Choosing a catalog management system (CMS) was never an easy task, but these days, it’s more complicated than ever. The emergence of e-commerce has only heightened the stakes in selecting a CMS. But depending on your needs, the right system should provide order management, fulfillment, shipping manifesting, inventory management, e-commerce integration, call center, customer service, and marketing functions for multiple selling channels.
Increasingly, e-commerce will drive the CMS industry, as the dot-com businesses realize that catalog management systems linked to their Websites are the best way to integrate their call center, fulfillment, inventory management, and marketing systems. E-commerce has also accelerated alliances between software providers to create systems compatible with Web functions; in fact, such alliances have become a necessity for those companies that need to integrate to widely used Website development applications such as MS Site Server and IBM Net.Commerce.
As fulfillment centers become more advanced, CMS vendors will continue to develop products that interface with a wide range of back-end-only warehouse management systems (WMS), rather than aiming new comprehensive products to meet the needs of only the large companies. For instance, many WMS now interface with CMS. Accounting system suites (made up of different accounting function modules) have also become fairly commonplace, while many direct-marketing-oriented systems for preseason purchase planning, comprehensive forecasting, and analysis now interface with CMS.
The following is a directory and “shopping guide” for various CMS vendors and products:
APPLIED SYSTEMS TECHNOLOGY INC. (ASTi)
Fort Smith, AR www.asti-solutions.com
CMS: Direct Marketing Management System (DMMS)
Number of installs: 13
Number of employees: 24
ASTi has successfully interfaced to e-commerce Websites, and we can expect continued enhancement of features. The firm is developing a full-featured point-of-sale system. DMMS tracks and displays demand, sales, inventory, and history by sales channel. ASTi is also adding features to its accounting function and developing a customer-defined bill of materials (a list of the components that make up an item). Users include The Good Catalog Co., National Catalog Co., and Bachrach.
Avon, CT www.avexxis.com
Platform/language/database: UNIX, Win NT/AvGen 4 GL, UniVerse
Number of installs: 21
Number of employees: 16
Avexxis emphasizes customization to accommodate large companies’ specialized needs. This year’s CatMan enhancements are projected to include data warehousing and data-based interactive Web page templates that users can modify to suit their needs. Users include Bloomingdale’s, Macys.com, Vermont Teddy Bear Co., and Geerlings and Wade.
Salt Lake City, UT www.assistintl.com
Number of installs: 40
Number of employees: 90
Cayenta, a total systems provider of end-to-end comprehensive information technology solutions, acquired Assist Cornerstone Technologies in 1999. The Assist CMS integrates to IBM Net.Commerce Web store application. This year, Cayenta expects to develop Web-based address verification, catalog percent-complete forecasting (how inventory status matches against plan), zone picking, seasonal customer addresses, and expanded item search criteria. Users include Dean & DeLuca, Franklin Covey, and Oreck.
Marietta, GA www.colinear.com
CMS: Response for Windows
Platform/language/database: Intel, Compatible Win32/Dataflex, C/Pervasive SQL
Number of installs: 500
Number of employees: 11
Response for Windows is a good system for small companies (those processing fewer than 1,000 orders a day), incorporating Web tools such as MS-IIS, Frontpage, MS Visual Interdev, and DAC WebApp Server. Further Web development is scheduled to include real-time chat, wish lists, express checkout, and XML import/export. The company also plans to add paperless office processes. Users include Cheap Joe’s Art Stuff, Lehman’s Hardware, and EyeWire.
Natick, MA www.commercialware.com
Platform/language/database: AS400/RPG400, Java/DB2
Number of installs: 50+
Number of employees: 100
Mozart is one of the best moderate- to large-scale systems available to catalog and e-commerce businesses. The company stresses an open-systems approach to integrating e-commerce architecture. That means any database tool or report writer can be used to get at the data and move them into other applications. A venture capital company acquired CommercialWare from ASA in 1999, which will provide the company with more resources to expand in multichannel retail commerce. Also in 1999, Computerworld magazine listed CommercialWare among the 100 emerging companies to watch in the development of e-commerce software. Users include Disney, Ritz Camera, Patagonia, and Brooks Brothers.
Miami Lakes, FL www.orderpower.com
CMS: Order Power!
Platform/language/database: AS400/RPG ILE, Net.Data, Java Script/DB2
Number of installs: 90
Number of employees: 35
CSI integrates to IBM Net.Commerce and expects to enhance Web-store functionality this year. Order Power! interfaces with various shipping manifesting systems, including LogisticsPro, Evcor, Tandata, Pitney Bowes, UPS, and Federal Express. The package provides its own accounting system. Users include REI, Price-Costco, USAA, and The Royal Canadian Mint.
Wilder, VT www.datamann.com
CMS: Mail Order Software Plus (MOSP)
Platform/language/database: RS6000, IBM mainframe/AcuCOBOL/no database
Number of installs: 66
Number of employees: 23
E-commerce tools are in development at Datamann, which since 1978 has worked with dozens of moderate-size and large companies. The system interfaces to most major manifesting systems, as well as the ABS accounting system. Projects for this year include customer survey and demographic modules, expanded customer select functions, an inventory transaction log, and drop-ship “on the fly” (in which backorders are fulfilled from the supplier) and consolidated credit card billing.
Totowa, NJ www.dydacomp.com
CMS: Mail Order Manager for Windows (MOM)
Platform/language/database: Windows 95, 98, NT/Visual FoxPro/Visual FoxPro
Number of installs: 4,210
Number of employees: 31
Since its first install in 1986, Dydacomp has established itself as one of the leading companies providing CMS software to small catalog businesses. Its Web programming tools include Microsoft Internet Information Server (MS-IIS), MS Visual Interdev, and Active Server pages. This year’s system development will include gift certificates, perks/points/rewards tracking, pick/pack verification, RFM reporting, and multiwarehouse functionality. Users include The Motley Fool, Xerox, Yankee Candle Co., Ticketmaster, and the New York Mets.
Evanston, IL www.havencorp.com
CMS #1: Mail Order Wizard
Number of installs: 2,700+
CMS #2: Castle
Platform/language/database : Intel PCs/Windows 95, Windows 98/Assembler
Number of installs: 60+
Number of employees: 13
Haven Corp. is a long-term provider of catalog management software to small companies, many of which have installed its Wizard package. Haven’s newest version, Castle, seems to be well received; it interfaces with UPS, Fed Ex, and Airborne shipping manifest systems and its own accounting module. It doesn’t provide e-commerce storefronts or use Web tools, but company officials expect to develop integrated e-commerce and Web-based storefronts, as well as EDI interfaces this year. Users include National Wholesale, McFeely’s, and Lens Direct.
HIGH TOUCH TECHNOLOGIES
St. Petersburg, FL www.hightouch.com
CMS: HighTouch Commerce Order Management
Platform/language/database : UNIX, NT/Oracle/Oracle RDMS
Number of installs: 10
Number of employees: 30
HighTouch Commerce Order Management had its first install in 1997. Its e-commerce function uses the Oracle application server. The CMS interfaces with UPS and FedEx, and its accounting systems include Oracle Financials and PeopleSoft. This year’s projects include integration with the Retek Retail Merchandise system, the NetPerceptions Recommendation Engine, and Oracle 8/Java Real Time application program interface. Users include Rexall Showcase, Tupperware, Littlewoods, and Shop at Home.
Austin, TX www.marketplacesystems.com
CMS: MarketPlace Direct
Platform/language/database: AS400, PC/Lansa 4GL/DB2
Number of installs: 12
Number of employees: 12
MarketPlace Direct integrates to Web development application storefronts and uses the Lansa Web tool. Product enhancements for the current year include e-mail report distribution, e-mail purchase orders, and cartonizing (selecting the appropriate size box for products) with bar codes. Users include The Nature Co., J.C. Penney International, The Discovery Channel, and Smith & Hawken.
MORSE DATA CORP.
Dover, NH www.morsedata.com
CMS: In Order
Platform/language/database: PC, various UNIX platforms/Power
Builder/MS SQL, Informix, Oracle RDMS
Number of installs: 75
Number of employees: 9
In Order integrates with APIs to Yahoo! and MS Site Server; it also interfaces to Tracer, FedEx, UPS, and Tandata. The system uses Solomon Accounting. Enhancements planned for this year include a commissions module. Users include Packaging Services, Metro Fulfillment, and New Readers Press.
Newton, MA www.openorders.com
Platform/language/database: Unix, Windows NT/Power Builder, Java/MS SQL, Sybase, Oracle RDMS
Number of installs: 34
Number of employees: 35
Open uses Java-based XML and APIs for e-commerce. Features slated for development this year include e-commerce storefront expansion, warehouse management system interfaces, and Java-based graphical user interface for point- and-click functionality. Users include John Hancock Financial Services, ADP, and Stew Leonard’s.
Englewood, CO www.pagedigital.com
CMS: Advantage and Advantage Plus
Platform/language/database: RS6000/Metropolis, Oracle, Java/Metropolis
Number of installs: 75
Number of employees: 110
Page Digital’s e-commerce offerings include integration with IBM Net.Commerce, IBM WebSphere and MS Sight Server. Both Advantage packages interface to a WMS, and have their own accounting systems. Product development for this year will include interfaces to financial packages SAP/R3, JD Edward’s One World, and PeopleSoft systems. Users include Lands’ End Corporate Sales, Calyx & Corolla, and Pet Warehouse.
Boulder, CO www.rigden.com
CMS: Advanced Catalog
Platform/language/database: Intel, RISC/PICK Basic/PICK
Number of installs: 55
Number of employees: 12
Rigden’s planned enhancements for this year include Web interfaces, further NT platform functionality, point-of-sale entry screens, and enhanced business-to-business features. Users include Metropolitan Opera Guild, Matchbox Collectibles, and Alaskan Harvest.
CMS: The Controller+
Platform/language/database: various UNIX platforms/COBOL, Visual
Basic, SQL, Access/no database
Number of installs: 139
Number of employees: 84
Controller+ is among the best systems for midsize and large companies because it can handle multiple product lines and distribution channels. Sigma Micro’s e-commerce tools include MS Site Server, IBM Net.Commerce, Scient, and Guidance Solutions. Users include The Gap, ValueVision, Eastbay, Lands’ End International, and Woodcraft Supply.
Delray Beach, FL www.smith-gardner.com
CMS: MailOrder and Cataloging System (MACS)
Platform/language/database: HP3000, HP9000, NT, UNIX/COBOL/Image, OMNIDEX, SQL, Oracle
Number of installs: 280
Number of employees: 390
We consider Smith-Gardner’s MACS to be one of the four best catalog management systems in the industry, along with CommercialWare’s Mozart, Sigma Micro’s Controller+, and Cayenta’s Assist. Smith-Gardner’s Predictive Response is a personalization and recommendation engine aimed at generating product demand from behavioral profiles, purchase history, and rules-based logic. Enhancements planned for this year include data warehousing, computer telephony integration modules, and further development of the Predictive Response On-line Merchandising tool. Users include Nordstrom.com, Micro Warehouse, Hickory Farms, and KBKids.com.
TERNO & ASSOCIATES
Boardman, OH www.terno.com
CMS: Terno Velocity
Platform/language/database: UNIX, Windows NT/UniVerse Basic, Visual Basic, PICK/UniVerse RDBMS
Number of installs: 85
Number of employees: 22
Terno Velocity uses the MS Site Server for e-commerce. We can expect continued development integrating Web applications with back-office processes, as well as further development of forecasting. Users include Balducci’s, Cuddledown of Maine, Faith Mountain Co., and Sensational Beginnings.
Acton, MA www.yantra.com
Platform/language/database: Intel servers, SunSolaris/C++, Visual Basic/Oracle 8, SQL
Number of installs: 10
Number of employees: 140
Yantra began as a WMS developer, but in 1999 it moved toward providing full catalog management functionality. The system interfaces with the Great Plains accounting suite. E-commerce functions are included in the cost of the base system. Users include MotherNature.com, Sciquest, Pet Store.com, and Toysmart.
1. Write out your business needs and your requirements for the system, which will become the basis for your request for proposal (RFP). When you are evaluating systems’ demonstrations and documentation, and the vendors’ responses to your RFP, you can compare them against your list or use these lists to compare vendors.
2. Quantify the relative investment up front so that you don’t waste time with vendors whose systems are beyond your budget. Invite only providers that service businesses comparable in size to yours, and ask them for the names of clients in your merchandise area. Tell vendors your average number of users and transaction sizes.
3. Consider how each system meets your business needs. Choose a system based on features and functions, not on a particular platform. Systems available in a specific platform might not provide all the functions you need.
4. Evaluate how the system will work for your product category and business functions. For example, if you sell apparel, you need a system that has color and size matrices and reporting. Some features, such as functions to accommodate multiple warehouses and house credit plans, may not yet be widely available.
5. Think about your present and future e-commerce needs. Your system’s e-commerce functions should be robust. Understand the vendor’s direction and investment abilities. Will you need chat room functionality? Instant messaging? Make sure that the vendor can offer what you need – not just now but also down the road.
6. Check references. Ask for the vendor’s complete list of clients, and find out which companies are recent installs and which are long-term clients. Invest the time to call lots of them. You should script your questions in advance. For instance, be sure to ask if the vendor finished the install on time and within budget, if the system was fully tested, and if there are any outstanding problems.
7. Spend sufficient time on demonstrations. Walk the vendor through your call center and fulfillment facility in advance of the demo. Make sure that the vendor understands your niche and your business mission. Get report books and other documentation to compare to your list of requirements.
8. Make on-site visits to a prospective vendor’s clients that share your merchandise and business type. While you’re there, see what shortcuts users may have to take with the system, as well as how long it takes to take an order, how many computer screens that requires, and any problems users are having.
9. Consider the vendor’s support services and track record for continual improvement, its user groups, and its toll-free telephone help. Find out how many employees the company has and how many are on tech support, which can give you an idea of support staff availability if you factor it against the total number of clients on support.
10. Scrutinize the boilerplate contract thoroughly. Many are light on warranty and performance guarantees, and you may have to negotiate changes to the standard language. It’s worthwhile investing in expert advice for this. Use consultants and legal counsel who have expertise in intellectual property law.