Exemplify Poise Under Pressure

In the fast-paced world of corporate management, Martin Felli of JDA Software Group says depth of character trumps all else when it comes time to deliver

Martin Felli knows a thing or two about wearing multiple hats. As an undergraduate political science major in New York City, he not only went to school full time, he worked full time at RR Donnelley. He took the job solely because of the shift’s time slot: 4 p.m. to midnight. “It was the sweet spot, because I could go to school in the morning and then jump off to work downtown on Park Place,” he says. “I would get out at midnight and then walk to the subway station at the World Trade Center to get on the last train. I’d get home at 2 a.m., crash, and start all over again the next day.”

Martin Felli, JDA Software
Martin Felli

RR Donnelley offered Felli several promotions, but he turned them down so he could maintain a work schedule that fit with his schedule of classes. His discipline as a young man seems to have paid off, as he’s had one promotion after another since graduating from college and completing his law degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

The chaotic life of going to school while working a demanding job during his college years was a fitting preparation for every job he’s had since, according to Felli. His previous employers range from the firm Latham & Watkins to HBO to ECOtality, a company that builds infrastructure for charging electric vehicles. Yet Felli says that in each role he always seems to find himself confronting the same set of circumstances: “Going into challenging situations, juggling multiple hats, and trying to help lead a team.”

Nowadays, Felli heads a global legal team as the chief legal officer, chief compliance officer, and corporate secretary at JDA Software, a leading provider of supply chain management solutions. JDA is in the business of connecting products with consumers. Its software products streamline the supply chain in industries ranging from the manufacturing sector to retail.

He joined the company in 2013, soon after JDA’s merger with RedPrairie that transformed it into the biggest software company in the supply chain space globally. It expanded from a half-billion-dollar enterprise to billion-dollar-plus status overnight.

With the tremendous growth in size came the tremendous task of reorganizing company structure, and Felli wanted to make the most of the opportunity. “It was a time of pumping new blood into the company and expunging the elements that didn’t make sense, that were redundant, or did not work,” Felli says.

BY THE NUMBERS

81

Number of top retailers that use JDA Software

79

Number of the top consumer goods manufacturers that use JDA Software

165

Billion bottles of beer delivered by JDA Software

60

Percent of the world’s prescription drugs that are delivered by JDA Software

The merger left JDA with an impressive breadth of software products, but the executive leadership spent the first year post-merger developing a single brand identity and rolling out a revamped product line that was consistent with their vision for the future of supply chain management.

JDA’s new slogan—“Plan to Deliver”—epitomizes how the company embraces the demand-centric economy where the consumer is the boss, according to Felli. It expects consumers to determine not just the product they want, but exactly how, when, and where they want to consume it. “In today’s world you cannot simply produce widgets that just sit in a store and expect people to come buy them,” Felli says. “If you’re looking at the business environment that way, you become a dinosaur. You have to tailor the business to the consumers rather than the consumers tailoring their actions to the manufacturer or the provider.”

With its software, JDA creates a system where any product can be delivered to any location in the world in twenty-four hours or less. This puts an incredible demand on supply chains, which means the technology has to be fully integrated and seamless from the factory to the warehouse to the doorstep.

The future of JDA lies in better integration of technology and human capacity, according to Felli. This means advanced GPS tracking tools for delivery logistics, better cloud-connected handheld devices for workers, and innovations in wearable technology like Google Glass. The company offers integrated software solutions for suppliers, which allows it to be both large and nimble, without sacrificing precision. “Having that additional technology capability to enhance the supply chain experience helps these companies to be that much more productive and efficient for their customers,” Felli says.

While the company is always looking outward for the next opportunity, the merger with RedPrairie required Felli to turn his attention inward to fortify the legal department. RedPrairie’s business operations, including the legal department, moved from its headquarters in Georgia to JDA’s headquarters in Arizona, resulting in significant attrition and a serious shake-up of company culture. “The legal department was down to about six or eight full-time employees,” Felli says. “There were a lot of needs, a lot of challenges, a lot of morale issues—it was a disconnected environment when I joined.”

There are now about twenty-five to thirty full-time employees in the global legal group at JDA, but Felli says the challenge was not necessarily to recruit and train individual employees, but to build the culture of the legal department. “It’s a culture of excellence, a culture of serviceability, a culture of folks that could get along who were good-natured and able to not take themselves seriously, but to take their work and their clients extremely seriously,” he says. Felli is blunt about what he looks for in a team member, telling applicants that he’d “rather have a hole [in the department] than have another type of hole to fill it.”

Felli insists that the legal team members should not just be there to practice law, but should do everything they can to facilitate the goals of the company—a trick that requires multiple hats. And as Felli demonstrates gracefully—and, on occasion, irreverently—wearing multiple hats takes a type of poise.