The JDA Category Management Suite, now Blue Yonder, was released on December 3rd, 2019. This evaluation summarizes the enhancements we found interesting based on our review of JDA’s Release Notes and an initial review of the new release. As you consider upgrading, contact us. We can provide insight into the usability and quality of a release based on our testing experience and work with customers who have upgraded. 

Short Read:

The JDA Category Management 2019.1 suite introduces significant innovation for several products and minor refinements in others. As described in the JDA Product Roadmap, the Category Management suite is focused on innovation in macro-space with the introduction of JDA Floorplan Generator, assortment optimization that leverages customer data science to drive localized assortment decisions, web-based solutions including database APIs, and more robust Open Access capabilities to provide a technically modern alternative to the legacy Data Manager in the Category Knowledge Base.

The focus on those innovative areas results in limited enhancements for Space Planning, a mature product that launched 20 years ago; however, JDA recognizes that Space Planning is a core application and is not being neglected.

Refer to each product’s Release Notes from JDA for details on all its enhancements and resolved issues. Below you will find our review of each application.

Alerts:

  • Updated Activation Codes are required with 2019.1. The new codes are provided by JDA when you request the upgrade.  
  • Database platform support has been added for Oracle 18c (12.2.0.2) and 19c (12.2.0.3), with continued support for Oracle 12c (12.2.0.1).  
  • Database platform support has been removed for SQL Server 2014, with continued support for SQL Server 2016 and 2017.

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

Space Planning

The biggest set of enhancements in Space Planning 2019.1 is the addition of over 60 commands to the customizable Quick Access Toolbar. These include several functions used for building new fixtures, changing merchandising orientations, analysis report actions as well as viewing options for multiple planogram projects. A common reaction to the ribbon introduced in 2017.1 is how much space the ribbon occupies. A solution is to minimize the ribbon and use its auto-hide capabilities and configure the customizable Quick Access Toolbar for the commands you commonly use.  The availability of over 60 commands to the Quick Access Toolbar makes it even more useful. For full details on all the new commands, see the Space Planning 2019.1.0.0 Release Notes.

Another new feature supports planograms that utilize combined fixtures. If a product position spans across multiple fixtures the product weight will now be distributed across those adjacent combined fixtures. This results in more precise results of the “product weight exceeds fixture capacity” warning when an item sits on more than one fixture. 

Out of the 18 resolved issues listed in the 2019.1 release notes, 9 of them were also covered by the 2018.1.1 and 2018.1.2 service releases. New resolved issues include a fix with PGScore Value display as well as limitations on PGScoreNote field count. Several of the other issue resolutions include performance improvements with network drive file saves, resolving some scenarios interacting with BRV (Business Rule Validation), planogram files not being included in the Batch Print dialog box, as well as issues opening planograms from the CKB database.

When installing Space Planning 2019.1 in a flat file (no database) environment, it can be installed over versions 7.5 to 2018.1.2.  If using Space Planning with a CKB environment, you also need to ensure the database matches the Space Planning version; you must update both at the same time. The Space Planning Release Notes and Installation Guide has full details.

​​​​Floor Planning

Floor Planning 2019.1 development has focused almost entirely on Floorplan Generator, with JDA introducing the next generation of Floorplan Space Allocation (FSA). Floorplan Generator builds upon the current FSA functions using a similar interface as Space Planning’s Planogram Generator, and is designed to automate and optimize the planogram allocation process. Floorplan Generator is separately licensed, but its components are installed with Floor Planning.  Additional supporting components are built into Category Knowledge Base 2019.1.

This initial release of Floorplan Generator includes the following capabilities:

  • The use of data points to optimize existing section widths to determine allocation of space in aisle, relative to each other (i.e. sales, margin).
  • The use of a template floorplan to set macro space allocation where users can increase or decrease section sizes in a target floorplan.
  • Optimize parts of an aisle but do not adjust specific sections such as planograms that cannot be moved or resized in an aisle (i.e. freezer chest in the middle of the aisle).
  • Merchandising a total store can be done, but like FSA is applied one Allocation Group (fixture and planogram group) at a time per client requirements. 
  • Generation supports combo planograms by optimizing two individual sections using their combined sales data and space, so reclaimed space can be allocated to a more deserving planogram.
  • You may now test and validate target floorplan results prior to final Floorplan Generation.

Floorplan Space Allocation (the legacy functionality) remains available in 2019.1. However, JDA will focus its development efforts towards evolving Floorplan Generator. Additional features are planned for future releases of Floorplan Generator to handle more complex merchandising scenarios which FSA wasn’t designed to do.

​​​​Category Knowledge Base

The Category Knowledge Base (CKB) 2019.1 release represents JDA’s strategy to expand the ability for Alliance Partners and customers to customize the tool and leverage even more power from the database. The Category Management Services API (Application Program Interface) will now be generally available, building on the 2018.1.1 limited release.  This is truly significant for customers who are purchasing CKB or thinking of upgrading, as now the automation and customization possibilities with the database expand tremendously. 

The accessible API’s include System API, Users API, Stores API, Floorplans API, Planograms API, Products API, and Published Documents.  

Several tables have been updated to support new fields for Assortment Optimization and Floorplan Generator, and two new tables have been added in order to support Floorplan Generator. 

Open Access

The Open Access component of CKB 2019.1 continues its functional development and the inclusion of modern technologies to enable web-based access to the data and insights provided by the CKB database. Accessing and customizing those insights is supported by the new Category Management Service API, which must now be installed for Open Access 2019.1.

A new React-based framework has been created for new Open Access pages using ReactJS and styled with Material Design. The legacy ASP.NET pages continue to work and are supported in frames within the React framework. The controls and pages created using ASP.NET and .NET controls will continue to work as they have in previous versions, including Design Mode to make changes to pages within the current framework. Design Mode to customize the React-based pages is not yet directly supported in Open Access, but a work-around is available and JDA states the creation and design of React pages will be available in the next release.

New Open Access pages have been added to support target floorplan management for use in Floorplan Generator. In addition, filtering content in object grids is now available in the top row of the Open Access grid, which allows you to search for data in the grid by typing a value in a search box.

The Identity and Access Management system of Category Management Services is the authentication entry point for the Open Access web-based technology going forward. See the Category Management Services Installation/Administration Guide for more information on configuring various identity systems for use with Open Access.

JDA Reporting

JDA Reporting for Open Access has been enhanced to allow Dashboard access to read data directly from the Category Knowledge Base database tables. This enhancement is evident in the retailer-specific and manufacturer-specific sample dashboards. Previously, it was necessary to create a data set or use a spreadsheet to hold the data for dashboards.

Space Automation Professional

Space Automation Professional 2019.1 now supports Visual Studio 2019 for developing script assemblies. You can work with any version from VS 2015 to VS 2019, Community or Enterprise editions.  

You now have the ability to evaluate for event notifications evaluation (e.g. MouseDblClickEvent) using the enumerated events values. The values can be found in the Space Planning Automation Help Library (prospaut.chm) usually installed in the C:\Program Files (x86)\Common Files\JDA folder. The new release also provides the function to Add Drawings to planograms and floorplans.

The following issues have been resolved:

  • Accessing Floor Performance records in a script is now possible.
  • The WarningNumber field can now be accessed as the datatype has been corrected.
  • An issue uploading a planogram file with more than one planogram has been fixed.
  • The issue with accessibility to C# for each loops in Visual Studio 2017 (on drag and drop) has been resolved.
Planogram Generator

With the new 2019.1 release, Planogram Generator is again packed full of new and powerful enhancements.  

  • The most notable enhancement is that PG now includes several new actions that support rods and improved support for lateral rods fixture types. The new functionality now includes the following actions that can be applied:
    • At the beginning of the generation process, PG removes existing target positions from the supported fixture types. In prior releases, rod fixtures were not yet supported, so existing positions were preserved. In this release, existing positions on rods are now removed from the target planogram. You can override this default behavior by using a Filter fixtures or Restore positions from previous action list action, consistent with the other supported fixture types.
    • The Increase facings, Duplicate positions, and Allow motion actions can now be applied to rods and lateral rods.  The Maximum number of fixtures upward/downward settings in the Allow motion action apply to rods. 
    • The Adjust fixtures action can be used with rods and lateral rods. However, by default this action only adjusts the Y location of the target fixtures. When adding rods to a target planogram using Adjust fixtures, the X offset of the rod in the target segment is based on the X offset of the corresponding rod in the template segment.
    • Fixture Linkage actions for Rods, which allows positions to flow sequentially even if rods are not aligned vertically or horizontally. It also includes a Fixture Linkage preview with shelves and rods, Linkages flow independently for each fixture type, but preview will now give a consolidated view of both fixture types.  
    • Another new feature supports Banding for Rods but each rod can only be in one band.  
  • An extremely helpful troubleshooting enhancement that will aide in fine tuning your action lists is that the Preview frame now includes a “Fill out Statistics” section which provides details on why the fill out phase may have ended prematurely, before all available space is used.  
  • New actions around preventing Orphan Facings when using “Split Positions” actions significantly improves flexibility around controlling the splitting of the positions across linked fixtures, preventing orphan single facings when positions split across fixtures.
  • A new Product Matching action provides additional controls when matching template and target products.  This new action will be extremely helpful as an alternative to the one-to-one default matching behavior and will be extremely helpful in the case of products with different vendors/suppliers or working with regional items.
  • New Override position field action in the Positions, Reduce to Fit, and Fill Out phases – allows for merch settings to be applied dynamically to target positions that could differ from the template position settings.
  • Sort positions along fixture now includes a filter option, allowing for multiple sorting methods for different groups of positions or groups of positions on one or more fixtures within the target planograms.
  • For improved control around sequence and grouping of positions on linked fixtures, the Group positions along fixture action now has two new options:
    • Start each group on the next linked fixture, after placing all positions in the current group, the first position in the next group will be placed on the next available linked fixture.
    • Start each new group in the next segment, after placing all positions in the current group, the first position in the next group will be placed on the next available linked fixture in the next segment.
  • And finally, to make merchandising a little easier, the directional arrows now have an improved contrasting outline which allows for improved visibility as you merchandise your planograms.
Assortment Optimization

Assortment Optimization (AO) 2019.1 includes several beneficial improvements like enhanced organization through an updated settings dialog, enhanced functionality through updates to several existing views, enhanced data integration through updates to the import from Category Advisor, and enhanced flexibility through the ability to call custom stored procedures from Assortment Generator. All of this results in a more full-featured, functional, and integrated application.  

2019.1 introduces enhancements to the Store Assignment view allowing you to view shopper preference data in the store grid and to reassign stores from one assortment to another. It features the ability to automatically build product trees based on imported or manually entered “need state” data. It also features enhancements to the ranking calculation which allow you more control over product ranking across need state nodes ensuring more accurate need-state representation. There is a new ability to create subtotals in Assortment Review and resolves inconsistencies in the number of substitutes displayed in the Open Access view. Additionally, it features the ability for Assortment Generator to write directly to the CKB event log.  It also includes 11 new performance fields which were formerly in a combined XML field.

2019.1 includes features initially released in Assortment Optimization 2018.1.1 and 2018.1.2. This includes a redesigned options dialog which better organizes AO general settings. It adds new settings for advanced treatment of products as new products, product substitutes, and products to be automatically retained or excluded. Additionally, it adds the ability to save a configuration file which defines which views will be displayed in AO. It also includes a new view, the Visual Assortment View. This view displays the products in an assortment in a grid with the product image and relevant supporting data.

Additional improvements are found in the Store Assignment view allowing you to view available stores using the CKB store hierarchy and group planograms of a user-defined status to be assigned to new child assortments. Import from Category Advisor was enhanced allowing you to import data into existing project assortments as well as CKB clusters.  Assortment Generator was enhanced allowing you to run custom stored procedures adding custom functionality.  Calculation was enhanced with a global setting for the max fill percentage of a planogram, enhanced settings for Selection by Space and Product Count, and enhanced handling of product ranking and manual overrides.

The Product Tree Editor has been updated considerably. You may now reorganize nodes, insert new node levels above and existing level, delete levels within a tree, and designate nodes as need state nodes. The text in the tree nodes will now wrap, and nodes without parents are arranged on the left of the tree for readability. Functionality released in the 2018.1 release previously reserved to dunnhumby users is now generally available as well. 

Our take on this release:

JDA Category Management 2019.1 provides compelling reasons to upgrade if you use Assortment Optimization, Planogram Generator, Open Access, or are interested in the automation API capabilities that now interface with the CKB database. 2019.1 delivers significant enhancements that JDA has been working on for several years.

If you are interested in the allocation of planograms onto floorplans using data-driven automation and batch processing, the introduction of Floorplan Generation can be a compelling reason to implement this new release.  However, if it is not feasible for your company to upgrade every year, it may be prudent to wait for Floorplan Generation to complete more of its planned capabilities. 

If you just use Space Planning in a file-based environment, the benefits may not outweigh the effort if upgrading involves significant overhead for your organization. But if you haven’t upgraded in many years, then our recommendation is to upgrade to at least 2018.1.2. Some clients are hesitant to upgrade to a new version in its first months of release, but 2018.1.0 was released in November 2018, with the 2018.1.2 service release in August 2019 resolving over 10 client-reported issues.

The JDA Category Management 2019.1 suite includes several integrated changes across its applications, including new fields that require a corresponding upgrade to the database if you use CKB. All your Category Management Suite applications should be upgraded at the same time to provide cross-application functionality. If you are upgrading from a version prior to 2017.1, your upgrade schedule should consider that existing users may need time to adjust to the ribbon interface.

As always, Cantactix is available should you wish to discuss your upgrade requirements. 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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