System Solutions: A Best-of-Breed Strategy
Unless you’re prepared to run a very aggressive, well-staffed information technology (IT) department, it’s best to stick with a single-system/single-vendor CMS. At most, consider managing two solutions, such as an order entry platform and a warehouse management system (WMS), particularly if the vendor of the order management system has extensive experience with integrating to the WMS.
The addition of a tightly bundled reporting tool could be a potential third application. But smaller catalogers shouldn’t go beyond that level of complexity. No matter how responsible your system’s vendors are, the difficulties of coordinating multiple applications over time—as all of the systems evolve and your business grows—will prove to be increasingly expensive, frustrating, time-
consuming and self-defeating if you lack a strong commitment to IT.
Ready, Willing and Able
For those catalogers willing to make the commitment (the threshold usually is crossed when you can afford at least three full-time programmers, analysts or IT professionals on staff, not counting operator-level personnel), there are several considerations in pursuing a best-of-breed scenario.
First, try to get by with as few systems as possible. This sounds obvious, but it’s possible to have one or more systems too many in your mix, if you try to optimize every aspect of the business. There’s a theoretical justification for all of the systems mentioned above, but it surely would be overkill to install one of each. If nothing else stops you from going overboard, the expense surely will. Also, each new system adds to the burden of training your system’s users.
The real question, though, is not how many systems to have, but rather what strategy to use to discern which systems make the most sense. The answer? Start with order management. Get that base covered first, then evaluate what other systems you need for fulfillment, customer database management, inventory management and so forth.