Best Practice: Tips for a successful commerce infrastructure
Strategy in Practice
|Rules for success|
|Things to avoid|
|Questions you must ask|
|Are you a candidate?|
This Best Practices is part of a collection of advice provided by information technology professionals on how they have solved various challenges, and addressed IT priorities within their organizations.
Deploy a commerce infrastructure synchronized in real-time including an order management system, back office ERP integration, an e-commerce Website, and a phone order entry system within 12 weeks, something that would normally take 8 to 10 months to build.
Ex Officio, formerly a division of Orvis, and now a division of K2, is one of the nation's most successful brands of outdoor apparel.
Ex Officio's commerce infrastructure is built on BusinessFlow,
multi-channel sales and order management software from MainStreet
What they did
Ex Officio had been running on Microsoft Commerce Server for years and was still faced with an inflexible e-commerce offering and disconnected systems. The company had a new ERP system that needed to be integrated, a Website with dated content, and order management needs that required solid workflow. "To keep growing, we needed to make a change," said Chad Luellen, Ex Officio E-Commerce Manager. "We needed a solution that could be implemented within three months, and we needed it to allow us to get things from the drawing board into the market easily. We evaluated IBM WebSphere along with several other alternatives. The more we investigated BusinessFlow, the more apparent it became that it was the best technology in the market. In retrospect, we most definitely made the right decision both in serving our immediate requirements and in enabling our long term objectives."
Ex Officio today is an integrated enterprise. "BusinessFlow maintains a two-way dialogue with our ERP system using EDI standards and our customers have visibility into their order status," said Mr. Luellen. "Our inventory and order management is tighter than ever with BusinessFlow. We are able to keep track of what inventory is moving well and what inventory needs to be managed carefully for turn. In addition, our sales are growing and our profitability is up because our operations are integrated from the time inventory becomes available through the sale, fulfillment and customer services."
Ex Officio's e-commerce is a critical part of the company's success. "Part of our challenge," said Mr. Luellen, "was to transition off of Microsoft Commerce Server during a period of less than three months. With our transaction volume and the complexity of our operations, this was daunting. Not only did we accomplish this, we did so while introducing new functionality on BusinessFlow that we just could not get to work on Microsoft Commerce Server. Our Website is up to date with available styles and sizes. Items that are not in stock automatically disappear until that inventory is replenished. Plus, our development and IT costs have dropped because we're now easily able to make changes to our Website using a combination of BusinessFlow and DreamWeaver. Overall, the labor savings from automation has well-exceeded our expectations."
"For Ex Officio, BusinessFlow has been nearly an ideal solution. Our company finally gained control of our customers' experience and the platform enables a totally customized e-commerce environment, easily handles our phone orders, and is helping us to implement changes that have long been on the drawing board. Compared to our old system based on Microsoft Commerce Server, BusinessFlow is a champ. Ex Officio's long term objectives are materializing within BusinessFlow. We are able to define new customer data that we want to capture, introduce new offers to customers, and track critical order data that is fundamental to shaping our bright future," concluded Mr. Luellen.
Rules for success
Think big: Ex Officio had their entire operation in mind when planning the deployment of BusinessFlow. As a result, improvements came across the enterprise.
Focus on your customers' experience: Ex Officio
envisioned the ideal customer experience and used BusinessFlow's
flexible architecture to work backwards toward operations to support that customer experience.
Require integration: Ex Officio's systems talk to each other thereby reducing labor and once again bettering the customer experience.
Things to avoid
Choosing software based on features rather than great architecture: A great architecture provides flexibility of data capture, workflow, and enables the configuration of rules to match operational requirements.
Choosing technology that isn't scalable: A load balanced, clustered back-end may not be necessary today, but it may be imperative in your near future.
Choosing software that will limit your control: Use a Web solution that offers source code for components, that has an extensive Web Services interface, and that provides for easy integration with other systems.
Thinking short-term: Buy for multi-channel growth knowing that even with jogs in the road, your long-term vision needs to be supported by the software that you choose.
Settling for inflexible software: Nobody knows for certain how their business will evolve. Buy software that will adapt to whetever your company's last mile entails.
Three must-ask questions
Configuration: What experience do I want for my customers and my employees? Regardless of how Ex Officio customers contact the company, they interface with one order entry system that reflects all of the company's business rules and procedures, ensuring an efficient and satisfying buying experience.
Extension: How do I fully take advantage of BusinessFlow to improve each aspect of my company's operations? BusinessFlow makes inventory selectively available to all sales channels and allows for easily creating and activating promotions. This flexibility has created better decision making, happier customers and higher profits for Ex Officio.
Integration: How do I want BusinessFlow to interact with my company's existing systems? Ex Officio integrated their sales channels on BusinessFlow and has the flexibility to capture information that is important on every order and each customer. There is communication with customers at every step of the order process.
Who's a candidate?
BusinessFlow is for mid-size companies that sell through e-commerce, phone orders, catalogs sales and tradeshows. Direct marketers leverage BusinessFlow's campaign management, personalization of the shopping experience, affiliate program management, and customer reward programs. B2B enterprises leverage BusinessFlow's custom pricing engine, custom catalogs, real-time cross-channel inventory control, and complete order management.
Think in terms of powering your sales, operations, and profitability at the highest levels. Think strategically. BusinessFlow gives companies control and the freedom to grow.
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