Sizing up RSi and Alloy with a company insider

Date Posted: January 06, 2021

In this Q&A with Brian Babbitt, Head of Solutions Consulting at Alloy, we discuss options for consumer goods manufacturers evaluating supply chain management solutions.

Brian has spent 10+ years in the retail and CPG industry, bringing a highly knowledgeable perspective to the conversation. He joined Alloy from RSi, where he spent 6 years working closely with clients to drive adoption, create action from retailer data and track the value of using granular POS analytics for decision-making. RSi was acquired by IRI in October 2020 in hopes of helping customers actually optimize their supply chain.

Prior to RSi, Brian spent 7 years at Nordstrom in various roles, including Supply Chain Analyst, Logistics Manager and Sales Manager. He saw firsthand how retailers manage inventory and the best way for brands to work with them.

What led you to Alloy?

During my time at RSi, I became familiar with Alloy in the competitive landscape. I was in direct competition with the Alloy solution, so I did my homework. The platform and the vision I heard my customers describe intrigued me. 

A few months later, a recruiter reached out to me. One call turned into another, and another, and each step of the way I learned something new that piqued my interest and curiosity. Next thing I knew, I was in San Francisco meeting with the founders and team. Based on my experience with CPGs and retailer data, I was incredibly impressed. I felt that between the vision, product and people, Alloy was a place where we could really make a difference for customers.

 

From your experience, what are the biggest challenges for companies trying to optimize their supply chain? 

I believe that siloed data, siloed teams and inflexible legacy systems present the biggest hurdles in supply chain optimization. In many cases, systems and teams have been put in place that solve a problem within a single point in the supply chain well, but lack the visibility upstream and downstream to unlock further capabilities. While this setup has solved some problems in the past, to address the problems of today and the future – unpredictable demand, the bullwhip effect, erratic customer orders – teams need end-to-end visibility and flexibility to effectively collaborate. 

That’s part of why Alloy impressed me so much at first – it offers that single platform. Alloy software gives users the visibility they need, alerts then when potential risk arise and provides workflow-style decision support to effectively and proactively resolve issues before they happen.

 

What are key similarities and differences between Alloy and RSi?

Alloy and RSi both load granular and recent POS data. Both provide an analytics tool that sits on top to visualize and analyze data. Both companies also provide excellent customer support.

A key differentiator between the companies is how data is fundamentally handled, and can thus be used. At RSi, retailer data is siloed, so 1 retailer = 1 report. At Alloy, silos are broken down, so you can perform cross-retailer analytics easily and view your data at an aggregate or granular level. 

That combined with the flexibility of Alloy’s analysis tool means users are not just limited to static reporting. You can dynamically adjust layout, content, metrics and time dimensions, in real time. If you only have pre-built reports, these adjustments would require a data pull, a series of vlookups or a database refresh. In Alloy, it’s as simple as a few clicks! Sharing is so much easier as well. No need to download and attach large files to emails. A user can point someone else directly to the view or insights they are seeing through the Alloy platform. 

Another difference is that Alloy also goes beyond just retailer data, also harmonizing and integrating upstream supply data that unlocks the potential for many more use cases. Users can evaluate the health of each point within the supply chain and understand how demand shifts impact upstream supply. We also bring that point of sale demand data into the demand planning process, generating forecasts that take into account recent demand instead of relying solely on historical shipments. 

We believe it’s important to integrate and factor in recent consumer demand into all facets of business analytics. 

 

How should companies integrate recent consumer demand into decision-making and what should they look for in a solution provider to help them?

It’s essential that teams across an organization are on the same page. Foundationally, there are some steps that organization need to take to achieve this:

  • Provide teams with a single source of truth: Having a single pane of glass for all teams to see their data environment through lowers the risk of data miscommunication and provides a solid starting point when cross-functional analysis is necessary. 
  • Harmonize Supply & Demand: Whether you decide to build or buy, having end-to-end harmonized visibility across your supply chain is and will be critically important to your business. People often underestimate the scope of building and maintaining in-house.
  • Make an effort to reduce static reporting: While data shared in spreadsheets via email is the norm, given the current speed of change, it presents a real risk in shared data becoming outdated quickly. A dynamic system that consistently pulls the most recent data offers a better solution and keeps teams working on the same page.

Bringing all these elements together will allow teams to harness the power of the data that lives separately today. Data is a critical component of telling an effective story that drives action internally or with your downstream partners. Having Sales, Supply Chain, Marketing and other departments in your organization all telling the same story provides powerful potential.

 

So why should RSi customers consider Alloy?

Customers serious about connecting their data end-to-end and optimizing their supply chain should consider the potential Alloy has to unlock insights that have not been realistic in the past.

I believe that siloed data, siloed teams and inflexible legacy systems present the biggest hurdles in supply chain optimization... to address the problems of today and the future - unpredictable demand, the bullwhip effect, erratic customer orders - teams need end-to-end visibility and flexibility to effectively collaborate. 
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While RSi and Alloy share some similarities in what data they provide, Alloy simply goes above and beyond in capabilities. Alloy offers the ability to view retailers together, unlocking cross-retailer analytics. Beyond that, Alloy can also integrate additional disparate sources, map your network and connect upstream supply data to downstream demand data. The flexibility of the interface is clean, intuitive and extremely powerful. It is an approachable platform for the power user that wants to get into the weeds or the casual data user who simply wants to know the important calls to action in a few clicks. 

RSi manages their portion of the business well, but are only a silo of retailer data in a larger network. I think of one customer in particular, who was getting multiple retailers’ data from RSi. We showed them they could see the same retailer data as they were used to with RSi in Alloy, and then introduced them to what more is possible – breaking down silos to view all retailers together and harmonizing with ERP, distributor, forecast and Network data. It was an easy decision to evolve with Alloy and not only tackle on shelf availability, but also reduce waste, improve inventory management and create a tighter feedback loop with planning and sales. 

 

How does Alloy enable this cross-organizational alignment?

First, Alloy’s ability to map and harmonize data across retailers, formats and times, coming from disparate sources (Suppliers, ERP, Distributors, Retailer), is nothing short of amazing. This advanced modeling provides the building blocks to generate next level insights that are not possible elsewhere due to the nature of supply chain’s siloed data. For example, Alloy can see something happening at one point of the supply chain, like a spike in consumer demand, and translate it to what that means for other parts of the supply chain, like a drop in inventory that necessitates an increase in production.

Building on a harmonized set of data, Alloy’s Analysis application is outstanding. The dynamic capabilities allow users to interact with the data in a way that I have never seen before. The platform truly caters to all types of users:

  • For power users, Alloy offers templates providing a guided workflow for commonly asked business questions or ad-hoc capabilities for those that want to build their own dynamic views. Users can design workflows to logically and easily move their way through the data and make adjustments on the fly, using filters or modifying metric timeframes in just a few clicks!
  • For those with limited time to use data, Alloy makes data insights accessible, without having to become an expert in a new tool. Subscriptions and exports deliver data directly to you. The Alert Feed gives you a unique, customized set of alerts, surfacing those insights most valuable to you and providing a one-click way to get directly to what you need!

 

What makes you confident in Alloy’s future?

In my role, I speak with people in different positions and verticals everyday and show them our solutions. The best part is when I see someone get excited about the potential improvement that Alloy can bring to both their organization top line, driving revenue, and their bottom line, creating efficiencies. Given the level of enthusiasm I see from our customer and prospects, I’m very confident Alloy is doing the right things, building the right solutions, in the right market to really make an impact. 

In the past year alone, Alloy has launched two new solutions, addressing relevant and timely issues for our customers. The speed at which we are able to listen, adapt and solve problems is simply amazing. I know Alloy will continue to utilize our flexible infrastructure, dynamic front end and incredibly talented teams to provide solutions to the problems of today and tomorrow. 

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