sparker has glided into the realm of Red Prairie. And just last week, Red Prairie made another buy, this time of software company JDA. This buy bridges a path that's led to a data stable which looks so complete that its scope evokes the classic and massive Enterprise Resource Planning designs. Analysts call the merger a shot across the bow of companies as big as Oracle.
JDA sells software for "planning, optimization and execution of supply chain merchandising and pricing processes for manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors, retailers, government and aerospace defense contractors, travel, transportation, hospitality and media organizations." That sounds like a wide range of customers, but it does fit the profile of HP 3000 customers who first employed the system as a general purpose computer. In the modern era, well along that Ecometry path, a dashboard helps them move forward.
Both JDA and Red Prairie help customers move goods. JDA allows retailers to figure out which goods should be on the shelves and how much to order. Red Prairie is primarily a warehousing company, with a lot of its customers in retail -- such as the likes of Hickory Farms and PC Mall, both still using HP 3000s running MPE-based versions of Ecometry.
A manufacturer and a school district listened to a roundup of prospects for Key Performance Indicator data dashboards today, a solution offered by MB Foster. Since Birket Foster estimates there are still about 100 sites using the Ecometry software on a 3000, the data dashboard is a tool that could make their futures more productive.
All they need to motivate them is a search for an answer to this question: "How are you going to pull all your information from all of your data silos just so you can have a dashboard?" The goal is to make the massive stores of data work harder at companies who've done decades' worth of business . A dashboard is a way to employ Business Intelligence, because given a large enough history of transactions, the data stores from a 3000-based company can constitute Big Data.
"We want to help people see what they have," Foster said. "A lot of times you can't see the pattern because you've got four different accounting systems you're trying to pull from." Accounting officers figure out the need to see first, but then sales managers also want to know what products and inventory are in the supply funnels.
Since "they're not moving because the economy is slower than they wanted it to be," aiming at a data dashboard analysis architecture could be part of these 3000 companies' migration goals. For example, a company that sells a customer a child's coat, Size 6, can be pretty sure of a date when that coat wearer should need a Size 9. With a data dashboard of KPI, accountants and sales managers can see a collection of charts and reports presented in a format resembling a dashboard.
This summer MB Foster introduced the dashboard strategy with a webinar offered alongside InfoPlanIT, which makes a dashboard called Visual Analyzer. With a KPI dashboard, some of the charts and metrics associated with the dashboard, known as "key performance indicators" or KPIs, will often be set up to update in or near real time. KPI dashboards have become increasingly prevalent in businesses over the past decade. In order to create a KPI dashboard there are a number of key steps and procedures required to ensure the KPI dashboard is providing useful and relevant information.
Where does the JDA acquisition impact 3000 sites who might be interested in a data dashboard? Foster said that Red Prairie now owns and manages about 43 different technologies, including Windows-ready versions of Ecometry. Adding JDA's portfolio of software and customers bumps up the tech count by another 13, he said. A 50-plus technology vendor can extend the initial mission set of ecommerce, but it will help if a customer can hire a partner who understands the line of business' workflows.
Business Intelligence is becoming a bundled feature at many of the largest database vendors. KPI and dashboards are an advanced aspect of BI. Using BI in any way -- even on a migration platform -- can lift up data which had made a 3000 valuable to even greater value. Corporate officers notice when data works harder to generate things like sales of Size 9 coats or a better value on classrooms which can be rented out in the evenings to local universities, just because a dashboard shows their usage and availability.
At the heart of the value of a KPI dashboard is the desire to undersand Operational Data Stores. These stores are a replication of production database tables to a separate database, updated by the transaction in real time. They often have the benefit of some data transformation, don't contain history and recognize that the data is volatile, constantly in change.
Adding a dashboard allows an IT manager to visualize data with a high return on investment. It can start small and scale as a company's needs, KPI's and Metrics grow. Customers on the MB Foster webinar call considered what their organization's metrics are today. A KPI is designed for making informed decisions and take action. Even if the action is a series of tiny moves, like sending an email to a customer to remind them they've grown and need a new coat this winter -- and here's the coupon code to seal the sale.