Problem: Order Management System is too Costly and Difficult to Maintain
At a major retailer the existing systems for handling and fulfilling customer orders were too expensive to maintain, had limited functionality, and were built with technology approaching 30 years of age. Most systems were built in COBOL and RPG from an earlier era of mainframe computing. Staff who knew these systems were retiring, so maintaining them was challenging. In addition, they simply lacked the flexibility and functionality needed to support modern e-commerce needs. New, updated systems were needed to manage the complex order life-cycle of this $4 Billion on-line retailer. Sterling's Order Management suite (previously called Yantra) was selected and an effective design and implementation approach was needed.
Approach: Update Technology, Update Tech Staff Skills, and Integrate the Components
First, we worked with existing group leads and tech staff, breaking this huge system into four components:
- Order Capture - gathered order information from e-commerce customers
- Order Management - authorized credit card purchase, prioritized orders
- Inventory Management - analyzed available inventory at distribution centers and chose optimal source
- Fulfillment - developed pick lists, updated inventory, chose best carrier
Second, we helped tech staff, mainly COBOL programmers, adapt to changes in technology and development approaches. Simultaneously, we established new standards for inter-process communication and designed the underlying data structures
Third, we followed a modified SDLC methodology to design and develop the new system while also working with the business owners to build the design and get their approval at each phase. These regular working sessions and design approval meetings with the business were essential to managing the project's scope and keeping it on-schedule and within budget.
Benefits: Training, Flexibility, and New Functionality
This project brought benefits to the company, to the tech staff, and to the customers. The company gained an updated back-end system that was more flexible and could more quickly adapt to the business' needs. Tech staff enhanced their resumes, learned new, marketable skills, but also felt more dedicated to the company and less interested in "moving on." Finally, customers had their orders delivered on time more often and had more products to choose from.