Selecting the Right Fulfillment Software (766 words)
Six Steps to Selecting the Right Fulfillment Software
By Ernie Schell
More than three dozen software applications are on the market for managing order entry and fulfillment for catalog companies. With that kind of variety, choosing the catalog management system that is best for your company can be confusing unless you approach the challenge with a structured plan.
Try these six steps:
1. Establish systems objectives and priorities. There are lots of reasons for acquiring a new system: managing increased capacity, improving customer service, introducing new business methods (such as continuity shipments), lowering processing costs, improving inventory efficiency, reducing paperwork, supporting better e-commerce integration and so on. You have to clearly evaluate and articulate the objectives that are important to you. Chances are you won't be able to achieve all of them, so it's important to prioritize your goals. When it comes time to choosing among alternatives, your prioritized goals will make that process easier.
2. Assess operations and budgets. Before you start looking at software, you should carefully examine your own operations. Software vendors are all capable of doing impressive demos, and typically believe that their product is a universal solution for virtually all catalog companies. In fact, each system is radically different—there are no standards in this business. So it is up to you to spell out what it is you expect the software to do to serve your business needs for handling customers (whether consumer or business-to-business, orders and inventory).
You should undertake a formal functional needs analysis for order entry, inventory management (purchasing, receiving and warehousing), fulfillment (picking and packing), payment processing, drop-shipping, manifesting, customer database management, accounting and reporting. Do you have specialized functions like gift shipments, multiple warehouses, international shipping, or merchandise forecasting that you want to perform? Spell them all out!