As published in RVCF Link
By Carol Weidner, CEO, eZCom Software.
Today’s consumers expect maximum convenience, lower prices, a wide selection, and the ability to receive merchandise quickly. As retailers strive to seamlessly and efficiently meet the needs of customers at every stage and every touchpoint in the retail process—i.e. adopt an ‘omni-channel’ (or omnichannel) paradigm—their supplier partners must support them, or risk losing business.
There are specific steps suppliers can take to set themselves up for omni-channel success. This third installment of a multi-part series highlighting various aspects of a holistic omni-channel strategy for suppliers will focus on integration.
Why Integrate Your Order Management Process?
Keeping up in this challenging environment requires pronounced streamlining in all aspects of order management. Integrating your order management applications (such as back office, EDI, inventory, etc.) can exponentially speed your order management process, reduce your labor costs, increase the accuracy of your records, and enable you to organize all your trade data into a single report and monitor it from a single location. Integration becomes a tool you can leverage to:
- Fulfill your retail partner’s order requests—whether shipping to your retailer’s facility or directly to the consumer—with heightened speed and accuracy
- Facilitate proactive, data-driven decision-making regarding inventory management, sales and marketing strategy, and other performance categories
- Overall, better compliance with your retail partners’ omni-channel, customer-centric requirements
- Improve your relationship with retail partners and develop preferential status
- Increase your volume of business and enhance your competitive edge
Ensure Your Project’s Success
Integration involves risk. But proper research, planning, and execution can safeguard your efforts and keep your project on track. One of the more obvious steps to take includes choosing the right integration provider. Do your homework and find a partner with an excellent customer service record, accessibility, commitment to crafting a solution for your unique business needs, expert knowledge of your order management applications, and a proven track record of accurate execution of integration projects in a timely manner.
Slightly less obvious, but equally important, is a basic choice you (and your integration provider) must make in the designing stage. To what degree will you automate? Fully automated solutions promise greater cost savings, ease of use and speed. Human intervention and oversight can provide flexibility and support accuracy. For best results, strike a balance between these two: plan an implementation that allows for as much automation as possible, while still preserving the validation and custom processes needed to support the compliance of your supply chain.
Such a hybrid approach—one that balances automation and validation—will provide for:
- Heightened accuracy: Build in room for error resolution. In a fully automated solution, duplicate purchase orders and other non-validated documents can be difficult to detect and correct if passed directly to an ERP or accounting system without a validation step.
- Unique business needs: Customize your integration solution to accommodate specific fields, tasks, users, and all the intricacies of your company’s supply chain.
- Constant change: Structure an extensible and modular solution that can accommodate application updates, revisions, and technology innovations; as well as changes to your company’s structure, size and focus.
Carol Weidner, CEO of eZCom Software, is living proof of the adage: ‘If you want something done right, ask a busy person.’ Soon after graduating from Rutgers University with a degree in Mathematics, she opened her own successful business—wholesaling home wares and accessories in the New York/New Jersey area. Carol continued in her entrepreneurial endeavors while she returned to Rutgers full time and completed a second degree in Biology. Following her (second) graduation, Carol learned computer programming and focused on EDI—working for companies serving the retail industry, and consulting for major retailers like Toys R Us. When an opportunity arose to take over a small many-to-many retail portal in 2000, Carol grabbed the reins. She directed the finance and sales side of the burgeoning company, while working together with a team of colleagues who redesigned one of its key products to serve as a web-based EDI application. The result was the B2B supply chain software provider eZCom Software—and the cloud-based EDI solution, Lingo.