Managing orders

The Goal

A system to allow the Collectiv Food (CF) operations and commercial team employees to manage companies, products and customer orders.

The Biggest Challenge

Taking an atypical business model, and processes which had been developed organically and were heavily manual, and rationalising into a logical, easy-to-adopt digital workflow.

The Final Product

An internal web application that has become the basis and source of truth, not only for day-to-day operations but also the commercial team at Collectiv Food.

The Key Lessons

Internal tools are often neglected as they are not customer facing, leading to technical and UX debts which can drastically impact performance of individuals and the business as a whole.

When designing for SMEs within your own company, you need to listen even more carefully to hear through someone saying what they think you want to hear.

In a fast-moving start-up environment, people are used to solutionising. Trying, testing, and moving on can mean some legacy tools and information clutter up processes unnecessarily.

Defining the service

Like many start-ups, Collectiv Food has developed their service iteratively and organically over time, responding to the needs of their customers and the requirements of their supply chain. Although they had previously set up an app as a proof of concept, it became clear that this more typical marketplace app wasn’t the ideal solution for their business model.

During an initial discovery phase, I mapped the full journey of CF services and processes. Up until that point all processes were manual, and the team lacked clearly defined rules and methods. There was also a disconnect between different functions with no common source of truth. Without adequate internal tools for managing the procurement or order fulfillment processes the team relied heavily on shared spreadsheets and email.

Service map drawn out on a white board
Service map drawn from interviews with the commercial, operations, procurement and finance teams

Late in 2019 production started on a proprietary Order Management System which would be tailored to the delivery needs and model of the business, allowing CF to scale at pace. After mapping the service flow and data requirements an MVP goal was set:

Produce an internal, integrated system that allows the business to coordinate the entire fulfilment process — from order collection, inventory and delivery visibility to service availability

First feature goals: the tool should be able to create, edit and search

  • Customers and delivery locations
  • Suppliers
  • Products
  • Orders

MVP feature map

Site map for MVP of the Order management System

Designing for internal users

CF’s Operations manager

The person(a) sitting beside you

An interesting and really rewarding aspect of designing products for internal users has been working closely and collaboratively with the users throughout the process. Before COVID 19 and nationwide lockdowns forced us into remote working, I sat beside our primary users everyday.

In this case, I didn’t create abstract personas to keep the user at the centre of the design, but rather kept a focus on my team mates immediate and future needs. For our Operations manager these were simple:

  • Reduce time spent daily on compiling orders for delivery the next day
  • Establish a source of truth for products and orders
  • Design a happy path for order creation, accounting for the many exceptions to the rules

The Order Management System MVP

The MVP achieved our initial feature goals and proved a successful core product for building out new features as needed. To dig deeper into where we took the OMS from here check out these cases:

Order picking in a warehouse
Warehouse management
A laptop is set up at a cafe table orderiing from the CF App
The Collectiv Food Hub
POD container on location
Point of Delivery System