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Is Retail Order Management Technology Like eCommerce Middleware?

This is an archived post from OrderDynamics, now Tecsys retail division.
Is Retail Order Management Technology Like eCommerce Middleware? A competitor in Europe recently published a blog post discussing how retail order management technology can be likened to an effective ecommerce middleware layer. And YES, we actually agree with this, whole-heartedly. However, the post continues from this solid premise, to regrettably shaky ground in their further discussion. That’s where we wanted to set the story straight.

eCommerce Middleware 

Naturally, order management systems are much more than mere middleware. It is more than a communication microservice layer. But, it is an easy to understand concept. Good retail order management technology integrates to just about every important retailing system in a merchant’s shop. Any technology associated with selling, marketing or fulfilling orders needs to connect to a DOM (distributed order management system). Furthermore, a good order management solution provider maintain the connectivity to the various sub-systems. This includes the POS, WMS, ECP (ecommerce platform), online marketplaces, payment processing gateways, and other systems. Basically, it means your busy IT staff don't have to worry about constantly monitoring the API’s and connectors.

Independent OMS

Another point this author got right were a few sound points on the importance of independent OMS technology. Today, large enterprise retail chains, and medium sized 10-20 store chains can be virtually indistinguishable in terms of the demands of their order management technology. This spectrum of retailers all need real-time inventory visibility, robust in-store returns management, intelligent order routing, order orchestration, solid analytics, and other advanced capabilities to help set them apart from their competition. Too many OMS and DOM (distributed order management) vendors today offer intertwined, single vendor unified commerce systems often called singular unified commerce (SUC). Usually this breaks down into a single vendor peddling their low end WMS, ECP and a lightweight OMS. Often we also see POS and ePOS vendors klunking together a light OMS offering, with their ECP. Interesting, but limiting.

You Can't Be Good at Everything

Basically, these pre-packaged solutions offer one particular strength of the technology vendor, and marries it with their home-grown systems. They are not scalable, or flexible. fThey are almost always feature and capability deficient. And, don't even ask about high scalability or robust capabilities. Despite a slick sales pitch, when systems like these fail in the retail world, there are serious consequences for the chain. Not only is it an embarrassment when a payment processing system dies on a crucial selling day like Black Friday, but it also means dollars lost. No doubt, it also means a brand promise broken, and customers lost to competitors.

Standalone Systems

Kudos to our European competitor regarding these points. Yes, there is an exceptional case for the OMS / DOM to be a technology that can be run as a standalone system. These have robust architectures, and are designed by experts in their highly focused field. They have to be exceptional solutions. If such a system fails, there is no alternative fallback technology in their portfolio. It’s all they do. In that respect,  OrderDynamics fits the mold perfectly. Given that our focus is retail order management technology as our only focus. To us developing the world’s most advanced out-of-the-box independent DOM for retail - is mission critical.  

Related:  7 Must-Haves for International Order Management Technology

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3 Most Powerful OMS Technologies

Until this point, our view seemed in lockstep with this new competitor in Europe. Despite being competitive, we perhaps saw them as brothers in the fight for retailer’s rights to have independent and robust DOM technology that all retailers need. Then came the surprise. Let me be the first to thank this vendor for ranking OrderDynamics in the same class as IBM and Manhattan. Being a smaller and more customer responsive organization, we see the distinct differences between our solution and the OMS platforms of these two. Regardless, we are honored and agree on being grouped together as the three most capable OMS / DOM technologies available. Additionally, This comes from a relentless focus on the technology, and retailer needs.

How Much Did You Say it Will Cost? 

It was interesting to read that of the Manhattan and Sterling solutions, retailers often spend seven figures on roll-out. That’s in the MILLIONS of Euros / Dollars! Then followed by the assertion that these solution are often overblown is even worse. The post stated that retail chains often only use 40% of the available functionality. Perhaps this is a statement about the roadmap not adapting to real customer needs. Alternatively, it may be the result of inadequate platform coding, or just too much of a system designed with interesting hypothetically useful features. Hmmm. This does add an interesting dimension to the decision making process when selecting a DOM.

Important Clarification about SaaS

A weak pot-shot taken is that retailers need to think carefully about SaaS technology deployment with DOM solutions. The competitor asserted that a SaaS based model “cannot be customized or expanded” to meet the needs of retailers. This is utter nonsense. I have to honestly admit that I actually laughed out loud (LoL) when I read that line. To clarify, OrderDynamics Order Management technology is based on the Microsoft Azure system. It is specifically NOT on an Amazon AWS network because we believe in supporting retailers. OrderDynamics does NOT put retailer's data, system processing, and funding in the hands of retail's biggest competitor. No offense Amazon, it is just good business sense. Frankly, cloud based technology is the right move for ALL retailers. The old school thinking that an in-house or on-premise solution is better, is a decade-old argument. It died at 10-15 years ago, and deserves to stay buried. The world has migrated to cloud technology. However, if you are still not convinced, please refer to the Forrest Research on SaaS based OMS technologies.

Can You Customize a DOM? 

Yes – but why? Wherever and whenever possible, retailers should avoid customization in favor of flexible configuration. And, the right question is whether you can configure the DOM to your needs. An out-of-the-box solution means focusing on solutions that are industry best practices. Wouldn't every retail want to learn from the best practices of their peers? As a cloud offering, the system continually updates, with six roll-outs of new features and capabilities, every year.

What Does it Mean?

Customizing a solution means the system needs costly custom code. That means needing expensive consultants and programmers to change your code every time you need an adjustment. It also means you don’t get the benefit of continually evolving, improving and adapting technology. Customization gives you the dissatisfying challenges you get from platform based technologies. That being the dependence on hard coded solutions that don’t automatically improve with time. At the end of the day, custom built systems cost you money!

Expanding to Meet Business Needs

Another fallacy in our competitors analysis is that a SaaS based DOM / OMS is stagnant, and cannot expand. Again, a moment of insanity on the part of the author. Given the continual rollout of our latest features and benefits for retailers, this is simply not the case. Don't trust me on this one. Go check out any SaaS provider. SaaS technology and continual evolution go hand-in-hand. In our case the OrderDynamics roadmap for features and evolution is heavily based on customer requests. It means the system is constantly improving in the direction that best serves retail chains. If you are considering a new OMS / DOM, then look for a vendor with your best interests at heart. Look for the proven track record of continually evolving technology that follows market needs. This will make sure you don't end up with 40% of your system being not being used.

Note to Retailers Who Need a Good Solution

We commend our new European competitor for some sound advice and analysis. However, it is important that the complete argument be sound. It is like your OMS code. If you get most of it right … but have some fatal flaws in the code – you are putting your retailing customers at risk. As a retail chain, don’t take that risk. Speak with OrderDynamics for a thoroughly sound solution that meets your retailing needs. Furthermore, an OrderDynamics system evolves continually, and gives you the peace of mind of knowing that you have the best, and most cost effective order management technology available from an independent OMS system. It is true that we are not the biggest retail vendor in the OMS space. But, it means we have to work harder, with greater focus than most of our competitors. It means we have to give our customers the system they really want and need, and bring value at every step, or delivering on a great customer experience, just like our retail customer provide to their shoppers. It just makes sense, doesn't it? If you are thinking about omni-channel retail, replacing your dated retail order management technology, or just need a fresh perspective - give us a call. Furthermore, it is a no pressure free discussion about how robust retail order management technology can help you.   Author: Charles Dimov is Vice President of Marketing at OrderDynamics. Charles has 21+ years experience in Marketing, Sales and Management across various IT and Technology businesses. Previous roles include Chief of Staff, Director Product Marketing, and Director Sales. Charles has held roles in brand name firms like IBM, Ericsson, HP, ADP, and OrderDynamics.    
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