The latest release of the JDA Category Management Suite became available November 27th, 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 in use. Learn more about the Blue Yonder Category Management Suite here.
This release is packed with enhancements for clients using more than just Space Planning as a stand-alone application. A new JDA Reporting package addresses the growing need for Business Intelligence analysis of CKB data. Floor Planning now connects to Revit. Assortment Optimization integrates dunnhumby data. CKB allows working off-line in both Space Planning and Floor Planning. CKS speeds are dramatically improved. Planogram Generator continues to add features.
For those waiting for integration between JDA’s Category Knowledge Base and a Business Intelligence tool, 2017.2 is a breakthrough. Additionally, those waiting for a reporting component to be available in Open Access will also be excited about this release.
For those of you using (or considering) JDA Assortment Optimization, the integration of dunnhumby data into AO links dunnhumby Shelf Review data into your Assortment projects.
Finally, while it’s not really a “feature”, one more development in 2017.2 is the move to allow activation codes for all applications. Dealing with product keys was cumbersome, to say the least, so this is a welcome change. The only downside is that if you are using activation codes, you need to get new codes for all applications when you upgrade to 2017.2.
Click on the links below to read our summary for each application
Space Planning users can now ‘pin’ recently opened files at the top of the page for easier use. Pinned files will remain on the recently opened list regardless of how recently they were last opened. This is the same ‘pin my favorites’ capability that the new versions of Microsoft Office applications have.
With the introduction of the ‘ribbon’ layout in 2017.1, the keystrokes needed to accomplish a task have changed. For 2017.2, Space Planning controls can now be accessed by pressing and releasing “Alt” and then pressing (in sequence) one or two keys assigned to each tab, group, or control on the ribbon. Labels are displayed on the control to assist user navigation. See “Access Keys” in the Space Planning Online Expert for a complete list of keystroke combinations and functions.
For users of Category Knowledge Base (CKB), a new method has been added to open and save planograms in a CKB atabase and to access the database product library. This enhancement provides greater flexibility for CKB users who need to work on planograms in Space Planning without requiring a persistent network connection to the database server, but it does require that Open Access is installed. Planograms can be opened from the database, edited offline, and saved to the database when a network connection is available. Users can also implement a CKB database in the Cloud and work in a locally installed copy of Space Planning without using Citrix.
The big enhancement to Floor Planning is that Autodesk Revit will be able to export model data from Revit to an XML file that can then be imported into a Floor Planning floorplan. Once edited, the Floor Planning data can also be exported to an XML file and opened back to the Revit project. If you have Revit as your architectural standard and have struggled to embrace Floor Planning, this feature alone may be worth the effort of upgrading.
Beyond the Revit integration, the main features added to Floor Planning are the Pinning and Access Keys that are also added to Space Planning. Recently used files on the Open page can be Pinned, so they stay there until you decide to Unpin them. If you open many different files and want to keep some favorites from dropping out of the Recently Opened list, you will find this helpful. Similarly. each of the Tabs, Groups, and Controls within the Ribbon is accessed via keystroke shortcuts called Access Keys (one or two keystrokes, preceded by Alt). Just hit “Alt” to get started with the first level Access Keys, or access the full list of Access Keys in the OnLine Expert.
The Category Knowledge Base (CKB) has been updated with several tables and procedures to support the new functionality introduced across the suite with 2017.2.
- Multiple Object Assignment: New tables and procedures (start with ix_sys_assign) have been added to support Multiple Object Assignment in Open Access.
- Revit “Pinned” field: ‘Pinned’ is a new flag field that has been added to the ix_flr_fixture table. This field supports the integration of Floor Planning and Revit and identifies whether a fixture is listed as “pinned” in Revit, which means it cannot be moved in Floor Planning.
- Assortment Optimization: A new table, ix_ao_spreadrollup_item, has been added to support multi-item spreads and roll-ups in Assortment Optimization and tables have been added to the schema to support storing dunnhumby data:
- Personas: New stored procedures with the prefix ix_ao_persona_ have been added to handle the management of the persona data.
The options associated with legacy Space Automation scripts have been removed from the Business Rule Validation and Category Knowledge Server configuration in Console. You can still extract and delete the classic Space Automation scripts in those systems, but you can no longer upload them or make them active.
Finally, several notable issues have been fixed (I won’t get into them here – check the release notes if you have outstanding issues) and 2017.2 introduces support for Oracle 12.2.
By far though the most exciting enhancement in Open Access is the introduction of JDA Reporting through IBM Cognos – there is a whole section on JDA Reporting in this next section of this review. JDA Category Management 2017.2 offers numerous other enhancements to Open Access which bring Open Access closer to replacing Data Manager. One of the enhancements provides support to offline changes for Space Planning. This allows a user to open a planogram while connected then work on it while offline, then when reconnected the user can save it back to the database. Single Sign-On is also supported in this release and will simplify the login process. Another new feature is the ability to manage the product to planogram and planogram to store assignments via the Multiple Object Assignment in Open Access. Additionally, CKS under Open Access will provide better support for uploading large quantities of documents and will provide better error reporting back to the business user.
As JDA continues to develop the Open Access UI, several key additions have been made available in this latest release of its Category Management Suite. Previously, Data Manager was the only way to report on and query relational data from within the suite. JDA Reporting in Open Access provides this integrated functionality seamlessly for the user. JDA has re-created the sample reports that are found within Data Manager and made them available in Open Access. Users of the new JDA Reporting tool will be able to edit these samples as well as customize new reports within the Cognos Designer.
Also, with the enabled Cognos integration users can create custom dashboards that are dynamic which can be viewed through Open Access. JDA has also provided samples of dashboards that can be leveraged for editing.
The same security definitions that are available for other processes and objects with the JDA suite can be applied to specific reports, allowing administrators to customize the deployment of reports for different groups of users.
Another key development is the ability to report and query the Category Advisor FACT database within the UI. This ability previously needed to be customized or integrated with an external reporting tool. Having the ability to access these datasets from both the FACT analysis cube and the CKB tables, creates an opportunity that many users will covet in a BI tool in addition to traditional reporting functions.
The new JDA Reporting with Cognos offering does come at an incremental cost to the organization that wishes to license it. For this information, you should contact your JDA sales personnel. However, the ability to deliver professional level reporting to your organization within an integrated suite makes this release very appealing. The constant frustration with Data Manager being unresponsive when dealing with large datasets can be a thing of the past if utilizing this new reporting tool. Also, with Open Access becoming more robust, it is now feasible for CKB users to begin the migration towards Open Access, JDA’s long-term option for interacting with CKB.
Space Automation Professional
Feature-wise, there are some great new commands for bulk editing of performance fields in both Space Planning and Floor Planning. The SetMultipleFieldValues function allows users to make mass changes to the performance object. While this only allows bulk editing of the performance object, we would expect that JDA will extend this functionality to other object types (such as products, fixtures, etc.) in future releases.
The release of 2017.2 has fewer enhancements than previous releases, but is no less important. The two most noticeable enhancements are an option to include sidecaps in the base position, and how tags are applied.
Until now, Planogram Generator (PG) could add sidecaps to maximize the capacity in the smallest footprint possible. The sidecaps were added as an additional position, which causes an issue for customers that do not allow multiple positions on a planogram. There is a new Merchandising Option that allows the action to either continue with the current functionality or combine the sidecap into the base position. This new option mimics the standard practice within Space Planning.
In release 2016.1, JDA changed the methodology of how tags are assigned. All tags had to be assigned within the Tagging tab, by selecting the positions in the Designer window. There remained the functionality to assign tags within Tables or the Property Lists window. With 2017.2, JDA continues with this method but has also brought back the functionality of clicking on positions within the Front view to assign tags. Sequence tagging must still be performed within the Designer window. The Cantactix team used the ‘clicking positions in the front view’ extensively, so we are thrilled this is back.
Assortment Optimization 2017.2 is a significant step forward for this application. A lot of the new functionality is focused on working with data science information to incorporate shopper metrics and other attributes into the assortment decision-making process. A new “Persona” object holds data related to different shopper personas. Because of the incorporation of the data science information, new Transferable Demand methods have been added to take advantage of the substitute data.
Much of the data science integration is a direct result of JDA’s new relationship with dunnhumby, and data from dunnhumby can be used within Assortment Optimization if certain requirements are met. This integration is provided as a limited release as noted in the JDA 2017.2 release notes for Assortment Optimization.
Additional functionality has been added that will streamline various processes within Assortment Optimization. Users can now perform Spreads and Roll-ups across multiple fields at once versus having to do each field individually. Within the Data Editor, editing data is simplified and enhanced to reduce the steps required to edit values and to apply changes to a range of cells within the grid.
New methods for creating projects have also been added. Users can now create projects from Channel Clustering data and can create new projects based on existing projects.
Our take on this release:
We know big companies prefer to adopt new software slowly, but much in this release can be valuable to our clients. We recommend you start testing the new functionality if you use Revit or are a dunnhumby client. Install the 2017.2 version of Floor Planning or Assortment Optimization on one client PC and try out the new features. Your core users can stay on the current version until you confirm how well the enhancements work for you.
The CKB improvements for Reporting and Disconnected Use are their first release, so we recommend using them in a Development environment for some time to be sure they work in your environment. There is no need to upgrade for other CKB enhancements unless you’ve logged a case that has been addressed in this release.
Space Planning users who like short-cut keys will be much happier with 2017.2 over 2017.1, due to the new Action Keys functionality.
I like the new Planogram Generator features, and I recommend you update to get those. If you are running CKB 2017.1, the new features can be added simply by upgrading your local copy of Space Planning to 2017.2. You can still connect that to a 2017.1 database. If your CKB database is older, you will need to upgrade both CKB and Space Planning.