The Order Management Software Search: 3 Considerations

By
Monica Orrigo
July 1, 2015

Order management technology, a comprehensive solution that includes mobile order writing, web order management, Business-to-Business (B2B) eCommerce and back office integration, is changing the game for wholesale IT and the industry at large. IT is the logical leader in vetting, evaluating, and championing sales order management technology while also giving senior leadership the literacy needed to understand what to look for beyond a simple list of features. Let’s take a closer look at the case for sales order management technology, and what IT teams should look for in a solution.

The Case for Order Management Software

Most wholesale businesses operate with established accounting and ERP systems, from SMB software like QuickBooks to complex, enterprise-level systems like SAP and Oracle. While these backend systems serve as a kind of transaction “ledger,” where businesses can track events that have already occurred (like outgoing inventory or incoming payments), there’s less emphasis on using technology to power the real world conversations between the brand and the customer, as well as the transactions that are either in progress or set to occur in the future. With this conspicuous lack of investment in improving the front end of the business, thick product catalogs, heavy samples, complex line sheets, and carbon paper order forms serve as sales reps’ only tools, and back office teams have devised complex workaround to accommodate paper-based ordering––a situation all too familiar for many wholesale IT professionals. Some reps scan and email their orders or resort to entering information into Excel. Others type orders directly into an ERP system, while some find themselves searching for a fax machine after a long day on the road. In the back office, customer service teams are often too overwhelmed by data entry to provide any kind of proactive service to customers. Order errors are common, and even simple order processing can take weeks. Costs rise, and both sales reps and customers end up with a poor experience. In this context, more and more IT teams are taking advantage of integrated, off-the-shelf sales order management solutions to give sales teams the real-time information they need to close more deals, with data flowing automatically to and from existing back office systems to eliminate data entry. In turn, customers are given the ability to log onto an online store at their convenience to find product information and place wholesale orders, making decisions with more flexibility and strategic insight than ever before.

Order Management Software Vetting Process: 3 Important Considerations

1. Usability An obvious but important point, the usability of a sales order management platform is mission-critical to a successful rollout. As a platform used on a daily basis by sales reps, customer service, operations teams, and customers (in the case of B2B eCommerce), it must provide an intuitive user experience that simplifies implementation and encourages adoption. The main goal here is not only to make it easier for buyers to buy and sellers to sell, it is also to engender self-sufficiency among reps, administrators, and customers to prevent IT from becoming burdened by support questions. 2. Reliability Reliability is a straightforward, but often overlooked concept. Reliability means that the application does its job without unexpected behaviors that confuse or prevent the user from doing their work. Organizations will sometimes ask for a pilot period for a handful of accounts in order to evaluate reliability. If they manage to get through a couple weeks without serious problems, they consider the solution reliable and due diligence done. In actuality, however, the real test begins after the pilot is over. Once the technology is fully rolled out, the dataset will scale quickly with the addition of more products, customers, and/or inventory data, and the last thing IT teams want to deal with is constant application crashes. 3. Scalability After an initial deployment with a full user base and product/customer datasets, the next primary concern is scalability. As more deals are closed and the organization grows, order data will begin to dwarf customer and product data to become the primary scaling challenge. For traditional web-apps, this is not a problem. The server-side databases that power accounting systems and eCommerce can handle huge datasets without breaking a sweat. On the mobile side, however, this can be an issue. While people tend to think of mobile app development as a simple prospect, the technical challenge of making an iPad handle a database at the same scale as a traditional accounting system is immense, and requires deep mobile-first engineering excellence on the part of the software vendor. Working with a vendor who can wring every shred of performance out of the mobile Operating System is 100% necessary to delivering a scalable sales experience in the field. Scalability is also a primary reason why companies choose SaaS over custom solutions, which may be able to handle low volume initially, but become unusable or require extensive, complex upgrades and maintenance as the business grows. The key question to have in mind when evaluating vendors is this: do they have a track record of onboarding and supporting larger teams––with larger customer and inventory databases––over a period of years that shows they can scale? If not, it’ll be a rude awakening a year down the road when the chosen solution cannot handle the true volume of the business, forcing IT to unwind the processes, user habits, and investments they’ve already made.