September 26, 2017 by James Brochu, Chief Operating Officer
A dedicated Order Management platform provides flexible order orchestration
capabilities so you can adjust quickly to market changes.
hile every brand and company has its unique challenges, our experience in the sale and implementation of packaged Order Management applications has revealed a common set of problems faced by customers. These problems add time to implementations, maximize work and rework, and cause pain for customers and companies alike. While we have hundreds of best practices and recommendations for specific applications, we believe that these ten issues can empower teams to focus on what matters – delivering capabilities to your business!
1. Missing or under-supported business cases
Too often, businesses take as imperatives the initiatives that their competition and industry are taking on. This usually leads to large, poorly defined projects where success is measured only by project completion instead of business goals. Defining and maintaining business cases for your implementation drives shorter time to value, higher levels of team empowerment, and happier end users.
2. Not designing your system for growth
Modern Order Management systems are more than capable of handling complex organizations with aggressive growth and Merger & Acquisition (M&A) strategies. Done correctly, Order Management can save time, money, and headaches. Done incorrectly, each enhancement or add-on ends up requiring the same level of effort as an initial implementation. Make sure you consider future ‘brand onboarding’ and ‘business expansion’ during the initial project phases. Play the ‘what-if’ game a lot to ensure you build a system that allows for flexibility in the future.
3. Taking on too many things at once
Order Management touches almost every system in your supply chain. If you try roll out everything at once, your project will take too long and involve more risk. And given how fast the market is changing, your business objectives are likely to change several times before you go live. Instead of trying to swallow the elephant in one bite, consider smaller, more functional releases. Often companies start with the core data (inventory, items, pricing, customers) and take a phased approach to channel onboarding.
4. Not thinking in terms of ‘capabilities’ when designing your roll-out
By breaking your business down to the ‘capability’ level, you can then assess which capabilities you need to onboard a certain brand, channel, or product line. For instance, if one of your brands requires complex delivery scheduling and routing capabilities, and one does not, you might consider onboarding the simpler brand first, and adding the other capabilities and brand afterwards.
5. Training your technical team too late or not at all
Unless you plan to outsource the entire IT initiative including production support and ongoing maintenance, your team needs to take ownership of the solution early. Projects that wait until go-live to transition tend to struggle, because they don’t have enough familiarity with the product to make the best decisions. This causes increased employee distress, longer ramp-up times, and higher defect rates than a collaborative implementation and training approach.
6. Not partnering with a Product Subject Matter Expert (SME)
There is a large amount of tribal knowledge and lessons learned within the community of practiced implementers. Strong IT people are helpful, but too often a strong IT group will work AROUND a packaged application instead of WITH the application’s capabilities. They will write unnecessary custom code to achieve a business objective instead of using the products built-in configuration capabilities. This increases project cost (development, testing, time to implement), and risk.
7. Not getting buy-in from the surrounding ecosystem of applications
Order Management often act as a hub between dozens of applications – in other words, it touches almost every system. Correctly implemented, it often acts as the brain of your supply chain, but it needs the cooperation of other application teams. Brokering strong lines of communication between teams is an imperative in today’s complex supply chain environment.
8. Using Agile methodology for the first phase of the implementation
This may sound backward and controversial, but Agile methodology is usually not a great way to implement a packaged Order Management application – at least initially. Experience has shown that a Waterfall methodology allows you to create a solid base of fundamental capabilities more quickly. Things like application setup, participant modelling, inventory visibility, and catalog setup are all tightly interrelated. Using Agile methodology usually causes rework as nuances of each are uncovered. We do, however, believe that Agile is a great method to follow once this initial base has been laid.
9. Not committing to testing and performance testing sufficiently
Too often, these items are seen as optional afterthoughts. And here’s the thing – 95% of the time, the system will work well enough to get you through. But the risk is high, especially during peak season loads. We’ve seen ecommerce sites experience over a week of downtime due to insufficient testing. So, make sure testing is part of your plan from day one.
10. Not developing sufficient automation and environments for deployment
The leading cause of issues when deploying to new environments is, without a doubt, deployment error. Missing files, forgotten configuration, and a dozen other things can happen. Even a typo can cause pain, lost time, and lost business. This is a simple and repeatable thing to create, however it often gets overlooked because of time, resourcing, or budget. An investment in automation will help you ensure successful go-lives and avoid rollbacks.