Special Section Mailing & Fulfillment -- Finding the Right Fulfillment Software
3. Front-end capabilities. To be competitive in the fulfillment market, it will be important to provide a fulfillment solution that incorporates a Web-based solution. The FOS should have an order entry module that incorporates a shopping cart for easy order entry by anyone. The capability to assign a password and ID to a specific set of users is necessary to restrict access to certain parts of the inventory.
The order entry module should also have the ability to accept downloads of data files, allow for manual order entry, and allow easy interface to other systems and the client's Website. The graphics capability of the Website needs to be acceptable for most sales collateral applications and have the ability to be modified to look like the client Website, if required. The client users should be able to access the Website and easily retrieve information and construct reports.
4. ASP vs. standalone systems. There are two models available in the market to purchase and install the software capability to run a fulfillment center—standalone and application service provider (ASP).
The most common model implemented is the standalone, which requires the fulfillment center to purchase servers, install networks and provide all the service for the system within their facility. The installation and upkeep of the system is the total responsibility of the user. This gives the user total control over the success of the operation.
The standalone model will require personnel who understand SQL databases and programming, networking, e-mail technology, Web server administration and how to make the client application work in the software. The ASP model utilizes the software provider's system and everything is controlled and maintained by the software provider.
5. Training and support. Thoroughly investigate the training and support provided by the software vendor. It is important to remember that this new business to be incorporated into your existing business is quite different, and you will be crossing over from the manufacturing sector into the service sector of business. Check references and especially talk to printers who have utilized the software and listen intently to their evaluation of the training and support provided by the software vendor. The vendor's ability to react to your needs and to assist when a critical problem is being experienced should be key factors in your decision process.