Filtering by Tag: history

2017, year of quantitative supply chain

Published on by Joannes Vermorel.

Thanks to the probabilistic forecasting engine that we released last year, our capacity to optimize supply chains has dramatically improved over the last couple of months. Through our growing experience, we have come to realize that there are 5 principles that drive the success of the supply chain initiatives undertaken by Lokad:

  1. All possible futures must be considered; a probability for each possibility.
  2. All feasible decisions must considered; an economic score for each possibility.
  3. There are no absolutes, only relative costs and opportunities.
  4. Being in control requires automation of every mundane task.
  5. Data requires more effort and brings more returns than you expect.

We decided to name this approach: quantitative supply chain.

You can also read our full Quantitative Supply Chain Manifesto

The quantitative supply chain approach acknowledges the near-infinite computing resources that are available to supply chain practitioners today. It also puts the management back in control of their own supply chain by freeing up teams from unending manual entries required by traditional solutions.

For 2017, we wish you incredible supply chain performance!

Categories: Tags: history insights No Comments

New Lokad-ers!

Published on by Joannes Vermorel.

We're pleased to announce several new additions to our Paris and Berlin teams. 

Three new colleagues are rounding out our Parisian staffSimon SchalitVictor Nicollet and Benoit Baylin.

Simon has come on board as Senior Project Manager. He will, no surprise, manage and execute large client projects. He holds degrees from the Ecole Polytechnique as well as Cambridge and has several years of consulting experience, and thereby offers a strong combination of technical expertise and managerial know-how. He is basically an engineer with people skills - we couldn't pass on this opportunity. LinkedIn.

 

Victor is as a technical expert and advisor, applying his programming skills to further enhance the depth of our know how. He graduated from Lycée Louis le Grand and Ecole Normale Superieure and brings expansive entrepreneurial experience to the table as founder and CEO of RunOrg.com. He also holds the distinction of having been Joannes' star pupil at the Ecole Normale SuperieureLinkedIn 

 

Benoit, who is currently a student of Ecole Centrale in Paris, has joined in as a Statistical Intern. He will be working closely with our data scientists. LinkedIn

 

 

Meanwhile, on the German side of operations, we have - as mentioned in my previous post - Hugo Ros heading up French Business Development, and Martha Turewicz (myself) primarily responsible for CEE Business Development.  

Hugo joines us to take on the role as BizDev France. He is a trilingual young gun with experience in business development, administration and key account management. If you ever get a call from him make sure to start a discussion regarding the role of France in the EU. LinkedIn

 

 Martha joins us to become somewhat of a secret weapon. She is quadrilingual and boast an Ivy League. Previously she gathered startup and business development experience. Her desk in Berlin will be facing east. We shall not say more. LinkedIn

 

 Meet our BizDev Germany- her name is Aleksandra Koluvija, and she's a vibrant addition to the team. In addition to work in specialized business development, Aleksandra has also worked at the U.N., researching migration from a legal perspective. LinkedIn 

 

Rumor also has it that Aleksandra's dog will be joining us in the office...his duties are as yet undefined. Our best guess is that he will be charged with what he does best: Being a dog.  LinkedIn

 

 

Compliments or complaints regarding our new hires? Let us know in the comments!

Categories: history Tags: company history No Comments

Retail niches, the cloud for non-geeks and CQRS for geeks

Published on by Joannes Vermorel.

Many people at Lokad are bloggers. We try to keep the official blog focused on our core forecasting business, but here is a sample of posts made by team members during the last week.

3 Low-Competition Niches In Retail Software by Joannes Vermorel (@vermorel), Founder at Lokad. Software developers seem to be herd animals. They like to stay very close to each other. As a result, the marketplace ends up riddled with hundreds of ToDo lists while other segments are deserted, despite high financial stakes. During my routine browsing of software business forums, I have noticed that the most common answer to "Why the heck are you producing yet another ToDo list?" is the desperately annoying "Because I can’t find a better idea." Read more.

A simple, non-technical definition of cloud computing by Matthias Steinberg (), CEO at Lokad. Last year, I found myself researching the market for investment opportunities in ‘cloud computing companies’, driven by the insight that this was a rapidly growing market. Yet, it felt a bit like hunting the Yeti as I was having a hard time understanding what exactly cloud computing is, and what it is not. Realizing that I shared this confusion with a lot of my peers, I thought it is worth sharing some insights I gained in the last month. Read more.

 Lokad.CQRS v2.0 Framework and Docs for Windows Azure by Rinat Abdullin (@abdullin), Technology Lead at Lokad.The project was started 1.5 years ago to provide simple light-weight service bus for Windows Azure Cloud. It did the job well and eventually got accepted into more projects inside Lokad and outside as well. This gave us more feedback from the production usages in cloud, along with new development experience and CQRS ideas. Second version builds upon that and also includes first decent documentation. Read more.

Categories: community Tags: history No Comments

New CEO for Lokad, Matthias Steinberg

Published on by Joannes Vermorel.

We are pleased to announce the appointment of Matthias Steinberg to the role of CEO of Lokad. He will join founder Joannes Vermorel at the helm of the company this month.

From Lokad’s early beginnings, Matthias has been involved as advisor and angel investor in the development of the firm. He joins us from Summit Partners, a leading growth capital and technology investment firm, where he was responsible for software investments in Europe.

His background includes mechanical engineering with Airbus Industries (Toulouse) and strategy consulting with The Boston Consulting Group (Berlin). He holds a Masters of Engineering from the RWTH Aachen and an MBA from INSEAD.

Interview with Matthias Steinberg, CEO of Lokad

Q. Why did you decide to join Lokad?

In my prior role as growth investor, I have been focused on software on demand and cloud computing and learned the opportunities and challenges associated with these game changing technologies. At the same time I have been close to Lokad from the very start as advisor and angel investor and have witnessed the rapid development of Lokad’s technology, market traction and team.

Lokad is addressing a large market opportunity with a distinctive technology leveraging the advantages of both Software on Demand  (or ‘SaaS’) and cloud computing to provide a level of performance at a level of cost that has not been possible before. ‘On demand’ means no upfront investments, no licensing fees, no installation, integration, and training requirement and a pure usage based pricing; cloud computing enables a new dimension in forecasting performance by giving access to an immense amount of computing power.

When software on demand does not only reduce cost, resource requirements and complexity, but also enables a new level of performance and opens up new market segments as in the case of Lokad, you have what is often called a ‘killer application’. The 2010 Microsoft Windows Azure Worldwide Partner Award is testament to the strength of technology and team, and I am very excited to join.

Q. What will you be focused on in 2011?

Lokad’s demand forecasting technology is now at a maturity level where it successfully addresses the needs of two market segments:

First, large to very large accounts such as retailers with several thousand points of sale. Here, we often either replace rudimentary forecasting practices or technologies, or we sit on top of existing forecasting solutions which are often part of larger ERP systems to significantly enhance their forecasting capabilities and accuracy.

Second, SMEs that previously have not had the resources to access expensive ‘best of breed’ forecasting technology and typically worked with excel or simple desktop programs. Lokad’s Salescast gives access to market leading forecasting accuracy while taking away all the hassle, complexity and often frustration with the unsatisfactory results of the status quo.

While we continue our development activities, I will be heavily focused on the commercialization of Salescast. We have a lot of interest from large retail and believe there is a tremendous opportunity in eCommerce. Furthermore, it is my goal to further internationalize our activities with the main target markets being the US, UK, Germany and Russia.

Q. What did you do professionally prior to joining Lokad?

Several years in growth capital technology investing have been preceded by work in strategy consulting with BCG and in the engineering department of Airbus France. Particularly the last years as an investor have given me the opportunity to get to know hundreds of technology companies and work with their founders, which has crystallized my idea of a promising company in terms of business model, market opportunity, technology and team. It also given me a first hand impression of the challenges faced by growing companies and has grown my own aspirations to participate in building a technology company.

Interview with Joannes Vermorel, Founder of Lokad

Q. What made you bring on a new CEO at this point?

Lokad’s development has accelerated constantly in the last years, and in 2010 we have reached a few significant milestones both in terms of technology and clients. We are now working with very large retailers and provide to SMEs such as eCommerce retailers what we believe to be an extremely powerful and simple solution for their forecasting needs, both of which represent exciting and large market opportunities. Furthermore, our technology is fully developed for the cloud which provides an immense scalability and performance already today, but also opens up exciting possibilities for further development.

Bringing on Matthias will allow us to further accelerate the growth and the internationalization of Lokad. He brings to the team what I believe to be a strong combination of commercial acumen, technical understanding and experience with growing companies which make him very valuable for us and I am extremely excited to have him on board. 

Q. How will that affect your responsibilities going forward?

Matthias’ arrival will allow me to devote more of my time to the technology, while he will focus on sales, marketing and daily operations. We have an ambitious development roadmap which I am keen to execute together with my team of developers. 

Categories: community, history Tags: history team 1 Comment

Roadmap for 2011

Published on by Joannes Vermorel.

A bit more than 1 year ago, we published our 2010 roadmap, and it's now time to renew this document for 2011.

Before diving into the 2011 roadmap,  let's note that most items announced back in 2009 have been implemented according to plan. The only major divergence was the Forecast Studio (desktop app) which was never implemented in favor of Salescast. Yet, considering the very positive feedback we did get enabling a full-web approach with Salescast, it was the right decision to ditch the desktop app for a better approach.

Although we do our best to accurately reflect our intents in this document, the following roadmap is subject to change. We realize that neither carving our path in stone nor shifting targets every week are satisfying for clients as well as partners. We will to our best to adjust our developments based on your feedback.

Forecasting Technology

Forecasting accuracy remains the foremost priority of Lokad. There is still no definitive technological answer to statistical forecasting. This item remains the No1 priority of our ongoing research and development efforts. We have now a 100% cloud-powered forecasting technology, but this is only the beginning. Cloud computing offers possibilities that we could not explore before. We will leverage those possibilities in 2011.

Then, forecasts refinement through weather data remains an important direction of our long term developments.  So far, we have only carried out a few promising experiments. Nevertheless, this is a complex piece of technology and it's unlikely we release weather-aware forecasts in 2011.

Pricing

The Lokad pricing hasn't changed since November 2009; and we don't expected any change for 2011 apart from minor adjustments that would result from currency variations.

Vertical apps

Salescast, web app dedicated to sales forecasting, will remain our flagship integration app as far inventory optimization in concerned. Our primary goal is to make Salescast even smoother and more reliable, so that Lokad becomes an invisible - and yet highly valuable - aspect of your supply chain processes. Also, for Q2 2011, we will add Excel import to Salescast.

For staffing optimization, we will release shortly CallCalc, the email-based successor of our existing Call Center Calculator (desktop app). In short, you will be able to send an Excel spreadsheet by email, and CallCalc will return you, by email, the forecasts, also in Excel.

Tooling

Our Forecasting API benefits from .NET and Java open source SDKs. Although there is not much to add feature-wise, those SDKs will receive proper maintenance in 2011. We might consider adding PHP and Python ports in the second half of 2011.

Our open source contributions have grown to 8 projects. We plan to actively keep up with the development of Lokad.Cloud and Lokad.CQRS during 2011 as those two packages are essential to both our existing and future technologies. Other projects may receive further development efforts on a need-basis.

Internationalization

We have now 5 languages offered on Lokad.com, although some sections are still lagging behind. For 2011, our goal is to get all languages up to date with the primary English version with 6 weeks. Then, Japanese and Italian should made their entry in the list of supported languages.

This roadmap isn't carved in stone. Don't hesitate to post your feedback.

Categories: history, insights, subscriptions Tags: community history insights roadmap No Comments

Roadmap for 2010

Published on by Joannes Vermorel.

Compass illustrationThe purpose of this roadmap is to help our customers and partners to better understand where Lokad is heading. We have listed what we believe to be the most important directions.

Needless to say, this roadmap is subject to change. First, we are willing to listen to suggestions being made by customers or partners. Second, although we do our best in evaluating the amount of work involved with scheduled evolutions of our technology, every forecast comes with some error margin.

Summary

  • Forecasting Technology
  • Pricing
  • Vertical apps
  • Tooling experience
  • Internationalization and localization

Forecasting Technology

The first and foremost priority is the quality of our forecasts. Although, nothing appears to change because we take care of making our upgrades seamless, our forecasting technology has evolved a lot over the last 12 months.

Lately, we have invested significant efforts in migrating toward cloud computing to make our technology even more scalable, which will help us in the end to deliver even better forecasts.

November 17th, 2009: we will be running on top of Windows Azure.

Later on, we will keep on improving the quality of our forecasts. Then, we are also planning a series of improvements for our core technology:

  • Q1 2010: Dropping the 1h delay. Users (or apps) will be notified as soon forecasts are ready. We will maintain 1h as the maximum delay for an arbitrarily large amount of forecasts, but if the dataset is small, we want the forecasts to be delivered within minutes.
  • Q3 2010: Horizon-specific forecast accuracy. Currently, Lokad delivers a single averaged accuracy value for each forecasted time-series. Yet, it’s clear that the accuracy depends on the horizon being considered: short term forecasts are more accurate than long term forecasts. In the future, we will provide a specific accuracy value for every single forecast.

Then, we have also a couple of unscheduled items:

  • Introducing the notion of explicit business saturation in our framework. Business saturation is frequently encountered in hostels, restaurants or transportation. It reflects that a market that can’t adjust itself to meet the demand all the time: there are saturation points.
  • Introducing explicit geo-location meta-data to further refine forecasts with geo-targeted data such as weather data. So far, we have only carried out a few (promising) experiments with temperature curves. This could be provided by default to all customers.

Pricing

Our pricing follows a simple idea: we charge for the forecasts, the higher the number of forecasts, the higher the subscription price. We believe our pricing to be fairly aggressive, as most of our competitors have a TCO more than 10x higher than ours.

Yet, our pricing as of today is still a bit obscure, as many customers told us that the notions of Forecasting Task, Forecast Frequency and Forecast Period were confusing.

Thus, we have decided to go for a major pricing redesign, going for a much simpler pay-as-you-go pricing. A very rough draft is available for the new pricing page. We have run simulations, and the new pricing will represent an average 20% discount or so for existing customers.

November 17th, 2009: new pricing takes effect.

The detail of future pricing evolutions is not obvious:

  • lower hardware prices means that we will be able to process more forecasts spending less on computing resources;
  • more hardware resources mean potentially better forecasts through more intensive forecasting methods.

Bottom line: we will remain a very competitive forecasting solution, and we will keep on adjusting our pricing accordingly.

Vertical applications

Our two vertical apps Safety Stock Calculator and Call Center Calculator have undergone massive improvements. Although, it’s not widely advertised on our blog, we have pushed a dozen incremental upgrades for those two apps over the last few months.

The feature wish list is publicly available. Most of those features have been suggested by customers. Don’t hesitate to post your own request as well; that’s the most certain way of getting the feature you need implemented.

In the future, we will keep improving those applications with frequent incremental upgrades. Those applications will be maintained as open source under a liberal license (BSD) that allows the code to be repackaged within closed source apps.

  • Q2 2010: Release of the 3.x branch for our apps under a common framework codenamed Forecast Studio. The primary focus will be to improve the ease of use of our apps. The secondary focus will be to provide guidance concerning the forecasting operations (to detect potential issue with the input data for example).
  • Q2 2010: Our desktop apps are ported as web apps. Although, there are plenty of reasons to keep desktop apps, there are also plenty of reasons to provide web apps as well. In particular, it would facilitate setup within small companies.

Then, we are considering a new app named Hostel Booking Calculator, but the corresponding schedule is unclear. Hostel managers are facing a daily tradeoff between selling their rooms to a tour operator (with a large discount), or just waiting for the customers to directly fill the hostel (with a much better margin).

Forecasting the demand would help hostel managers to give up just enough rooms to the tour operator while maintaining their hostel booked all the time. This app would depend on the Business Saturation feature to be added to our core forecasting technology.

Tooling experience

Lokad has been designed to be easy to integrate into 3rd party apps right from the start, and we intend to stick to this principle. In particular, vertical apps provided by Lokad are using our public Forecasting API, much like any partner natively integrating Lokad (such as Kirix for example).

In additional to our Forecasting API based on SOAP, we also have an open source Forecasting SDK targeting Microsoft .NET. This SDK is used by our partners (and large companies too) to speed-up the Lokad integration within their systems. We will maintain and upgrade this SDK for Microsoft .NET as new features become available in our Forecasting API.

Obviously, Microsoft .NET isn’t the sole popular development environment. Thus, we intend to extend our coverage in 2010.

  • Q2 2010: Forecasting SDK for Java.
  • Q3 2010: Forecasting SDK for PHP.

Then, we are also considering additional ports, but without any schedule at that point:

  • Forecasting SDK for Python.
  • Forecasting SDK for C++.

Internationalization and localization

Lokad is based in Paris (France), but our primary language is English. We are already supporting 7 major currencies, but as far languages are concerned, even the French translation is lagging behind.

For 2010, we plan to gradually improve the situation, starting with the translation of our website, followed by the localization of our vertical apps. In order to reduce the delay between the initial publication in English and the publication of the translated content, we will upgrade toward a continuous localization process.

  • Q1 2010: Website localization process setup for French and German.
  • Q2 2010: Website localization process setup for Spanish, Italian and Russian.
  • Q3 2010: Localization of our vertical apps.

As a final word, this roadmap isn't carved in stone. Contact us anytime to get more details or to suggest different directions.

Categories: business, community, insights, roadmap, subscriptions Tags: history insights roadmap No Comments

Follow us on Twitter

Published on by Joannes Vermorel.

Twitter Logo

A few weeks ago, we started to us Twitter. Here is the list of Lokad team members that you can follow on Twitter:

Never heard of Twitter? It's a sleek micro-blogging social network, quite handy for business purposes.

Categories: community, history Tags: history team undefined No Comments

New team member, Dario Solera

Published on by Joannes Vermorel.

We started in 2007 as a tiny company. We are still small but we are growing fast. Yet, when it comes to statistical forecasting, more people does not equate better forecasts. This is why we focus on top notch profiles who have the potential to create the next generation of forecasting tools.

This week, we are very proud to announce that Dario Solera is joining the team. Dario Solera graduated from the prestigious Politecnico di Milano. While being a student, he created ScrewTurn Wiki, an impressive open source project that got a significant momentum on its own.

Interview with Dario Solera, Developer at Lokad

Q: Why did you start working in software? Good question, hard answer. I'd guess many people have made-up an answer for this one. In high school I attended a mechanics-oriented course and in the latest two years of it I started getting more and more interested in computers and especially CAD software and 3D design. The interest in computers caused me to also want to program them and then naturally led to my university studies in Computer Science Engineering at the Politecnico di Milano.

Q: What did you do before joining Lokad? I worked for an Italian engineering company. The goal was to design a web-based system for acquiring, collecting and analyzing data generated by large fleet of vehicles. Server-side is based on ASP.NET/C# and SQL Server, while data are acquired by an on-board device built around a Microchip PIC micro-controller that interfaces directly with the Electronic Control Unit of the vehicle. It's been a very challenging work mainly because of the recurring trade-offs between application performance and operation costs, especially due to the potentially enormous amounts of data it can store and process.

Q: You have also created a community project named ScrewTurn Wiki that has now become quite popular. How did it start? I was still attending university (early 2006) and I needed a simple web application that worked like a CMS to publish some stuff on the web. For the sake of learning a new framework (ASP.NET) I decided to write my own and it soon became decent enough to be released to the public. In the old days of version 1.0 the users were not many, probably a few dozens at best, but I kept working on it, releasing version 2.0 a few months later. STW now counts several hundreds users and version 3.0 is on the way.

Q: ScrewTurn Wiki has been awarded $5000 as best .NET open source project by Jeff Atwood. In your opinion what were the key factors that lead to this success? I'm still not sure, but I think that STW was something big enough and working well enough to be noticed by a sufficiently large number of users and developers. Wikis were and are being used extensively by teams of software developers and are now even entering the less-techy enterprise world of non-developers. STW is probably one of the first choices in the .NET world because there are not so many competitors in the same price range (free). The cash grant that Jeff decided to give us was really welcome, yet has been initially of little practical help for the project. I think Jon Galloway, a friend of Jeff, was right when he warned Jeff that open-source projects run on time, not money. In the end, I used the money to "hire myself" for several days of full-time work on STW. They helped a lot.

Q: What are the aspects that are looking the most interesting in your upcoming works at Lokad? Working on Windows Azure is probably the most interesting part: I believe that the cloud computing race has finally began and I want to be part of it. On a broader view, I think that working on large amounts of data is still a challenge and I can learn a lot while working at Lokad. Also, I never had the opportunity to work on so many math-focused algorithms, and this is another intriguing aspect of the work.

Categories: history Tags: community hiring history team No Comments

Flat forecasts

Published on by Joannes Vermorel.

Statistical forecasting is a counter-intuitive science. This was already said in the past, but we are going to emphasize again this point.

Frequently, we get people asking for support because they have just pushed some data to Lokad, and the forecasts they obtain are flat. In other words, the forecasted values are constant for all steps ahead. Ex: constant sales values for the next 6 months, if we are considering 6-month ahead monthly sales forecasts.

It's perfectly clear though that there is not-chance for business sales to be perfectly flat for the next 6 months, so why Lokad keeps producing such meaningless results?

Well, we know for sure that business is going to change (at least a little) during the next six months. No question about that. Yet, the problem is: how can we produce a forecast as close as possible to those future changes? If we take the statistical road, then we need a statistical model to the forecasts.

The problem is that we need a good forecasting model; and the cardinal rule of statistical forecasting is that the more complex the model, the more data is needed for the model to be reliable. Models producing distinct forecasts for each step ahead are definitively more complex than the ones producing the same value for all steps ahead.

The other way around, we can also say that those more complex models are also less reliable on limited datasets which means that using them is very likely to decrease the overall forecasting accuracy in certain situations.

Back to the situation where people complain about flat forecasts, what is usually happening is simply that the data that has just been uploaded is either very short (like only 3 months of monthly history) or very sparse (like an eCommerce with only a handful sales for each product). In those situations, Lokad frequently goes for flat forecasts.

It's not a bug, it's an accuracy-improvement feature.

Categories: accuracy, business, forecasting, insights, usability Tags: business flat forecasting history insights models sparse time-series 6 Comments