If you are surprised to find O+F within the pages of Multichannel Merchant, so were we — until we realized how inevitable the convergence was. As one reader wrote to us, “What took you so long?”
Convergence is, indeed, the operative word in any business today. When O+F was brought into Catalog Age to create Multichannel Merchant, we realized what a natural melding it was of direct marketing and order fulfillment, front-end merchandising and back-end logistics. What we were doing mirrored three major trends apparent in the workplace:
- Convergence of functions
We’ve all heard the cliché that you can’t operate in silos any more, but nowhere is this transformation actually happening more than in the direct commerce business. The guys in the warehouse are no longer hidden in the back kicking boxes; they’re in every part of the company, in manufacturing, in marketing, in the store, in the boardroom. New titles are springing up to reflect what direct-to-customer operations folks do: We now have chief supply chain officers; directors of manufacturing, procurement, logistics, and finance; corporate vice presidents of supply chain management and operations; and those people who seem to like doing it all — vice presidents of global supply chain, manufacturing, logistics, and quality processes.
- Convergence of employees
Not only do people have to manage it all, but they often have to do it all, and not always in the same place or time zone. Long before the term “multichannel” became part of the direct marketing lexicon, distribution center managers were cross-training employees in various areas, so that pickers, for example, could substitute for packers if necessary. This kind of multitasking has now taken on a much broader meaning. With the rapid growth of outsourcing, both domestic and overseas, your employees could be anywhere, performing any combination of a variety of tasks, and still be a vital part of your operation. And to function adequately in a multichannel business, those employees also have to be trained to perform tasks that they would not even have imagined having to do just a few years ago.
- Convergence of technologies
All technologies don’t necessarily come together, but together they move us to the same point: The point where we accept the presence of technology in all aspects of our lives. The consulting firm Forrester Research. propounds the concept of an “X Internet” (extended Internet), or a set of technologies that connect companies’ information systems to physical assets, products, and devices. This may sound like sci-fi, but in reality it’s happening every day — increasingly, applications are doing everything from managing quality to tracking order delivery.
That said, we would like to reassure you that the “old” O+F hasn’t gone away. Within the pages of Multichannel Merchant, and through our other resources such as the weekly O+F Advisor online newsletter and the annual National Conference on Operations and Fulfillment (NCOF), we will continue to bring you the operational strategies and techniques you’ve come to rely on.