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TPM BLOG SERIES

written by Richard Burton, global director of customer success at Exceedra by telus

For the final part of this TPM blog series I was keen to investigate the future, perceive what a vision for Trade Promotions Management may mean for our industry. Over the previous blogs, we have only touched the surface of TPM and clearly there has been some major milestones in the evolution of software supporting this area, but also there is so much more that could be achieved.

 

I don’t know where to start when thinking about the constraints that bind the impossible from the possible. One thing is certain – we only need to look back over 30 or so years to know that technology and applications move at an incredible pace, albeit applications will always run in cycles that reflect the trends of the industry and market focus. 

“Don’t stop me now”

At some point in the future, I hope we will see levels of inter-operability and solution flexibility that bring all dependent and inter-dependent processes together. I’m talking ERP, RE, TPM, SCM and reporting all working at optimum levels of efficiency and visibility to the users of these systems. Most CPG manufacturers already do this to different levels of success and dare I say it, in many cases, with a significant amount of effort outside these systems along with the ever-lasting crutch of ‘Excel’. Can you imagine interacting with your banking App, eBay, Amazon or any other consumer solution that we have access to on our mobile phones – and having to download specific information to a notepad or excel, do some manual editing, and then reloading it back in to complete a process. It just doesn’t happen…but this is the reality still for many business applications from where data starts to where it finishes.

 

We talked about the opportunity of simplification and consolidation that would make complex processes and systems, well, less complex for the developers. On the flip side, a business user agonizing over another issue with the weekly process or data load, I’m sure longs for the software industry to take things truly to the next level for this industry vertical.

Give me more power

System / user / overnight performance is, at least in my experience, one area that is never complete or solved for. Breaking free of the computational power to dynamically compute billions of calculations across billions of rows of data in nanoseconds would fundamentally change the way we interact with industry focused systems such as TPM.

As an ex-‘Systems Administrator’, I used to keep an eye on the developments of the core components of a computer: Central Processing Unit (CPU), RAM (Random Access Memory) and Storage. From KB, to MB, to GB, to TB, and from ‘floppy disk’ to hard drives to Solid State Drives (SSD) – will our home computers of the future have the storage potential of Petabytes? The race between CPU manufacturers for faster processing seems to have taken a backseat these days but in the 90’s and even 2000’s it was big news when Intel or AMD released a faster Ghz processor with more built-in memory to help it along.

 

The ‘cool’ future seems to lie in Quantum Computing (QC). There was a somewhat unintended pun there, since the Research & Development (R&D) so far on QC indicates they need ultra-cold environments to be able to function. QC computational power is infinitely larger than the design of our current CPUs, as well as requiring a completely different way of developing code to utilise it. All a long way off still from being a selectable option on your latest Lenovo laptop! Reflecting on this, in the same way that nuclear fusion reactors (joining atoms rather than splitting them, infinite energy vs ‘lots’ of energy and nuclear waste) has taken the best part of 50 years to transition from ‘theory’ / R&D into production (yes – you read that right, the world’s largest Nuclear Fusion Power facility is being built in France, the same will apply to QC.

 

If and when QC technology becomes available to industry and eventually consumers, the capacity to solve immensely large mathematical and data challenges will be game changing. For TPM, even in the near term – improvements in the optimization of code, database structures, storage data retrieval efficiency (input/output rates) and data-in-memory have helped us deal with ever larger data models. Breaking free of these constraints would open the door to ever more sophisticated strategies and directions from TPM solutions.

“Another one bites the dust”

Would you believe that TPM systems have only really been around for around 15 years? I may be off by a year or two but we are not talking about an area that has been in existence for as long as say ERP or SCM solutions have. I believe this has also had somewhat of an impact on the speed at which the industry moved from on-premise models to SaaS models ‘in the cloud’ – and the pressure this had on any pre-existing software verticals that had to move with this change in direction and buyer expectation as on-premise applications that didn’t have the capital to completely re-model their product into a SaaS offering ‘bit the dust’.

 

Do we think Cloud Computing is here to stay? Is ‘true’ multi-tenant SaaS the right model for all software solutions? This is a question I’ve asked many colleagues over the past 5-6 years as the market got swept away with the Salesforce CRM model and looked to the more traditional industry verticals such as ERP/SCM/TPM to follow suit. It’s incredibly challenging to paint all applications with the same ‘SaaS’ brush.

 

This leads me onto a side topic that I have found amusing, or at least ironic of our industry. Buzz words – areas of functionality or process that will grab someone’s attention – particularly in sales cycles or demos. First there was Sales & Operations Planning (S&OP), from that came along CPFR (Collaborative Planning and Forecasting Replenishment), S&OP then evolved to IBP (Integrated Business Planning). On the sales front we had TPM evolving to Revenue Growth Management (RGM). Perhaps the nuances between these areas and systems capabilities to truly differentiate between them are only accessed by a very few of the top CPG manufacturers globally? I am sure next year we will have a new buzz word that will be required to differentiate capabilities, and if you’d not noticed by now, boy do we LOVE acronyms in this industry, especially when we’re all ‘in the Cloud’!

We are the Champions

Ok, you got me. For this last piece of the TPM Blog series as I’d decided to think about our industry as One Vision, I’ve pulled in other song titles from the legendary band Queen – in particular their ‘Queen Live at Wembley’ album released just as I was turning 10 to provide some inspiration to my musing on this topic. Listening to that first song now – One Vision – still makes my hairs stand on end and fills me with the same energy that I’ve felt for the world of TPM and the constant struggle and quest (Holy Grail – see Blog 5 😊) to deliver a truly successful solution for the business users that work in and around this area. We all have to find a passion in what we do and the diversity and complexity of TPM has always proven a worthy adversary that is never quite the same depending on where you are in this amazing world we live in.

 

The team at Exceedra working to improve what we do, and how we do it, all have this passion. I would certainly not go as far as to say we are ‘The’ champions of what we do, but by golly do we strive to be the best, to be champions of our solutions and champions to our customers. As our parent company, TELUS continues to evolve and invest in the eco-system I’ve discussed here, I am sure that the One Vision we wish to achieve is a goal that our customers will hopefully benefit from along our journey as business partners.

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