Exploring the world of e-commerce…and landing on omni channel strategies

By Bob Raida on

One of the things I enjoy most is visiting e-business users and community in person, learning what is most important to them, and what is trending in the industry.  October was a busy month for us at Foundational, with two conferences, a user group meeting and numerous customer visits, so we had plenty of opportunity to see what is going on outside our office walls.  This is always a treat, and especially important to Foundational as we build upon our technology roadmap.

We walked away from October with a handful of key insights to where the world of e-business is headed.  None of these are a big surprise, but some are important enough to warrant discussion.  First, at the Metalware user conference in South Carolina, new mobile technologies were a hot topic, enabling steel processors to service their customers more effectively with on demand delivery data.  At the NEECOM Conference in Boston, omni channel e-business garnered most of the spotlight, with discussions centered around how business to business e-commerce will need to evolve as changing consumer behavior & expectations result in changing demands on the supply chain.  During several customer visits much of the conversation was about how to continue to gain ground on that last part of the supply chain that cannot or will not participate in traditional EDI, but generate a large volume of activity.

Over the past twenty years I’ve seen plenty of technology breakthroughs that promised to change EDI or replace EDI, many of them focused on that last insight, the ever elusive last mile of the supply chain.  This is, and will continue to be important, but looking forward I think most exciting and revolutionary trend in e-business is omni-channel.  There’s no shortage of buzz in the industry (and other industries) on this topic, but this time I don’t think we can overstate the impact because real change is being driven by the consumer, not corporate initiatives (although corporate initiatives are and will continue to be put in place to keep up with changing consumer behaviors).

The next twenty years in e-business promise to be much more disruptive (and fun!) than the last twenty.  I’m excited to see (and contribute to) how EDI will adapt and participate in omni channel strategies.  Imagine a scenario where a consumer walks into a store and wishes to purchase something that is out of stock.   Current options are limited – buy it somewhere else, don’t buy it, or order it online.  What if the retailer had real time insight to the supply chain’s available inventory, pricing, and delivery capabilities?  The retailer could, while the customer waits, place an order for the customer from the most capable & cost effective supplier and have the product delivered to the customer’s door.  This is hard to achieve with traditional EDI because the data transmissions typically not real time, and the data is more transactional than collaborative.  However, the EDI provider has the advantage of built in relationships with the supply chain.  If the EDI provider can take advantage of modern API’s and web services, in conjunction with existing EDI infrastructure and data models, then we have the foundation for a powerful platform that will be right in line with where the world of e-business needs to be in order to play a part in the changing supply chain landscape.  Now that’s an exciting vision for the future and the perfect core of a technology roadmap.  Stay tuned…

What would you like to do with e-business?