Quantum Loop

''Performance'' is its middle name -- can new software help companies link past, present, and future?

But even those selling CPM software caution that it is not a panacea. “A customer has to create methodologies to monitor and manage hundreds of metrics on a proactive basis to drive actual performance,” says Poonen. “You [have to] get underneath the data to improve performance or reset expectations.”

Cashing In

CPM sounds like the answer to any number of corporate headaches, yet to date few companies have deployed it. According to technology research firm Gartner, fewer than 10 percent of Global 2,000 companies have implemented CPM, although the firm believes this will skyrocket to 40 percent by 2005. That’s in sync with the expanding market for BI tools, applications, and data warehouses, which research firm IDC expects to grow from $3.8 billion in 2002 to $6 billion by 2006.

Software makers hope that early success stories will galvanize the market. Kids Headquarters is one CPM convert. During the past five years, the New York-based children’s-apparel company experienced tremendous growth, from a small, family-owned garment business into a midsize national competitor with $500 million in annual sales. Its sudden spurt came with a price — Kids Headquarters could not determine if its employees were executing corporate strategy or if its resources were being allocated to the right business units. “We didn’t know if we were pushing the right projects,” says chief information officer Ron Cuevas. “We lacked data sets in different parts of the organization to determine if an employee or particular functional area was performing well. For example, since we couldn’t measure how quickly a garment design reached procurement, we were unable to grade how well a designer was performing his or her job.”

Kids Headquarters had an ERP system, but it was static, Cuevas complains. “There was no central platform where we could plug in all this data, consolidate it, and present it cohesively to different employees so they could drill through it and drive better plans and performance,” he says.

Having installed CPM software (from Cognos), Kids Headquarters can now monitor a dozen key indicators, according to Kevin Downs, the company’s chief technology officer. To make sure employees take the new system seriously, he says, “we will link bonus compensation to these metrics.” The company also plans to extend the system to vendors in Asia, where 80 percent of its merchandise is sourced, to measure how they perform. “We used to rely on informal information that so-and-so failed miserably on its last delivery,” says Downs. “Now we know exactly who is failing in what categories, so we can manage our supply chain much more efficiently.”

John Kurtzweil, senior vice president, CFO, and treasurer at ON Semiconductor, a Phoenix-based microchip maker, says that visibility into near-term sales and profits are also challenges. “It’s real tough to get anybody to commit to longer lead times on orders, which means we have to rely more on our modeling capabilities for the industry and for particular customers than we have in the past,” he says. Jonathan Chadwick, vice president of corporate finance and planning at Cisco Systems Inc., says that “visibility has gotten markedly worse over the past 24 months. The economic situation has given rise to nobody being willing to commit [to placing orders] far out in advance.”

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