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HighJump Grows in a Period of Low Growth Through Adaptable, Broad Function Products Part Four: Challenges and User Recommendations

Written By: Predrag Jakovljevic
Published On: April 17 2003

Challenges

On February 10, HighJump Software (www.highjump.com ), a privately-held provider of adaptable, Internet-based extended supply chain execution (SCE) solutions, announced that it has lately secured significant new customer wins and global partners in its ongoing efforts to become the industry leader in providing global SCE solutions. The key to HighJump's success is simplicity and adaptability.

The downside of simplicity and adaptability, however, lies in a likely lack of a very sharp vertical focus (HighJump has shown focus for the retail sector and the product also supports a number of Environmental protection Agency (EPA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulatory compliances such as FDA 21 CFR Part 11 rule, that should be a springboard for other vertical initiatives, though) that other however rigid competitive products will have exhibited. The perception of its poor amenability to the upper-end of the market with highly complex requirements might additionally be aggravated by not a great number of deployments on upper-range OS and database platforms. Still, for the time being, HighJump seems content to bet on product's flexibility and uniformity at the expense of not necessarily being a one-size-fits-all solution. Nevertheless, the vendor might want to consider leveraging some customers' endeavors in customizing the software in the past (e.g., some customers have had over 50 configuration and customization enhancements), as to buy the rights to these and to roll them out as future vertical extensions.

Further, despite the current broad functional scope, HighJump has been looking to the future with the view of further addressing some shortcomings of current SCE systems that still mainly automate and not necessarily optimize operations within the short-term optimization timeframe, and, consequently, full savings are often not yet realized. For example, mostly within the upcoming Collaborative Advantage the vendor has every intention to offer the modules that would further enable supplier managed inventory, supplier execution, work-in-progress (WIP) tracking on the plant, remote inventory management, and vendor managed inventory (VMI). In other words, it would provide visibility to aggregated inventory planning and execution information spanning multiple enterprises. As an example, as soon as the part would be used in the field or in the plant, consumption information would be sent to the supplier and/or warehouse, and vice versa in case of necessary replenishment. While impressive, this R&D vision still remains fairly horizontal.

This is Part Four of a four-part note.

Part One detailed recent announcements.

Part Two discussed the Market Impact.

Part Three analyzed the SCE solution.

Competitive Pressures

HighJump should also continue to bolster its brand recognition with further marketing effort to penetrate mid tier manufacturers, distributors and retail companies, and to gain visibility in the crowded and fragmented albeit currently prosperous SCE market. With a growing blue ribbon customer list, customer successes have to be documented and more vocally communicated to the market. The competition is becoming relentless given a slew of WMS vendors delivering sophisticated collaboration, visibility, and SCEM functionality. Further many of them are also consistently profitable and have more visibility and mindshare. In addition to Manhattan Associates and Yantra, the list of these would contain Swisslog, Provia, RedPrairie, HK Systems, Motek and Optum, to name some.

One should never discount the competition coming from ERP 800 lb gorillas like SAP, J.D. Edwards, Oracle, PeopleSoft and Baan, which, although still with fledgling WMS/TMS products, are becoming more aggressive within their large customer bases due to their ERP integration mantra. The likes of Lilly Software, SYSPRO, Best Software, SSA GT's WarehouseBOSS, Adonix and ACCPAC which have also espoused a strong WMS product in addition to their traditional ERP products, could prevent HighJump from penetrating the manufacturing mid-market, particularly in cases of less complex environments, with basic case and pallet picking, straightforward task interleaving, and selectable RF, label and paper by work area requirements.

HighJump, as well as most of its peers, will thus have to further craft a not easily emulated value proposition that would fend off the deepening foray of ERP vendors into the SCE market. While the ERP vendors had not originally designed their systems to deal with the constraints and exceptions, inter-enterprise visibility and real-time information in mind, the situation is going to change rather sooner than later. As the functional borders between SCE and ERP are getting increasingly blurred, and, as manufacturers and distributors strive to realize greater visibility to enable better customer service and efficiency, they will be happy to leverage existing resources wherever they can.

Also, the shaky economy and the ongoing consolidation in the enterprise applications space make viability an increasing concern with nervous decision-making users. With over $30 million in revenues, and with a strong balance sheet and enviable customer and partners lists, HighJump may thus be part of predatory aspirations of much bigger vendors. It would not be too far-fetched to see the likes of PeopleSoft offer to HighJump an offer that would be hard to refuse', but which would still be regarded a small change out of their existing cash coffers and given much more promising benefits from the acquisition.

Nevertheless, the above announcements should keep every SCE and other enterprise applications competitor on its toes to come up with an equivalent counteractive value proposition. HighJump's growing international reach and a list of congenial partnerships, attractive products and services, and growing customer base often position it well jumping' forward.

User Recommendations

Enterprises with outdated warehouse management systems (WMS) looking to automate supply chain execution functions should evaluate HighJump . Agile enterprises anticipating frequent business practices changes and from $50 up to few $billion in annual revenues (both corporate-wide and per division) looking for full function, adaptable warehouse operations systems, and particularly with existing investments in the ERP systems that feature certified interfaces from HighJump should place HighJump on their short list.

The Advantage SCE suite delivers measurable results for manufacturing companies with over 100 employees, distribution companies with over 25 employees, and divisions of Fortune 1000 companies in many markets, including high tech and electronics, consumer packaged goods (CPG), food and beverage, third party logistics (3PL), retail and wholesale, and make-to-order (MTO) manufacturing. Still, prospective clients should bear in mind that HigJump's adaptive configuration technology may not be suitable for some highly complex warehousing environments, since implementation lengths depend on many factors but especially on solution architecture (i.e., degree of customization required), size and complexity of the warehouse, and the amount of materials handling equipment installed in conjunction with software. Existing HighJump customers should evaluate the remaining portions of the product suite in search for additional value.

Still, as SCE system implementations are risky and expensive, HighJump's challenge and change insurance value propositions seek to relieve some of these uncertainties and will offer peace of mind for some. As with any insurance policy, users should read the fine print carefully and understand the implications before signing up (e.g., what if a number of your modifications should greatly exceed a moderate number of anticipated modification the vendor is ready to guarantee?). In addition, the challenge invites competing software companies to meet HighJump in its arena on its terms but leaves details of conducting a selection to the user. Thus, live software demonstrations and competitive price estimates are important parts of any competent selection. Exercise the challenge option at least to raise bar for other contesting vendors, both in the case of brand new installations, major upgrades, and implementations of complementary products.

When considering an advanced WMS/SCE, users should look at the complexity of warehouse processes, as well as the velocity and diversity of activity. Users should not only consider transaction volumes, but the level of processing needed, and collaboration or customer compliance issues (e.g., protection against unauthorized access to activity logs, inactivity timeouts, original authentication and re-authentication, as major points of FDA compliance). Other considerations should be ease of use and the ability to pull data from outside source like a small parcel shipper, combine and manipulate the information with own data, and issue a consistent report.

Also, before buying a global logistics collaboration and visibility system, carefully scrutinize the integration ramifications and ascertain whether your trading partners will be willing to build out to and from their current back-office systems. Global logistics service providers, which can offer enterprises the ability to leverage the connections and partnerships they already have in place, will be winners in the long run.

 
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