The latest release of the JDA, now Blue Yonder, Category Management Suite became available on February 23rd, 2017. This review summarizes the enhancements we found interesting based on a review of JDA’s Release Notes and our initial experience with the new applications. We strive to release our initial comments within a week of each release. For the full list of all enhancements and resolved issues, refer to each application’s JDA Release Notes documents. Learn more about the Blue Yonder Category Management Suite here.

Short Read:

If you have the Category Knowledge Base (CKB, previously branded as IKB), you will likely benefit from the enhancements and resolved issues applied not only to database productivity, but to the client applications’ interaction with CKB, specifically Open Access, Assortment OptimizationSpace Planning, and Floor Planning. Planogram Generator users who create action lists will appreciate the enhancements that have been applied to the PG Designer screen within Space Planning. 

This release includes the first major overhaul of the user interface since 2006. This will be both a change management concern for some clients and a welcome change for others. Please contact us if you want to see a webinar that will allow you to view the newest features and ask real-time questions before you try them out for yourself.

Enhancements in Space Planning and Floor Planning have been limited to modernizing their interface by replacing the menu structure and toolbars with a ‘ribbon’ control, similar to the interface found in the current versions of Microsoft Office. The ribbon provides a customizable interface for organizing and launching existing features, however the effort required to modernize their interfaces resulted in no new merchandising or analysis capabilities for this release. To symbolize this modernization, the icons for Floor and Space Planning have a new design:

Warnings:

  • Space Planning support for serial port (RS232) scanners and calipers, such as the Intactix-branded devices, was hidden in version 9.1.0 (released November 2015) and has been removed in the 2017.1.0 release.
  • Category Knowledge Base (CKB) support for installation on SQL Server 2012 has been removed, replaced by new support for SQL Server 2016.

Quick Note:  Release documentation has been streamlined by consolidating the Commercial Release Scope document with the Release Notes document for each application. This simplifies the documents you should review if you are considering upgrading.

Click on the links below to read our summary for each application

Assortment Optimization

This release of Assortment Optimization (AO) has improvements to the User Interface (UI) as well as some great updates in functionality.

AO has always had a ribbon interface and this release is a big overhaul to make it consistent with the updates to Space Planning and Floor Planning. The biggest new feature in the 2017.1 release is the addition of Property Lists. The File menu has also been replaced by a view similar to Office 365 and contains New, Open, Save, Save As, Close & Options menus.

AO has been enhanced so that you can review, approve, and to some extent, override, assortments using Open Access. This will allow a wide range of users within an organization the ability to be part of the assortment process without needing an AO installation, or license. Additionally, Assortment Selection Control has been added to allow searching for assortments assigned to specific stores.

Several customers-reported issues have been addressed with this AO release, including:

  • Overridden field names will now be displayed in the Chart properties as expected
  • Numeric values with decimal places are now able to be used in Financial tactics
  • The transfer for additions now considers deletions in the Quantification view
  • When using node-based transferable demand, the formula used to calculate the transfer rate is no longer calculated against the product node to which the tactic is assigned, it is evaluated against each product instead
  • During calculation, the transfer between products is now the same for products in the current assortment and products not in the current assortment
  • In the Quantification view, all transfers are now displayed for both receiving and giving products

If you use Open Access, this is a great release for sharing your assortment work within your company.​

Space Planning

Enhancements revolve primarily around the User Interface(UI) for Space Planning, with a focus on giving the application a more contemporary face. The UI improvements are concentrated on a newly created “Ribbon” that replaces the menu and toolbars with tabbed groups, and a Quick Access Toolbar to place your most frequently used commands. These groups contain controls that perform specific tasks and are part of a planned series of updates to the application UI.

Overall this is a great improvement in the general aesthetic of the applications, although there may be some initial “I can’t find what I’m looking for” issues. The new UI should prove to be a big step forward in usability and efficiency while providing a consistent look across multiple applications and platforms. Most users should feel comfortable with the changes that give the application more of the look and feel that has become the norm for Microsoft Office applications such as Word, Excel and Access.

​Note that experienced users may require time to re-learn where menu and toolbar functions are now located. In several cases, a group of related buttons, e.g. the position Orientation buttons, have been re-organized as a single ribbon button with a drop-down menu. This provides a more efficient use of space but requires a different UI workflow to access a specific command.  

​​​​Floor Planning

The primary enhancement for Floor Planning 2017.1 is the Ribbon, which follows a similar structure to the Microsoft Office Suite of tools by grouping similar functions together under tabs. The content, placement, and button locations can be customized for each tab. Functions or buttons that are used often can also be added to a Quick Access Toolbar. The File menu interface has been redesigned to match Microsoft Office’s ‘Backstage’ view. This new view also includes a most recently used list which lists the last files opened for your specified types and database floorplans.

Experienced users of Floor Planning may require time to re-learn where menu and toolbar functions are now located.  Several of the two-part buttons that include drop-down options have changed the button workflow, for example the Dimensions and Drawing buttons no longer retain the last-used option, they reset to the default and you need to click the button’s drop-down to re-select the non-default option. The previous ability to tear off the button’s drop-down as a floating toolbar (e.g. the Locations options on the 3D Navigation toolbar) is not supported using the ribbon. In all cases, the command functions are still available; it is the UI workflow that has evolved.

Floor Planning 2017.1 contains several fixes, including several issues related to 3D viewing and printing. An issue regarding exporting a DXF with objects with zero coordinates has also been resolved. Several issues introduced in 2016.1.0 have been resolved. Users can now drag columns in a table to change the column sequence and use shortcut keys in the property lists for navigation. The section-level Width Override is respected for adjacent planograms and fixture space calculations.​ Note that the full integration between Floor Planning and AutoDesk Revit is still in development. JDA plans to complete the integration in a future release, which will require a plug-in component for Revit.

Space Automation Professional

This release continues the evolution of JDA Space Automation Professional. One of our concerns about the C# templates included with the 2016.1 version was that code added to the application from the Space Automation command dialog boxes was in VB format, not C#. That required re-work of the code to change it into proper C# syntax. With 2017.1 this issue is being addressed, and code added to the application from the Command Explorer generates code in C# syntax.
 
This release fixes a major issue related to connecting to a CKB database.  In the 2016.1 version of Space Automation Professional, scripts that used the SelectDatabase command to connect to a CKB database could only be deployed to machines that had Space Automation Professional (and hence Visual Studio) installed. With the 2017.1 release, these scripts can be deployed onto machines that do not have Space Automation Professional installed. Additionally, a Space Automation Professional configuration editor can be run on the client machine, and this utility can be used to update the CKB connection details if necessary.

There are also some important bug fixes in this release – many of them centered around installation and un-installation issues, Category Knowledge Server (CKS) script issues, and more. 

​​​​Category Knowledge Base

Category Knowledge Base (CKB) 2017.1 has some new functionality and several issues have been resolved. New functionality includes:

  • Category Knowledge Base has been upgraded to provide support for SQL Server 2016 databases. 
  • Category Knowledge Base has been enhanced to support 128-character username fields wherever usernames are stored in the database. Previously the default was 20 characters.
  • Data Manager and Console no longer require activation. Builder still requires an activation code or product key in order to be used. 
  • A registration file has been included in the Category Knowledge Base\Utilities folder to support a better first use experience for Data Manager. This registration file can be used by administrators during packaging/deployment to suppress the requirement to run Data Manager with administrator privileges on first run. This should make corporate deployment much easier.
  • The JDA Category Batch Processing service has been enhanced to support running console applications in a batch job thread. The new Bulk Edit system uses this processing ability to process requests submitted through Open Access.
  • The JDA Products and Images import has been enhanced to enable the input image folder and destination image folder to be the same folder in batch operations. Batch operations now operate identically to manual user input operations.
  • The Interface Configuration page has been enhanced to enable interfaces that are not used by an organization to be hidden from users.

Some of the issues fixed are:

  • Segmentation corruption and the error that occurs have been corrected when you create a new version of a Live or Historic planogram.
  • Planogram Generator now reports an error correctly if it encounters a severe error.
  • After upgrading a SQL Server database, in some scenarios an error that occurs when using store-based navigation to access Web Publisher floorplans has been corrected.
  • An Oracle issue where if you select a Lifecycle Management processing stage, but a processing procedure is not found, an Oracle error is displayed has been corrected.
  • There are no longer deadlock issues when multiple space planners upload or save planograms from Category Knowledge Server or Space Planning.
  • The algorithm used to find an available batch processing server thread for allocation no longer fails with invalid number when attempting to parse parameters for Web Publisher batch jobs.

Category Advisor (CA)

Category Knowledge Base version 2017.1 contains an important enhancement for users that assign planograms to stores, but who do not create or maintain fully drawn floorplans. When users assign planograms to stores using the Store Planogram Assignment interface in Data Manager, a Work-in-Progress floorplan may be created to facilitate the assignment. In prior versions of Category Advisor, users could not import space data for planograms assigned to a store via a WIP floorplan. This enhancement allows fact data to be imported, even if the floorplan has a Work-in-Progress status. This is an option that can be configured in the CKB Console application.

Open Access

Open Access now allows you to set an end date for store-specific planograms to end the assignment. Prior to this release, the store assignment was only terminated when another planogram replaced the existing one. 
 
With this release, the batch download and printing functionality are now functional with all supported browsers. The cart functionality has been removed and replaced with a more streamlined approach. You can now select Batch Download and Print from the menu options.
 
Version 2017.1 includes a new Bulk Edit feature for Open Access. Bulk Edit allows a user to edit numerous planograms, floorplans, or other objects at once by selecting either a node or specific rows from the hierarchy. Once the selection, which can include filters such as a certain status, is made, the user can then enter the new value for the attribute into the maintenance screen. Next, the user can schedule the mass update to occur with the next execution or select the date to have the update occur. Once the process is executed, all selected objects will be updated with the new attribute value. This feature simplifies the current process of either custom development or a user opening the objects and editing in a table, or editing one by one.
 
The Open Access Mobile application for iPad has a better look and feel with improved navigation. 
 
There are numerous bug fixes with this release for Open Access and the mobile application. Many of these are corrections for button functionality, display of incorrect data, and issues with error conditions.   

Planogram Generator

In the last few major releases, JDA has focused a lot of effort on enhancing the capabilities and functionality of Planogram Generator (PG). Version 2017.1 has fewer enhancements than previous releases but is no less important.

Most enhancements have been to the Post Generation Preview pane within Space Planning. The user is now better able to see the flow of linked fixtures and how much space bands assumed with the introduction of arrows on the Preview pane.

On the Action Lists tab, there is now a visual indicator that gives immediate feedback on the validity of a formula or series of actions. A red square indicates that the action contains a “syntax error” (a formula has likely been written incorrectly). A yellow square indicates a warning, which may be the result of an improper combination of actions.

The enhancement with the biggest impact is the introduction of Formulas to the Product Include and Add Position actions. Until now, PG was limited to 4 standard inventory options for including products. This will allow for completely new options for products to be included. Not all companies use the dedicated Inventory Models within Space Planning, and this enhancement will allow them to use their specifically defined fields for product inclusions. As with other formulas, it is recommended that you use Performance level objects and higher.

From a purely Planogram Generator point of view, unless you have been waiting for the addition of formulas to the Product Include or Add Positions actions, there might not be an immediate need to upgrade to 2017.1.

Our take on this release:

2017.1 provides many compelling reasons to upgrade if you use CKB, especially for those interested in Assortment Optimization and Open Access.

If you just use Space Planning in a file-based environment, perhaps in coordination with Floor Planning or Space Automation Professional, then the benefits may not outweigh the effort if upgrading these applications involves significant overhead for your organization. However, this release resolves some defects discovered in 2016.1. If you are using 2016.1 then you may want to upgrade to 2017.1 if those resolved issues improve your productivity. Refer to each application’s Release Notes for details of the resolved issues.   

Upgrading any application to 2017.1 should involve an evaluation of the entire suite of applications that your company uses. JDA states that the Category Management Suite 2017.1 includes several integrated changes across its applications. Due to these changes, some applications in the 2017.1.0 release are not compatible with pre-2017.1 releases; all your Category Management Suite applications should be upgraded at the same time to provide cross-product functionality. 

Your upgrade schedule should consider that existing users may need time to adjust to the new Ribbon interface.

If you are interested in getting additional insight into the new features and how they can benefit you, please contact us. Interested in upgrading? Learn more here.

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