McConnell Chase Software Works, LLC
Founded in 1985 on a Mission
Joseph K. McConnell founded McConnell Chase Software in Chicago in 1985 on a mission to create and bring to market the kind of enterprise software that SmartsEngine is. Little did he know how long it would take and what a journey it would be on so many dimensions.
Founder's Academic Background and Quick Ascent in Information Technology
In undergrad at Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, Joe had a double major in math and philosophy. He took his degree in math in 1978 at the age of 19. After undergrad, he did a year abroad in philosophy, politics, and economics that produced a paper that was recommended to a leading journal in England by Friedrich Hayek, the Nobel Prize-winning economist and political philosopher. Returning to Chicago, he thought that he’d be a writer or playwright. But needing a job, he took a class in COBOL, and was hired as a programmer trainee. Three years later Joe was CIO at a Class A MRP II manufacturing company in the Chicago area. In 1985, Joe started an MBA at the University of Chicago.
The Idea for SmartsEngine is Born
In 1985, the company's customer service manager asked Joe for a forecasting system to make her job easier. What she had in mind was a tool producing a rolling, 18-month statistical extrapolation for SKUs and locations with provisions for overrides and direct interfacing to the MRP/ERP system to feed operational planning.
But what came to his mind was Wayne Gretzky playing hockey. Joe had played college hockey and observed that Gretzky was dominating his sport not by being bigger, stronger, faster, or more skilled, but through superior hockey IQ. His intuition had recognized that forecasting in the Gretzky sense – reading and processing the game and projecting several moves ahead – could be an absolutely dominant and dazzling competitive advantage in business. Forecasting in the Gretzky sense thus became his mission: to build a software platform that enabled an enterprise to develop the competitive advantage that Gretzky exhibited, but in its markets and industries.
Excellent Start by Conventional Standards
In late 1985, Joe started McConnell Chase Software as a consultancy, did contract programming, saved up money, and then took nine months off in 1986 to write a demand planning package according to the prevailing, mainly supply-chain-centric, thinking.
As part of developing the demand planning package, Joe took all the forecasting and related classes, including a PhD-level time series class at the University of Chicago. He also read all the APICS-relevant literature and various books, including Makridakis and Wheelwright’s Forecasting Methods for Management and Scott Armstrong’s Long-Range Forecasting.
This package was nothing close to a forecasting-in-the-Gretzky-sense platform, but it was an excellent start by conventional standards. He flew to Vermont and met Robert Goodell Brown, the inventor of exponential smoothing methodology, to get his take on his work and received a very positive review. His first sale was in 1987 to a company in Indiana that switched from the Cadillac at the time (American Software, now Logility) to his Forecasting for Demand (FD 1.0) system. His solution proved just as powerful but nimbler and easier to adapt.