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Sell-side Supply Chain and the importance of User Experience

Of late, I've been trying to think through the root cause of some of the customer specific expectation mismatches we faced on the web-commerce side in a couple of our accounts. Around two years back, fueled by Sterling Commerce's acquisition of Comergent in the B2B e-commerce space (Order Capture offering, later re-christened into Sterling Commerce MCS or Multi-Channel Selling) and by a few opportunities in ATG Commerce, we at SCM Practice moved into the front-end of sell-side supply chain, both B2B and B2C. Among the most important of all the learning we've had since then have been the important of user experience at this end of the supply chain.

As back-end Supply Chain specialists focusing on OMS, WMS, TMS and further beyond (eg: planning or procurement), we've always focused on core process design, business rules and the "usability" factor thus leaning heavily on function over form. As we move to the front-end of the supply chain via Sterling MCS (B2B domain) and ATG Commerce (B2C), we're being forced to think about the importance of (a) User Experience and (b) End Customers (as in customer's customer, hence the resultant higher panic levels if something goes wrong since the revenue impact to the business is instant).

Doing some reading around this topic, I stumbled upon an interesting blog by R J Owen titled "The Difference between Usability and User Experience" http://www.insideria.com/2010/01/the-difference-between-usabili.html . Though there are obvious overlaps in many cases, the blog tries to distinguish these two facets which together make a great UI-centric application. This is not about choosing one over the other, for successful implementations of such customer-facing applications, both become equally critical, which could also explain the reason why web-apps (B2B or B2C) are a lot more living and dynamic compared to say, back-end fulfillment rules in the supply chain. 

Drawing a parallel from the auto-world, while we need solid, well-crafted engines in cars, the sheer fact that these engines are not in public eye all the time means that they don't need to change every year, unlike the body and exteriors, which would need a face-lift (literally) every year.

Comments

Nice Insight and analogy on User Experience. The User experience is also driven by the Industry vertical which enterprise software caters to. Of late i noticed that Verticals like Consumer Packaged Goods and Fashion where end users work in providing visually appealing and aesthetic products require a far superior user experience in their software. I guess it also depends on the demographics of the people using it. The younger generation and the women demand a much better user experience due to their exposure and taste.

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