How to quickly decide which order management software.

You’re looking for a reliable solution and outcome. The only way seems to be an RFP or RFQ. These activities require substantial effort from yourself and the vendor. The more vendors you have the more work you create for yourself. Similarly, the more vendors the faster the complexity of the information you need increases.

You just need an answer “what would work for us”? Here are seven simple rules to help make your life easier and your project successful.

1. Start with your customer and work backward

Amazon’s guiding philosophy is ‘start with the customer’ and work backward. If you’re looking for an order management system, this means, create a great experience for your customers, and make it profitable for your business. And because you don’t know what the future holds, make it highly adaptable.

2. Begin with a minimum viable product

At the end of this section, you’ll know what the smartest way forward is.

To be clear you need to choose one vendor, right now, and use their platform to create your minimal viable product. A sandbox if you will. You can look at other vendors if the one you choose falls short.

The business has a core activity, sell and fulfill a product to customers and make money. You need to focus on this core activity and discover a way to model this as soon as possible. You don’t know what you really need to know until you’ve done this.

The faster you can do this, the quicker you’ll simplify the questions and reduce the complexity and effort of the selection task.

Your time is money. We are in the 2020s. We live in the age of fast answers. Amazon is very aware of this and exploits this expectation every second of every day.

All around us we see technology solutions we can pick up and start using. We often don’t need to figure out how they work, we just need to find out fast what they can do for us. This should be the guiding principle of your journey of discovery.

As is the case in most products, and at the risk of repeating myself we start with the core problem we are trying to solve and work outward from there. In the case of order management systems, quote or order to cash. You need to try this immediately if the platform doesn’t make this easy to do, or do it well, you are in deep trouble. And it’s a sure sign there are other similar issues in the rest of the platform.

3. It has to have adaptable digital self-service.

The outcome has to limit the friction your customer encounters when buying from you. Apply Pareto’s law to this analysis. 80% of your revenues probably come from 20% of your customers. So focus on reducing friction for these folks.
In other words, whatever you decide to do make sure you validate it with your customer.

Assume every person involved in buying from you has used Amazon. So the answer has to be based upon digital self-service. Just accept this, don’t argue. You are in for a really hard time if you do.

Digital self-service predominantly comes in two forms, EDI and b2b portals. Because it’s expensive to implement, it is only used by selective denominations of customers. However b2b portals address the news of the wider market. Users basically login, gather, or review the information and buy, then track the status of their orders.

The number of companies deploying self-service is still proportionally low to the size of the market. Here is a note of wisdom and to your immediate advantage. The reason is your competitors are using systems that do not have or cannot be extended to safely or cost-effectively deliver digital self-service. Think about this…

  1. They are using systems you should avoid at all costs.
  2. Their margin becomes your opportunity if you implement digital self-service (another of Amazon’s guiding principles)

The bottom line here is, don’t even consider proceeding with a vendor who cannot show you an easy way to do digital self-service well. Make sure whatever they show you can be easily adapted – please don’t be persuaded this latter point is not relevant. It really is.

As b2b self-service emerges and evolves, you’ll need to make continuous changes to your self-service playbooks to differentiate yourself.

4. It has to be VERY easy to use.

You have a large and diverse community of individuals with different skills and requirements. It will honestly feel like herding cats if the users cannot try out the solution without too much training.
Adoption will be a really hard struggle, and the project will cost so much more than you anticipated. It just will!
Put user’s workflows through their paces as soon as possible. Unless you are using each one of these workflows every day, don’t even begin to imagine you know what is really needed. Get your users engaged now!

5. It has to be very straightforward and cost-effective to customize.

There is no such thing as a day 1 perfect design. Good design evolves.
You’ve heard of kaizen, right? It means a business philosophy of continuously improving working practices. Toyota made it famous, it’s effect is plain as day for us all to see. They make really reliable cars, and they are still a world leader.
Investing in more technology instead of headcount is a guiding principle for high growth businesses. Financial markets are the best example of this. The transition of pit based trading in securities and currencies to acres of trading floors with oceans of screens skyrocketed the fortunes of international banks.
Layers and layers of costly and time-consuming administration and paper were removed. Look around you, how much paper do you see? This is a sign you are not optimized.
Banks made money faster, new methods of making money were discovered and built into the technology. This was not previously possible. You need customizable apps to do this.
Customizable software and automation are joined at the hip. You need both to streamline the lead to cash cycle. These capabilities in the software lead directly to the avoidance or decrease of fixed costs. Targeted carefully they also lead to tangible and significant ROI. You want this right?

6. The cost, effort, time required for the MVP has to be super low

If it’s an order management system, as long as it complies with 1, 2, and 3 above then this exercise should take less than a day (it really should). After it’s ‘built’ then you are ready to engage each of the key users. The key users will tell you what they care about and need.
Get them onto the system, get them to try their top three workflows. Gather their questions and concerns, get the software vendor to address these in a show and tell session.
From this will emerge two lists, the first will be confirmations of what is there and will work, the second will be a list of gaps. It’s at this point you can calibrate the final shape or blueprint of what is actually required day 1, and you’ll be able to accurately figure out the real costs and timescales.

7. Keep it simple

Products come in all shapes and sizes. Don’t let their complexity get in the way of modeling the basic sales, fulfillment, and accounting process. Start with the simplest of products. If your products are assemblies or kits, we’ve got you covered. But stick to single simple products until you have completed an end to end workflow.

Conclusion

The fastest way to decide if you like a car is to test drive it. The experience will inform you of what you need to know. As well as identifying the risks, it will increase your comfort level and decrease the amount of effort, time, and money you will spend to reach a successful outcome.
The MVP is both a prototype and a sandbox. It will raise questions, it will highlight the real problems, it will help you determine the priorities and biggest areas of risk. Best of all it will help you nail down in detail your requirements.

Start with the customer, and think backward.

All the best

Nick

Questions?

Email me at nick.spooner@salesorder.com

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