5 signs your B2B business needs a modern order management system

By | 5 minute read | June 21, 2021

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In the wake of an eCommerce wave that pumped 10 years of growth into just a 3-month period, B2B companies are under unexpected pressure to deliver digital experiences on par with those in the consumer space. In fact, more than 70% of B2B buyers say they are moving to remote or digital purchases. Are you prepared with a digital technology foundation that provides one connected view of inventory, orders and fulfillment so you can grow your eCommerce footprint and build stronger customer relationships in the process?

Let’s explore 5 signs your B2B business needs an order management system (OMS) that will allow you to drive new value for your customers and your business:

1. Fragmented view of inventory

  • Are you confident that your available-to-promise (ATP) data is accurate enough that you can allocate inventory for on-time and in-full (OTIF) delivery?
  • Is your inventory positioned to enable optimized fulfillment?
  • Can you manage demand spikes and disruptions, transferring inventory to reduce delays?

If you answered ‘no’ to any of these questions, you’re not alone. Many B2B organizations still rely on custom Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems or legacy technology that function in siloed environments. These solutions were never designed to provide visibility into inventory across your organization and ecosystem of retailers, distributors, partners and suppliers. But if you can’t see inventory, you can’t effectively manage it or react quickly to disruptions and deliver exceptional B2B commerce experiences.

A lack of inventory visibility also creates blind spots for distributors and manufacturers. If distributors can only see inventory at their warehouse, and not what’s available at disparate supplier warehouses, they may miss inventory that could be drop-shipped for OTIF delivery and better customer outcomes. And when industrial manufacturers don’t know what’s planned or in-process in their manufacturing plants, they can’t provide customers a real-time picture of inbound inventory that is available to be promised.

By augmenting your existing ERP or legacy system with an aggregated view of inventory, wherever it resides – across divisions, geographies, channels and partners – you can optimize fulfillment to capture maximum demand. User friendly tools, insights and automation allow you to simplify complex inventory actions such as segmentation and substitution. And when supply chain disruptions happen, real-time alerts let you manage through them proactively.

Learn why ERPs weren’t built to meet today’s B2B customer expectations.

2. Lack of visibility into SLAs

To limit their business risk, B2B customers use contracts based on service level agreements (SLAs) and set thresholds to make sure they get the right product at the right place and time for the right price. They hold you to that promise and impose penalties if the business doesn’t deliver.

A modern OMS empowers you with end-to-end visibility across the supply chain ecosystem to track orders from request through fulfillment. Insights to improve planning and execution, automated workflows to quote and process orders faster, and dashboard alerts to monitor KPIs such as OTIF or expedited freight, allow you to consistently manage effectively against customer SLAs.

3. Cumbersome order validation and pricing 

Complex orders are a fact of life, and business policies and customer contracts add rules and restrictions. Some customers may qualify for volume-based pricing or require validation for certain SKUs before their orders can be processed. These steps slow down or stall when human intervention is needed to coordinate across different divisions and partners.

Implementing a modern OMS to drive your B2B eCommerce experience will allow you to deliver personalized buying experiences based on individual customer relationships. Offering custom online sales catalogs with permissioned products, and embedding unique pricing, products and service configuration rules, makes it easy to consistently deliver the perfect order while flawlessly executing large volumes of complex orders.

Discover what every B2B company needs to know.

 4. Inefficiencies in manual processes

Think about all the touchpoints across the order lifecycle where you rely on manual processes that are time-consuming and error prone. The more complex your order management process, the more difficult it is to scale for growth if employee involvement is required for order execution. And when it comes to picking the optimized fulfillment option, employees simply can’t be aware of all the cost and profit drivers and real-time trade-offs that need to be made to lead to the best possible choice.

With a multi-enterprise OMS, you can automate certain processes and incorporate AI-enabled insights so that staff can make smarter sourcing and fulfillment decisions, even when dealing with intricate product and service configurations and fulfillment types. Unifying production schedules, sourcing options and inventory availability across multiple entities takes the guesswork out of delivery estimates. You’ll reduce costly errors, find the true lowest cost-to-serve option, improve customer service and reduce business risk.

5. Can’t meet customer expectations for eCommerce experiences

B2C markets have set the standard B2B buyers have come to expect, leaving many B2B organizations faced with the pressure to develop systems fast. Visibility across the supply chain and scalability to keep up with spikes in demand are crucial to meet customer expectations. But many B2B organizations rely on rudimentary online catalogs with manual processes and legacy systems to allocate orders, often on a “first come, first serve” basis. It’s hard to accelerate new digital experiences when you’re relying on traditional constructs for contracts, pricing and configuration.

Powering your eCommerce experience with an OMS built for B2B enables faster and more efficient delivery at the lowest cost-to-serve, even during peak periods. Digitized processes and intelligent workflows enable dynamic pricing and configuration through collaboration and automation. You can create a modern, digital environment for buyers that includes consolidated, personalized views that make ordering easy. And, you can leverage insights to improve demand sensing, order promising, sourcing decisions, and provide transparency so buyers can get their questions answered, like: “Where is my order right now? When can I expect delivery?”

The pressure is on for B2B organizations to embrace the eCommerce challenge and deliver modern ordering and fulfillment experiences. If any of these five signs resonate with you and your organization, let IBM help you ride today’s eCommerce wave. IBM Sterling Order Management is a multi-enterprise order management solution that enhances customer experience, increases revenue and improves operational margin. Built for B2B, it picks up where ERP and legacy platforms leave off, so you can accelerate new digital experiences for your customers and lower total cost of ownership.