I stumbled across this article on Intelligent Supply Management, and I realized that all companies – big or small – are dealing with the same problem when it comes to order management.  The way I see it, in order management, there is one important action and that is when a customer places an order.  Every action that follows should be tied and tracked with that initial placing of the order.  However, as this article points out,  65% of all companies running sales order management had as many as 11 order management systems.  I agree with the author – double yikes!

Is this true for online retailers too?  Well, I’m not sure if they are using 11 systems, but what I do know is that many online retailers ‘split’ all the actions tied to an order.  First, they receive the order via their shopping cart.  Next, they copy and paste customer information into their shipping website (USPS, FedEx, UPS).  Once they get a tracking number, they email their customer.  Also, at some point they’ll adjust their inventory in another system – many use a spreadsheet.  So, even in this short scenario, I’m already counting information tied to one order to be in 4 different systems.  Even more concerning is the fact that these systems don’t talk to each other.   Not only is this a recipe for inventory discrepancies, but it’s also a nightmare for customer support.  If a customer calls, where would they go first: email? shopping cart?

What to do?  As the article points out, the biggest challenge is finding the right technology and the funding, but it is…

A Solution That Pays for Itself

While there has been some resistance to invest in given the sorry state of the economy for many businesses, it can pay for itself rather quickly, especially a hosted solution. By consolidating and saving time and money, businesses can free up capital for other new technology projects and purchases.

It also makes a difference customer service-wise. The repetitive and low-margin orders can be handled by Web-based channels and companies can place a higher priority on more human interaction into the higher-dollar-value orders.

And , as they say on TV, that’s not all. Increased accuracy of orders, simple tracking, and scaling your processes closer to your customers, tends to create more return business and better customer retention.

In this new customer-driven environment, it is imperative to improve collaboration by creating more visibility with your trading partners at both ends of your supply chain. One of the best ways to do that is by consolidating your order management processes.