Technology: How to Assess Catalog Systems
Selecting enterprise software such as large-scale systems for order management, customer database management, warehouse management and fulfillment is a lot like getting married. Impulse relationships, or hasty choices made on the rebound, may be successful, but the odds are significantly against it.
Even those marriages based on true love, appreciation of real personalities and full knowledge of one another’s strengths and weaknesses require ongoing maintenance to succeed. While a good marriage is based on love, a fulfilling relationship requires that you like your partner, too. Similarly, you may love your computer system, but if you don’t actually like the vendor who produces it, there may be trouble down the road. Here’s what to look for when selecting a new enterprise application for your catalog company.
First Things First
Define the application’s purpose and scope. Direct-commerce companies are fortunate to have the option of implementing comprehensive solutions that cover essential aspects of order entry, customer database and list management, inventory, fulfillment, and reporting. All-in-one catalog management or direct commerce management systems are like jacks-of-all-trades, usually masters of none.
Against the ease of using a comprehensive integrated application, weigh the possible need for a more fully functional warehouse management system (WMS), for example. If you acquire a separate WMS, do you need it to supplement a catalog management system, or would a best-of-breed order entry and customer relationship management application make more sense in conjunction with your specialized WMS?
To succeed at the best-of-breed approach, you need a substantial in-house IT staff. And you must prepare your company to handle more complex system-maintenance tasks, as well as all the challenges that any system integration entails. The best-of-breed approach is an expensive option but worth the investment if you need the greater functional efficiency and scalability a set of high-quality, focused systems can provide.