What to consider when evaluating order management software

Leading organizations explain how and why they invested in IBM

By | 9 minute read | April 27, 2021

With so many claims made by supply chain offerings on the market, it can be hard to choose what your organization really needs. Introducing new technology requires a significant financial investment, as well as introduces personnel and change management challenges. Businesses need to be sure they are making the best choices for the current and future needs of the organization.

An advanced order management system (OMS) can help you orchestrate your entire fulfillment network, tracking orders from inception to delivery, and enabling automation of previously manual processes to improve efficiency and reduce costs. Investing in order and inventory management technology can positively impact your customers’ experience, while driving lower inventory costs and enabling higher cash flow.

And with the way that retail and customer shopping habits have changed in the last year, you need a best-in-class OMS that can scale for unprecedented demand, satisfy customer needs across channels, adapt to new fulfillment methods, and provide quick time-to-value at a low cost.

Let’s explore these areas in more detail, with leading organizations explaining how and why they made their choice:

Scalability to meet business demands

COVID-19 pushed many businesses to scale quickly to meet record online demand. Many were unable to see what inventory they truly had available and were left struggling to keep customer promises. When customers were disappointed, they instantly looked to other retailers.

To succeed, businesses leaned into their existing OMS to evolve, and also to manage operations at unexpectedly low or high volumes. The ability to be agile and adjust to demand peaks, while rebalancing for demand troughs, has been proven as a competitive differentiator.

JOANN Stores used IBM Sterling Order Management software to see exactly what inventory they had on hand to fulfill orders when their online ordering skyrocketed at the start of the pandemic. Since nearly half of their chain had to be closed to foot traffic, they needed alternative ways to meet demand, especially since they were providing critical materials for homemade Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). JOANN was able to fulfill orders, strengthen their mail delivery, and enable curbside delivery across more than 850 stores nationwide.

“The biggest thing that would have been difficult for any other solution to do is to be able to scale quickly. And at the same time, IBM was able to bring to the table resources which could quickly help us do that and make the system work” – Varadheesh Chennakrishnan, CIO, JOANN Stores

When hair salons closed in March as non-essential businesses, demand for DIY hair color and cuts grew exponentially, creating a challenge for Sally Beauty.

“Imagine Black Friday x10. We saw 10-12x demand volume come to our site in a 5-day period.” – Joe Condomina, CIO, Sally Beauty

Because Sally Beauty had IBM Sterling Order Management in place, they were able to easily and quickly scale and meet demand with real-time inventory visibility that ensured that every customer who clicked “add to cart” saw inventory that was truly available to them with visibility down to the millisecond. They could meet demand and keep customers happy, even with unparalleled order volume.

The scalability of Hudson’s Bay Company’s order management has helped to further bolster their global reputation for selling quality home, beauty, and fashion goods with unrivaled customer experiences. To react to pandemic demand shifts, they implemented an omnichannel strategy to enable customers to order online, ship to home, or ship to store, while adapting for peaks and scaling when necessary.

“When customer behavior changes, we need our technology platform to react to that. A flexible architecture enables us to pivot and know where we’re investing our time.” – Ope Bakare, VP and Chief Enterprise Architect, Hudson’s Bay Company

Customizable business rules

By selling across a variety of platforms, you can meet your customers where they are and ensure a seamless experience for both your company and your customers. Omnichannel fulfillment optimizes product allocation to ensure you are providing products to your customer in the most efficient way- so they get it as soon as possible, without excess costs to you.

Modern order management systems have helped retailers like Follett Corporation master this optimized allocation with business logic rules for inventory and orders that allow unique pricing and prioritizing by product or unit margin. By being able to establish different fulfillment rules at the item level, they can ensure they are providing the best customer experience with maximum ROI.

“If you’re talking about pens, pencils and lower priced items, we really can’t afford to send those around the country. We came up with this concept of the item type, which allowed us to establish different order fulfillment business rules at the item level based on, for example, unit margins. We also defined ‘infinite inventory’ items that always show as available online.” – Al Scherer, Director of E-commerce, Follett Corporation

Businesses need the right order management systems that can help them look across their global supply chain for inventory to fulfill orders, while presenting a single, seamless experience to customers.

Fossil wanted to create a seamless experience for their customers across digital and physical stores, knowing that convenience and ease make the difference between sales and missed opportunities. They knew that modern customers want to move between channels as they browse, buy, return, or exchange items, and they needed help making the process convenient. They struggled to manage demand across all of their touchpoints. Fossil wanted to more effectively use inventory from one channel to fulfill orders on another where stock was low. They needed a way to achieve omnichannel fulfillment, and sought out an order management system.

“Our customers increasingly want retail journeys that keep up with the pace of their lives—and omni-channel fulfillment behind the scenes plays a key role in delivering on those expectations. Thanks to IBM Order Management, we’re orchestrating our inventory more effectively than ever.” IT Solution Manager – Retail at Fossil Group, Inc.

Fossil used a centralized, omnichannel inventory management and order fulfillment hub to make better decisions and connect their customers with the products they need. With more efficient use of inventory, they can now delight their customers with flawless experiences across their channels and foster stronger customer loyalty long-term.

Even manufacturing organizations with higher complexity are able to reap significant benefits from an omnichannel strategy. B2B customers’ demands are converging with those of B2C, meaning that the frictionless purchasing and order fulfillment experience is still crucial. Parker Hannifin manufactures hundreds of thousands of industrial products across dozens of divisions spanning motion, control and hydraulic sectors – creating a challenge in delivering a unified experience for their customer.

Parker Hannifin was able to unify order management and fulfillment across their channels, products and sub-brands, and business units to create a consolidated view of products in a digital platform that made it easy for the customer to find exactly what they need.

“Our customers get the experience of interacting with ‘One Parker’, while, behind the scenes, each of our business entities can maintain its unique processes and ways of working.” – Bob McAdoo, Vice President, Worldwide Business Systems, Parker Hannifin

Adapting for BOPIS and curbside pickup

As we’ve seen with the pandemic, retailers quickly pivoted to alternative omnichannel fulfillment options as customers either avoided going into stores for safety purposes, or because in-store options were closed. In early 2020, the only organizations thinking about curbside pickup were grocery stores or large retailers. But by April, curbside pickup was far more valuable to customers (and to retailers), surging by 208% between April 1-April 20 compared to a year ago.

Organizations need an order management system that can manage new omnichannel fulfillment options like buy online, pickup in store (BOPIS) or curbside pickup well. It can be complex to start managing these new services. And, if not done right, can lead to overpromising, unhappy customers, and lost sales.

Managing these new tactics is critical for organizations to stay competitive. It begins with a real-time view of your inventory. You need to be able to see across your entire organization to know what you can promise – including what is in-transit to the stores or what has been sitting on the shelves for weeks.

Jewelry retailer Pandora used order management software to manage the expansion of their services offered to customers for omnichannel fulfillment. According to Line Hildebrandt Smith, Pandora’s Vice President of EMEA Operations, they instituted click and collect, in-store returns, and curbside pickup to “meet the evolving consumer behaviors and make sure that we are where the customer wants us to be.”

With the right order management software, organizations have incorporated  BOPIS and curbside options with  remarkable success, further reflecting the importance of an order management system that can manage your inventory and confidently deliver to customers. UK Retailer John Lewis saw that click and collect sales (often referred to as curbside delivery) became their fastest growing delivery channel, representing over 40% of online delivery activity. Home improvement retailer Home Depot Inc. saw remarkable growth upon offering their alternative fulfillment methods like buy online, ship from store (BOSIS) and in-store pickup with lockers.

“Home Depot had triple-digit growth in each separately for in-store pickup with lockers, buy online/ship-from store with an express car or van delivery, and curbside delivery” – Ted Decker, Executive Vice President, Merchandising 

SaaS enables flexibility

IBM Sterling OMS SaaS can set your organization apart by avoiding high infrastructure expenses and providing a more flexible option that can rapidly tailor to the needs of your unique business. A SaaS deployment helps you achieve faster time-to-value by eliminating configuration and installation time so you can dive right into solving your inventory and order management challenges. SaaS offers a modern architecture that can scale to meet your highest customer demands with full customization, the highest performance, and best-in-class security.

Sustainable clothing retailer Eileen Fisher uses a SaaS delivery model for their order management in order to transition from disparate, siloed systems between 50 retail locations and an e-commerce site, to a single, central order management hub.

“Our key criteria for the solution were flexibility, user-friendliness, ease of maintenance and cost-effectiveness. Before we started evaluating IBM Sterling Order Management, we had the impression that IBM solutions were only designed for far larger retailers than us, but all our experiences since then have shown us that couldn’t be further from the truth.” – Director of D2C Technology, Eileen Fisher

With Sterling Order Management’s flexible deployment options, Eileen Fisher found the best solution for their business needs, enabling management of their inventory in a single platform, reducing manual processes and enabling higher quality customer services.

Party City used SaaS deployment for Sterling Order Management to achieve fast time-to-value in the pandemic, enabling the scale needed to successfully navigate high customer demands during their first online Halloween sale.

“Our migration to OMS SaaS was accelerated due to the pandemic and we successfully rolled out omnichannel capabilities using IBM Sterling Order Management in record time. The scale and robustness of OMS was impressive as we successfully navigated a Halloween sale for the first time without any outage at all” – David Levitt, VP Information Technology

IBM Sterling Order Management helps organizations deliver the perfect order with a complete omnichannel order fulfillment platform.