In our last posts on Trade Extensions (No Rest for the Wicked-ly Powerful, Part I and Part II), we talked about how Trade Extensions (TE) added real-time decision optimization auctions, award management (that allowed a user to fix the award for part of a scenario and re-run a smaller model for what-if), built-in OLAP reporting, and supplier feedback mechanisms to their platform to increase the power, usability, and friendliness of their platform. Since then, as per our recent post on Optimization: Is it Time to Move Beyond Sourcing, Trade Extensions has been toiling away to increase the power, flexibility, and usability of their platform to take it beyond sourcing.
Trade Extensions has made significant improvements in the following three areas:
More Powerful Fact Sheets
Back in Trade Extensions Trades Up to a Fact Sheet User Interface, we talked about how Trade Extensions had built the capability for the end user to provide data in d-dimensional fact sheets, which include 2-dimensional spreadsheets and 3-dimensional workbooks, in order to allow the user to define models in a familiar format. Fact sheets could be used to define any model data element in simple row-column data format. In addition, a user could define certain values as simple formulas on other values in the sheet. Since their initial introduction three years ago, Trade Extensions has extended the capability to allow users to define more complex models with more complex formulas that can reference not only values, but formulas, and values and formulas in other fact sheets. Models can get as complex as they need to, and this is the foundation that allows Trade Extensions to define models that go beyond sourcing.
The more complex the models get, the harder it is to pin down why they aren’t quite doing what you think they are supposed to be doing, why they are taking so long to solve, or what is driving the sensitivity. That’s why Trade Extensions built a formula analyzer that allows a user to analyze a formula and see how it is defined, how long it is taking to calculate with respect to the other formulas in the model, and what is affected by the formulas or changes to the formula. In addition, if they exist, it can suggest formula modifications that would allow the model to solve faster. However, just knowing where the problem lies is a great help if a model is solving slow.
Enhanced Browser-Based Reporting and Visualization
OLAP is good, but the ability to do real-time drill-downs, data segregation, reformulation, and graphing in the browser is even better. Noticing that a number of clients were exporting the scenario results and importing the results into a third-party reporting tool with more powerful data analysis and graphing capabilities, Trade Extensions built their own full-fledged rules-based data analysis package (like TS Insight and IQub and a host of others) that allows a user to do the real-time drill-down analysis required to understand complex models in the browser so a user never has to leave the Trade Extensions application. The ability to drill down and reorganize dimensions equals what you will find in the more advanced data analysis applications.
Put these new capabilities together, and a user is truly able to build, analyze, solve, and explore more complex beyond sourcing optimization models than they would have ever thought possible just a few years ago.