What’s the Status of My Order? – How Mobile Apps Increase Supply Chain Transparency

I was recently asked to present at the ECR conference in Germany, one of the largest retail/CPG related events focused on B2B and supply chain. Now you may be asking what value I could add to a retail event given my main focus has always been the manufacturing sector, well the subject of the presentation was something close to my heart, mobile B2B, something that I have blogged about on many occasions and most recently via a blog relating to the Apple Watch.

I was asked to present a short case study on a web-based application that OpenText built specifically for one of our largest CPG customers. This app would effectively allow this company’s customers to know the exact status of an order on its journey through the order lifecycle. The app was a one-off project, not built on any existing OpenText products, to meet the needs of this customer. I started my presentation on the broader subject of enterprise mobility, so let me just cover some of the more important points.

Digital disruption is transforming the enterprise. Business models are moving from buy now to subscription based, moving from software to cloud and services, from one-time transactions to lifetime value and one of the biggest advances is making information available, anytime, anyplace or anywhere. I wanted to try and highlight that one of the main drivers behind enterprise mobility was the consumer and their ability to take their mobile devices into a work environment and connect to enterprise resources such as email, hence the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) effect. The popularity of Apple based devices has been a major contributor to the BYOD effect, interesting really when you consider that Apple hasn’t really positioned their products into the enterprise market, the consumer and their employees have.

Gartner’s technology predictions for this year highlighted ‘Computing Everywhere’ as the number one tech trend and there are a number of key drivers for mobile adoption, as can be seen from the CompTIA sourced chart below.

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In fact, CSC’s CIO study for 2015 showed that the number one IT investment at the moment relates to mobile app development and giving employees access to enterprise resources anytime, anyplace or anywhere. One key statistic from the study showed that 39% of respondents said mobile apps were considered a strategic asset to drive the business forward.

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So with all this interest in mobilizing enterprise resources, why can’t we use mobile technologies to help answer one of the most common questions from customers, namely “What is the status of my order?” Our Trading Grid environment, the world’s largest cloud based B2B integration platform, processes over 16 billion transactions per year, so given the huge transaction volumes being processed by our B2B network you can understand why companies might want to ‘mine’ this information to provide improved transaction visibility and in this particular case get better insights into order based transactions that may be flowing across our network. Providing clearer insights to transaction status can help to drive more informed decision making as well as improve customer satisfaction levels.

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This particular project, mentioned earlier in the blog, was to help this CPG company improve order tracking capabilities across their operations in one European country. They process tens of thousands of orders per month from their customers. Their customers (mainly retail stores) expected 24/7 visibility of their order status. however, access to order information was restricted to office hours only. They also wanted to avoid out of stock situations as this drives down customer satisfaction levels. They had two key requirements for their mobile app. Firstly, it had to be simple to deploy and use. Secondly, the mobile app would have to be secure and a role-based approach to viewing order information was deployed so the information presented was dependent on a user’s role in the business.

For the adoption of the app to be successful, it had to include a number of key operational criteria, this included being device independent, web browser independent and OS independent, so HTML5 was used to define the user interface. The app had to offer a number of order related features, namely highlighting orders with issues, orders that had been placed, orders in progress, orders that had been shipped and orders that had been invoiced. Push notifications are also offered to manage any issues by exception. The app had a number of key benefits:

  • Customers can check order status regardless of time or location
  • Orders can be checked from the shelf-edge, avoiding the risk of going out of stock
  • Improved visibility has allowed the replenishment process to start earlier
  • Response time for customers is shortened – if an order is delayed/cancelled it’s immediately visible
  • The app is easy to use and allows the user to filter orders by different criteria

From a business benefits point of view, the app offered the following:

  • Improved customer satisfaction
  • Full visibility of orders and their status
  • Reduced problem calls to customer service
  • Improved productivity
  • Avoid out of stock situations
  • Protect brand reputation

Clearly, this company had good reason to deploy an HTML5 based version for their order tracking app but other companies are deploying IOS and Android mobile apps. When I drafted my Apple Watch blog earlier this year, one of the suggested use cases was around order tracking.  I will stress again that the B2B use cases I discussed for the Apple Watch were purely conceptual in nature but based on the type of ‘transaction based’ visibility requests I had observed from numerous customer meetings that I have attended over the years.

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This mobile project was a great success for this particular company and it has significantly helped to increase customer satisfaction levels. If you would like to see my full presentation from ECR, then you can access via the SlideShare link below.

Mark Morley

As Director, Strategic Product Marketing for Business Network, Mark leads the product marketing efforts for B2B Managed Services, drives industry and regional alignment with overall Business Network product strategy and looks at how new disruptive technologies will impact future supply chains. Mark also has over 23 years industry experience across the discrete manufacturing sector.

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