Is your supply chain ready for new omni-channel commerce realities?


lightwellomnichannelSupply chain management and omni-channel commerce are impacting each other in new and exciting ways. But for many companies, these areas are on more of a collision course than convergence. Companies are not ready to absorb the impact of the increased pressure omni-channel commerce will put on supply chains.

There are several cultural and technological issues holding organizations back, but as time goes on it's becoming increasingly clear that the productivity and profit potential of supply chains will be inextricably tied to omni-channel readiness. What should organizations be doing now, and what technologies and resources should they be exploring? 

Are your systems ready?
Getting alignment between supply chain management and the demands of omni-channel commerce requires a substantial organizational transformation, both in method and mindset. As omni-channel commerce continues to push retail and consumer goods strategies to the margins, many C-suite executives have realized that their operational processes aren't exactly easy to redirect.

In a recent survey conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers of more than 400 retail industry chief executive officers worldwide, 83 percent admitted that they have less than optimal supply chains for incoming omni-channel commerce challenges.

Order management is one area that suffers greatly from a lack of preparation. So many aspects of omni-channel commerce workflows - from inventory availability to customer service to targeted marketing campaigns - depend on well-orchestrated order management processes, that lack of information availability or visibility across business partners can quickly derail an omni-channel commerce effort. It becomes a multi-pronged problem: If the right information isn't available and the necessary system components aren't adaptable, supply chain stakeholders don't feel as if they have the necessary resources to make confident adjustments to order processing patterns or customer fulfillment objectives. This can hold enterprises back. 

The adoption of adaptation
It seems as though many enterprise leaders are content to wait until they feel the market forces their hand. Although organizations identify things like competitive threats, market erosion and customer retention as top priorities, they are often not taking a proactive course. The sheer magnitude and scope of the order management changes many organizations need to make means that the longer they tarry, the harder it will be to adapt. 

How does an organization know if it is ready to adopt a more adaptable framework? It must assess its readiness through several cultural and systematic components.

For example, in making decisions about inventory: Online retail works in a much different fashion than physical shopping, clearly, but there are key areas in which the two aren't far off from each other. Customers increasingly expect to be able to purchase products online and have them delivered in a 48-hour or even 24-hour window. This is not all that dissimilar from walking into a store and buying something off the shelf. However, if warehouse and delivery systems are still mired in supply windows that conform to biweekly or monthly movement of products to certain locations, they may not be prepared for spikes in demand and rapid customer fulfillment. In this case, the enterprise's supply chain is ill-prepared for omni-channel commerce - it must be readily adaptable to changes in demand, across the entire area in which its products are sold. 

How to develop and benefit from order management for omni-channel commerce
By leveraging a solution designed for omni-channel commerce such as IBM Sterling Order Management, companies can improve their order management capabilities to provide a seamless omni-channel order management and fulfillment experience. (You can learn more about the IBM Sterling Order Management system, or IBM Sterling OMS on our website.)

Furthermore, an IBM partner like Lightwell that specializes in the IBM Sterling Order Management system can help determine a company's readiness, implement the solution, provide expertise during the implementation process. In addition they can work with the company to identify all the risks, complications or budgetary issues that lie within the scope of the project.

Lightwell also offers education, training and consultancy services that continue to increase support and troubleshooting for any element of the order management solution. For most companies, this is uncharted terrain, so it makes sense to partner with a provider that has been there before.

As a company wishes to advance its omnichannel capabilities - whether it's providing real-time updates to digital stores, shipping products for rapid turnaround in-store pickup or enhancing the quality of customer service - assistance from an experienced partner can help ensure that this it's not a messy collision, but an intelligent expansion.

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