In the wake of the pandemic and global supply chain issues, businesses have realized the importance of technology innovation to deliver truly superior retail customer experiences. But without real-time reliable views of inventory, shipments and automated order orchestration processes, retailers are unable to deliver on order promises.

Businesses need robust order management solutions (OMS) that can drive customer satisfaction, increase fulfillment profitability and support new digital and in-person customer experiences. These solutions must enable businesses to pivot quickly to support customers, while also providing a solid data foundation and transparency at scale to support long-term sustainable supply chain strategies.

The key to addressing these challenges lies with freedom of choice. Order management platforms must provide businesses with options that allow for flexibility and agility in both capabilities and deployment. What’s more, they need to be able to evolve and expand with changing customer demographics and trends. Ultimately, OMS freedom of choice maximizes supply chain value and drives better retail customer experiences.

To advance freedom of choice, IBM Sterling@ Order Management Solutions (OMS) has launched several new platform enhancements that promote agility, accessibility, inclusivity and flexibility for our customers.

Our offering roadmap features prescriptive pathways that bring customers freedom of choice in selecting capabilities to support specific needs and achieve desired benefits.

This all-encompassing modernized order management solution brings together the following four tenets:

1. Innovation in User Experiences

Order management solutions need to be intuitive, approachable and easy to learn without extensive training or specialized skills. Using IBM Enterprise Design Thinking as the basis for our approach, we started by understanding our users and their business context and workflows. Then we built intuitive experiences using the award-winning Carbon Design System and worked iteratively with our sponsor users to gather feedback to make their UI experience even better.  

Our refreshed user experience groups together core related activities framed by a pattern of insights to analysis to action. Users should be able to see business KPIs on a dashboard that provide insights around business operations, and then be able to drill down into data points to see an analysis of that insight and take immediate action. For example, if a fulfillment manager sees that the dashboard shows an increase in fulfillment time for ship-from-store orders at stores in the Midwest US region, they should be able to quickly drill down into store-level details. By doing this, they can identify specific stores for which they should temporarily halt new orders, thereby allowing store associates to catch up on their backlog of active orders.  

Our new user interfaces adopt low code/no code models by enabling business users to flexibly configure their workspaces to match their roles, responsibilities and working style by using simple drag and drop carbon components. All of this translates to accelerated UI development and faster agility to efficiently and effectively meet customers’ needs. Furthermore, using modern technology components like Angular, Lerna and Single-spa liberate UIs to use micro-frontend architecture that is separated from the core application. This enables faster deployment and seamless, version-less upgrades within minutes.  

Finally, by embracing open-source technology, our solution is also designed to be accessible and friendly for differently-abled users. 

Learn more about our next generation of order management solutions

2. Flexibility in deployment choices

Freedom and flexibility in how users interact with an OMS platform should be further extended to how it can be deployed. Furthermore, modernized platforms also need to be easy for businesses to adopt without requiring them to drastically pivot their architecture and risk disrupting business as usual.  

To support this freedom and flexibility, we have incorporated a microservices-based API-first approach to creating a composable OMS architecture. This allows businesses to bring their incumbent solutions into the fold, thereby greatly reducing the time to value to deploy our solutions. A cloud-native development model, built in a headless design that can be paired with any UI, allows for the modular components to be deployed using universal technologies like Kubernetes onto any SaaS , private or public clouds. We call this: My Cloud. Your Cloud. Any Cloud.  

Most other OMS solution options utilize only one go-forward deployment model that inevitably restricts customers as they expand by revenue size, geography or acquisition. For example, with our solution, a customer can deploy a SaaS model in North America and still choose to deploy a public cloud alternative in mainland China to ensure compliance with local laws. Or they can start with a SaaS model and then lift and shift everything to a self-managed model on a public cloud of their choice. 

3. Transparency and Trust in AI and ML adoption

Freedom of choice in utilizing technology to make business decisions means these solutions must be inherently trusted by users in their own decision-making processes. This is particularly important when a solution utilizes AI and machine learning, as these technologies have typically been black box, leaving users with a high degree of distrust in the insights or recommendations generated. In the long run, this pervasive lack of trust creates a culture of counterproductive decision-making that reverses the potentially impactful recommendations made by AI.

To ensure user trust in our AI-based OMS solutions, transparency is an ingrained principle in the DNA of our design. We show the reasoning and logic behind each of the decisions made in the AI model, as well as how AI has learnt the business patterns through a bi-directional feedback system that learns from outcomes over time. This opens up the opportunity for customer data science teams to introspect and influence the learning process and ensure that outcomes derived can be trusted.

To further promote transparency, our OMS solutions have a built-in playback model that shows users the ROI and operational savings contributed by the system. This goes a long way towards garnering support and amplifying stakeholder trust.

4. Sustainability and social responsibility in operations

Today businesses are charged with addressing environmental, social and governance goals in the context of order management processes. This is where retail consumers emerge as important invisible stakeholders, since they expect businesses to make responsible, eco-conscious choices to drive long-term sustainability. Consumers today are ready and willing to exercise their favor by rewarding a larger share of their wallet to companies that demonstrate a stronger commitment to making sustainable choices. For example, many consumers want to order from businesses that offer more carbon-friendly delivery and fulfillment options.  

The recent alignment of IBM Sterling OMS within our Sustainability portfolio extends our vision of a modernized supply chain on a platform made for sustainability. Our solution provides carbon-friendly recommendations and options, using order management to orchestrate sustainable sourcing and transportation decisions. 

We employ technology elements that can distill carbon footprint data from carrier systems and carbon accounting engines, along with inventory and capacity data, to determine a composite carbon footprint. We use this information at scale to 
compute carbon savings across several sourcing and shipping options, to help fulfillment managers further optimize their operations. Additionally, this carbon savings data can be made visible on ecommerce pages, so consumers can see the carbon usage and impact of their choices, and compare that to the potential carbon savings from delaying their shipments or consolidating purchases into fewer deliveries. By providing business visibility into important sustainability data, our solutions empower customers to make sustainable shopping decisions aligned with personal values.  

All four of these tenets combined bring value to business users and consumers, while aligning with our core vision that truly innovative technology should be synonymous with freedom of choice.  

Our next-generation order management solutions allow businesses to grow and expand seamlessly over time without business disruption, and make trustworthy, sustainable data-drive decisions to elevate customer satisfaction and brand reputation.

Learn why IHL ranks IBM OMS as the leader for innovation and modernization
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