i2 battles to boost customer loyalty

Supply chain management software supplier i2 Technologies has unveiled a series of initiatives to boost user confidence.

Supply chain management software vendor i2 Technologies has unveiled a series of initiatives to boost user confidence.

The move follows i2's delisting from the Nasdaq exchange, mounting losses and an investigation into its accounting practices by the US authorities.

At the i2 Planet 2003 user conference in Las Vegas, chief operating officer Sam Nakane promised to boost customer satisfaction and help companies to install i2 applications more rapidly and get a quicker return on investment.

Nakane, who has been overseeing the company's reorganisation during the past year, promised i2 would provide a single point of contact for every key account.

The company will also introduce a business optimisation service 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.

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.

"We are not going to leave the customer behind," Nakane said.

Users had mixed views on the announcements. Jeff Poole, senior vice president of procurement strategy at aircraft manufacturer Airbus in France, said his company is already seeing the benefits of flexible pricing and other initiatives Nakane outlined, and he added that he considered 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."

However, he was concerned about investigations into i2's finances. "We watch our critical trusted suppliers very carefully, and at present this is not satisfactory for anyone," he said.

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 in the US. It potentially "really changes the whole pattern of the way we do business", he said.

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