I2 makes bid to boost customer loyalty

On the heels of a Nasdaq delisting, quarterly losses and a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigation into its accounting practices, supply chain management software vendor i2 Technologies unveiled a number of new initiatives this week aimed at keeping its users happy.

At the i2 Planet 2003 user conference, Chief Operating Officer Sam Nakane outlined a series of initiatives intended to boost customer satisfaction and help companies to more rapidly install i2's supply chain management applications and get a quicker return on investment.

In a keynote speech on Tuesday, Nakane, who has been overseeing the company's reorganization during the past year, told users that "the emphasis on customer satisfaction is starting to pay off."

He said i2 is now formally announcing a customer organization that will streamline communications by providing a single point of contact for every key account. In some cases, Nakane said, an account manager will oversee a customer and coordinate i2 resources on their behalf. Additionally, field personnel will be asked to research the company they are servicing and to chart successes and performance gaps, assess potential improvements that could be implemented and create 90-day action plans to execute.

I2 will also introduce a business optimization service. The company envisions consultants working with customers after applications have gone live to build best practices into a company's processes, based on key performance indicators and application software hooks, he said.

To take some of the risk out investing in i2 software, the company will also create more flexible pricing options that will suit companies' needs, allowing them to either pay for the licenses upfront, after the project has gone live or upon completion of an agreed-on statement of work. Companies are responsible for all consulting fees.

Nakane emphasized the renewed focus at i2. "We are not going to leave the customer behind," he said.

Users had mixed comments on the announcements. Having i2 consultants work directly with a company to understand problems and find solutions goes beyond the traditional use of packaged software, noted Ravi Vancheeswaran, a supply chain systems manager at ON Semiconductor Corp. in Phoenix. It potentially "really changes the whole pattern of the way we do business," he said.

Having flexible pricing options will help sell the applications within companies, Vancheeswaran said. ON currently runs i2's factory planning and other supply chain software.

Jeff Poole, senior vice president of procurement strategy at aircraft manufacturer Airbus S.A.S in France, said his company is already seeing the benefits of flexible pricing and some of the other initiatives Nakane outlined, and he added that he considers the firm a trusted business consultant. The company is live on i2's supply chain management and supplier relationship management applications.

"We have been working with i2 over the past two years and been pushing them pretty hard to do things, and pretty much what we saw on the (presentation) screen describes our relationship," he said. " It's worked well on both sides."

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