42. Guiding The Fulfillment Purpose
Our company was recently engaged to build a custom fulfillment system for an existing website CMS. The client initially had requested that we build just the component of the system that would connect their e-commerce website to their back-office fulfillment software. Eventually they asked us to expand the build and do a more comprehensive implementation across the site.
We created API integrations between the CMS (where customers place orders) and the warehouse fulfillment software (where orders get received and fulfilled by warehouse staff.) In the case of this particular company, customers were not charged up front, but at the time that their order was shipped. This meant that the system had the additional task of handling the return trip of the information from the fulfillment system back to the CMS + e-commerce gateway, so the charge transaction could be properly completed.
We recognized early in the life of the project that our mission was really to build the connection between the website and the fulfillment software in a way that ensured the fulfillment team had what they needed to maintain their sense of purpose in dependably completing orders. This meant understanding exactly what types of data had to be sent to the warehouse, and in what form they were most useful to the fulfillment team. It also meant constructing look-up systems that allowed the warehouse team to quickly and accurately find more complete order and customer details in the event of a problem. The connection between the CMS and the ERP (enterprise resource planning software) essentially functioned as a pipeline. What flowed through it was not only the concrete data related to customer orders, but impetus for the warehouse team to complete those orders in a timely and expeditious manner. This pipeline would be an essential component of the ongoing execution process, serving a critical business function. Understanding this was essential to the success of the project.
The team that owns the company website is responsible for developing a strategy for guiding customers into their sales flow. That same team must also manage the building of execution systems that effectively support both team and customer impetus. This team also owns the ongoing execution of processes by the system, as well as maintaining its support of the customer once their order has been placed. The order fulfillment part of the process often happens off-website, but it still must often be tracked and documented by the website. Whether it's a warehouse fulfillment system connection or perhaps a client portal on a service provider website, the flow of customer fulfillment is as critical a part of the system as the software, and must be managed as part of the web property itself at the execution level.