Editor's Note: Welcome to SmartAdvice, a weekly column by The Advisory Council (TAC), an advisory service firm. The feature answers two questions of core interest to you, ranging from career advice to enterprise strategies to how to deal with vendors. Submit questions directly to [email protected]
Question A: What can IT do to improve organizational collaboration within the company?
Our advice: Business collaboration occurs, in general, because no matter how we organize work, we end up with activities that cut horizontally across that organization. Collaboration has these goals:
-- Wes Melling
Question B: What should we consider when selecting a retail order-management system to support both "brick-and-mortar" and "click-and-order" businesses?
Our advice: The retail industry is very fragmented, with numerous merchandise specialties, and retail enterprises of all sizes and shapes. Multichannel retailers -- those companies that have presence in "brick-and-mortar," "click-and-order," and possibly wholesale as well -- have complex needs. Companies that have multichannel order-fulfillment requirements, such as home improvement and furniture retailers, have even more complex needs due to the additional challenge of complex inventory and warehouse management. Most really large multichannel retailers (Wal-Mart, Sears, etc.) have their own homegrown proprietary systems, but for the smaller companies, which don't have those kinds of resources, there are a number of affordable options.
At both the high and low ends, there are plenty of commercial, off-the-shelf systems designed to work with pure-play online or point-of-sale business models. The products range from expensive end-to-end systems from the large players -- IBM, SAP, Seibel, etc. -- that handle every function from campaign management and market analysis, through order entry and fulfillment, and finally to warehouse and inventory management. As a mid- to large-size retailer with a simple business model, it is more a matter of writing large checks and slogging through the deployment process. For more budget-conscious folks, a "best of breed" or modular type of architecture can be an effective alternative. There are many solution providers who will create customized, integrated systems from well-tested component applications. The advantages are that you can more easily implement the system in pieces, thus minimizing disruption of your operations. For more complex situations, the modular approach might well minimize the risk associated with any major process change.
In the end, which approach you take for your business is going to depend more on your specific needs and budget than any inherent advantage of the full end-to-end system over a modular system. As with any large-scale change to your business, make sure you map your requirements carefully during the planning process before settling on a specific architecture.
-- Beth Cohen
Wes Melling, TAC Expert, has more than 40 years of IT experience with a focus on enterprise IT strategies. He is founder and principal of Value Chain Advisors, a consulting boutique specializing in manufacturing supply-chain optimization. He has been a corporate CIO, a Gartner analyst, and a product strategist at increasingly senior levels.
Beth Cohen, TAC Thought Leader, has more than 20 years of experience building strong IT-delivery organizations from user and vendor perspectives. Having worked as a technologist for BBN, the company that literally invented the Internet, she not only knows where technology is today but where it's heading in the future. Her specific expertise includes building scaleable, robust IT architectures, operating systems, desktop support, process improvement, program management, IT/business alignment, security, and integration of networks, applications, and systems.