CEO Duncan Angove on making Blue Yonder the ‘category killer’ for supply chain
Just four weeks into the job, CEO Duncan Angove explains his vision for scaling supply chain vendor Blue Yonder in the cloud.
Duncan Angove is an enterprise software industry veteran, having served in senior executive roles at companies that include Retek, Oracle and Infor. Just four weeks ago it was announced that Angove would be taking the top job at Blue Yonder, formally JDA Software, to help scale the supply chain management vendor in the cloud.
Blue Yonder has aggressive plans to become the SaaS supply chain vendor of choice for buyers, at a time when supply chain disruption is front of mind for companies around the world. The issues in sourcing goods and services have been well documented on diginomica, and many organizations are assessing how they can best future proof their supply chain management solutions.
This is an area that Angove has been working in, or working near, for most of his career. Speaking with diginomica this week, he explains how joining the company as CEO felt like an obvious choice for him - given his history in supply chain management. Angove says:
My whole life has intersected with this company. I mean, my first job out of university in London was actually with Anderson Consulting [now Accenture]. And one of the first projects I had was implementing a warehouse management system at Selfridges. Their warehouse is actually the four subterranean basement levels under the store on Oxford Street, and we put in a WMS called McHugh Freeman, which ended up becoming RedPrairie, which is now part of Blue Yonder. It was my very first job.
Then I was at Retek, and JDA, which is now Blue Yonder, were our number one competitor all the way up to taking it public. So all the assets that make up Blue Yonder, I’ve intersected with them through my whole life.
I know the space really well and I know the assets really well. And so when this opportunity came up I was sort of like there's a closed loop poetry to ending up here. I know a lot of the employees and obviously I know all of the customers.
Blue Yonder was acquired by Panasonic at the beginning of last year for approximately $7 billion, and since then it has been suggested that the company could be headed for an IPO to help scale it even further. Blue Yonder has been investing heavily in its SaaS capabilities, driven by its Luminate Platform, and via partnerships with Microsoft Azure and Snowflake. The end goal is a highly scalable, industry-focused supply chain management suite that utilises data to predict and fulfil customer demand.
Commenting on his ambitions for Blue Yonder under his leadership, Angove is clear. He says:
There are very, very few multibillion dollar scale players in supply chain management. You have Workday in HR, Salesforce in CRM, ServiceNow in IT management, but there's no category killer in supply chain. That's Blue Yonder. That's the opportunity, to be the Salesforce or the Workday of supply chain,
There are obviously players that do surprise Supply Chain Management, like an Oracle or an SAP, but it's an add on functionality. It's not best in class, right? Blue Yonder is really the only best in class, billion dollar scale supply chain SaaS company. And that’s really hard to do.
Accelerating the roadmaps
Angove says that he sees many similarities between Blue Yonder and Infor, where he was President for a number of years and helped oversee the company’s impressive shift to becoming an industry-focused SaaS ERP player. He explains that supply chain is similar in that the functionality for individual verticals is very different and then running those in the cloud isn’t easy to do. Angove adds:
But Blue Yonder has tons and tons of functions and features that actually support the nuances of how you run a supply chain and each vertical.
Angove’s background is in engineering and he proudly describes himself as a ‘product guy’. He explains that his primary focus at Blue Yonder in the short to medium term is accelerating the roadmap, bringing forward the company’s SaaS ambitions, as well as placing a strong emphasis on customer and employee experience. As noted above, this isn’t Angove’s first rodeo on transitioning a company to the cloud, and his experience at Infor in recent years is likely to be invaluable. He says:
That's very much the philosophy: how can we build on and accelerate all of the roadmaps? The things were going to take a year to two years, let's get them done faster. So that's very much what I've just spent the last four weeks going through. What’s the vision? How can we do things faster? How can we accelerate more in the cloud?
Over the past few years Blue Yonder has been operating a cloud migration programme, called Journey to the Cloud. However, Angove says that this has largely been about taking customers on a certain version and keeping them on the same code base, whilst moving them to the cloud. His priority now is migrating those customers onto the Luminate platform, which is multi-tenant, native SaaS.
Luminate, Blue Yonder’s AI and ML platform that underpins many of its modern solutions, is central to Blue Yonder’s cloud ambitions. It’s the platform’s data capabilities, enabled by its integration with Snowflake, which have particularly impressed Angove. He says:
What Blue Yonder has done is build out the Luminate platform, which has the ability to leverage common components that have been built on a modern architecture, running on top of Azure and Snowflake.
The Snowflake decision was something that surprised me. If you think about supply chains, so much of what you do is coordinating inventory flow across multiple stakeholders in a supply chain. And typically you have to share information to make that happen.
We've had all sorts of things like EDI and collaborative planning and all the supplier portals - the things that have grown up to facilitate all of that. And the elegant thing about Snowflake is all of that data sits in one cloud data platform.
They have a phrase which I actually love, which is, you know, supply chain collaboration is only a query away. It's a revolutionary mindset shift. So I think all the architecture work that's gone into Luminate, Azure and Snowflake allows us to dramatically rethink the way certain supply chain functions have run.
So now we are accelerating all of the roadmaps so that we build out the complete full suite on top of Luminate as native SaaS, with all that differentiation inside it.
Another area that Blue Yonder is investing heavily in is its commerce capabilities, which was made possible by its acquisition of SaaS company Yantriks in July 2020. Angove says whilst Blue Yonder is well known for its supply chain, warehouse and transportation management, Yantriks provides an opportunity to build a brand around order management and omni-channel fulfilment too. He says:
It's an incredibly differentiated offering, built on a modern multi-tenant SaaS architecture. It has a very elegant microservices architecture, so you don't have to rip and replace your whole OMS. You can say, ‘Ijust need this one component’ and it plugs in. That is an enormous opportunity. So we are doubling and tripling and quadrupling down on that.
Supply chain is critical
Since joining Blue Yonder, Angove has unsurprisingly been spending time talking to customers to try and understand what their needs are and what issues they’re facing regarding their supply chain future. He says that supply chain management should be seen as “part of our national infrastructure” given that when it goes down, businesses and economies grind to a halt. Angove says:
That's the level and quality of service and resilience that you need. And running a supply chain in the cloud is completely different, it’s very, very hard to do. And I think that's why you haven't really seen someone emerge in that space.
But this is a hyper growth SaaS company and we're accelerating. I've always believed in putting products right and if you get the product right, everything else will take care of itself.
Angove adds that most of the conversations he’s been having with customers haven’t been with the technology leaders, but with CEOs themselves - which reflects how significant these investments are to organizations. He says:
In my prior companies, the relationship was generally with the CIO. All of my outreach here has been to CEOs and they all respond because we are so mission critical to what they do.
They want to ensure they have a relationship with the CEO so that they get really top quality service availability and reliability in the SaaS services that we provide. And anything that we're doing to our supply chain applications actually influences their overall supply chain business strategy.
Your business strategy is not what you're going to do with HR, right? When you’re thinking about supply chain it changes how you think about your overall business strategy. And the thing about Blue Yonder is this company has the brand authority to talk about best practices and trends in supply chain, because of the heritage of the company and the knowledge.
So the conversations have been great, they're not about speeds and feeds and all of that, they’re about where supply chain is going, particularly in a world where you have all of this supply chain disruption.
Much of what Angove is talking about here feels very reminiscent of what he helped achieve at Infor. And that’s no bad thing - Infor’s strategy to get customers to the cloud has been cogent and very successful. Angove spoke about building out Blue Yonder’s industry clouds, focusing on the Luminate platform, enhancing employee and customer experience, as well as moving more into the mid market. I’ve known Angove and some of the team he has brought with him to Blue Yonder for a number of years - this is a team with a lot of experience and the ability to execute on a vision. We will be watching closely as Blue Yonder reveals more over the coming months.