TechnologySoftware for ‘value delivery’.

Software for 'value delivery'.

What do kangaroo skins, diamonds and wine have in common? They're all craft products with complex and delicate manufacturing processes that can be automated.

Don’t believe me? Neither did I until I spent time with people who have been working with these industries at the other end of the earth in Australia. At the most basic level, the issue come down to product yield where there is no standard basic material. Each kangaroo is individual as is each diamond and each grape vine. This represents a complex problem for companies that wish to optimise their manufacturing processes.

Wine production for instance is mind bogglingly complex. Each bottle has to be capable of identification across a number of parameters. Many wines, especially those from the New World, are identified as say chardonnay, shiraz or merlot types but in reality each is a blend of wines produced from a root stock type. The producer’s trick is to maximise the value from each vintage based on predictions about the results of a blend formula.

Now add in the fact that forecasting for new vine plantings has to be done over a seven-year period taking into account historical variables and it quickly becomes easy to see that price forecasting in this market is close to rocket science.

It was therefore fascinating to discover wine production – or blend management – is considered as a collaborative process among large producers like Gallo and Fosters/Berringer. Investment in software necessary to make this viable is such that nine of the world’s largest producers are getting together with JD Edwards to develop solutions that are expected to deliver massive returns. Details are still under wraps but this is a great example of the way software development is going.

Although general spending on packaged applications is flat or falling, some vendors are finding that niche vertical markets are providing a goldmine for new development where the watchword is ‘value’ delivery. Solving these problems requires a change in software development.

At JD Edwards, they have employees who have no connection with the software industry advising the ‘go to market’ strategies that determine their approach to development. This is giving rise to many methods of development. In some cases it is inhouse, in others joint with the industry and in others joint with partners. This marks a sea-change for an industry that has tended to keep as much of the development in-house as possible.

From a user’s perspective this is great news. It means that for the first time in software development history, leadership will be defined by a vendor’s ability to respond to industry business process requirements.

Will it be possible to commoditise the results of such efforts? Probably.

Will it deliver value? You bet.

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