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One of the paradoxes of the digital age is that it delivers an abundance of new tools, capabilities and solutions for solving problems and boosting operational efficiency — but that abundance of choices can also bring new layers of complexity and unexpected challenges. 

Case in point: Manufacturers are increasingly making use of digital channels for sales and order fulfillment because of the tremendous benefits they provide. And along with the growth of online sales channels comes an increasing number of third-party providers for fulfillment, shipping, delivery and other steps along the path from manufacturer to customer. 

Orders now originate from many different sources, ranging from physical stores to digital marketplaces and call centers — combined with an ever-increasing array of fulfillment methods. Meanwhile, consumers have come to expect quick, hassle-free shipping and the ability to choose from multiple delivery options, ranging from home delivery to in-store or curbside pickup. 

The lifecycle of an order is more complicated than ever. The journey it follows from intake through fulfillment and delivery may be more like a maze than a straight line. 

Fortunately, intelligent order management systems draw on the power of artificial intelligence and machine learning to manage these complexities. The rewards include the ability to scale more rapidly, bring products to market faster and create happier customers by providing better and faster service.  

Rising to the Challenge with Intelligent Order Management 

Many manufacturers feel that their supply chains aren’t prepared to meet these growing digital commerce needs. One limiting factor has been technology that can handle multiple sales channels. 

That's where Microsoft Dynamics 365 Intelligent Order Management (IOM) steps up. It empowers manufacturers to select the right systems and partners for their needs — and then seamlessly integrate them into a single system. 

In fact, one of the notable virtues of Dynamics 365 Intelligent Order Management is the way it's designed to play well with existing legacy systems to circumvent the need for expensive and time-consuming rip-and-replace initiatives. IOM plays well with enterprise ERP, CRM and ecommerce software, including both Dynamics 365 and non-Dynamics 365 applications. 

How Visibility Powers Agility 

Smart manufacturers are focused on the quest for superior end-to-end supply chain visibility — and intelligent order management is a vital piece of that puzzle. Dynamics 365 Intelligent Order Management gives you one centralized location where you can view all orders — regardless of the order source or how they were fulfilled. It draws on real-time inventory data to provide a unified global view of inventory, throughout the network. 

In fact, IOM is built with an enriched Power BI architecture that includes a set of dashboards to bring you deep and granular up-to-the-minute insights into order and fulfillment data. 

Improving order accuracy is a critical goal for achieving customer happiness. And clearly, there's room for improvement in this department: A survey conducted by Gartner found that only 18% of organizations could report fulfillment rates of 95% or higher. 

One of the best tools that IOM offers to assist with that quest is its order insights dashboard, which provides sophisticated data visualization to give users a convenient, in-depth view of current order fulfillment activity. Users can keep tabs on key performance indicators as well as performance metrics for individual providers, to monitor for issues and drill down to find out more if needed. 

Untangling Fulfillment Complexity 

Another one of IOM's benefits is the way it can help you overcome the complexities of fulfillment — which in turn can result in substantial logistics cost savings for companies who master this step. As McKinsey notes, "since ecommerce fulfillments are significantly more complex, contract logistics can charge around 50% more than for traditional store fulfillment. Therefore, those companies that overcome the complexities stand to gain the most.” 

IOM does this with a rules-based fulfillment optimization system that employs real-time inventory data and the power of AI to optimize order flows. Advanced analytical capabilities help measure fulfillment effectiveness — while drag-and-drop tools allow you to put those insights into action by remodeling the order fulfillment process to lower costs and improve on-time-delivery. 

Making Smart Connections 

Another great feature of Intelligent Order Management is its selection of pre-built partner connectors: easy-to-deploy out-of-the-box solutions that allow you to scale rapidly during peak or heavy order times by drawing on the offerings of ecommerce platforms, delivery partners, fulfillment services and more, to improve operations and act quickly to take advantage of opportunities. Here's a look at some of these: 

Order intake: Two cloud-based partner connectors that allow you to accept orders are Orderful and BigCommerce. Orderful is a cloud-based electronic data interchange (EDI) platform that lets enterprises tap into its network of retailers, carriers, distributors, and third-party logistics, while BigCommerce serves up a robust ecommerce platform powered by the flexibility of open SaaS. 

Shipping: One of IOM's integrations is with ShipStation, a cloud-based ecommerce shipping platform that specializes in creating shipping labels and allows users to unify all their carriers and order sources in one place. Users can automatically import ecommerce orders, send shipping notifications to customers via email, and send shipment details back to the order source.  

Tax compliance: Avalara is cloud-based, automated tax compliance software that calculates sales tax accurately with respect to geographic location and other key criteria, while simplifying processes like tax filing, remittance, and document management. 

Warehousing and logistics: Flexe connects retailers and brands to a worldwide network of distribution and fulfillment centers, transportation, and parcel carriers, providing unified warehouse sourcing while also streamlining material handling operations. 

Want to learn more about how Microsoft tools can simplify your digital sales channel? Reach out to Columbus today. 

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