Brain Fry and Bobbleheads: “Unified Commerce” is a nightmare to market

Anca takes on HotWax Systems’ “Unified Commerce” – Who will win?

I’ve spent the last 20 minutes looking for some kind of Bobblehead phone app, because I think it would do a good job of describing my current emotional state. A bobbling head is a reasonable metaphor for how it feels to have spent the last month “wrapping my head” – or expanding, more like it – around the concept of “Unified Commerce”. It’s a loaded term!

The core product here at my new workplace is a “unified commerce platform”… Whatever that means!

My trouble isn’t that it’s hard to use. The complexities have been ironed out, the user interface is gorgeous, the workflows are smooth and well designed. There are about 100 people on call — programmers, architects, business analysts, account managers, designers — on four different continents, working around the clock to make the user experience simpler than posting cat pictures on Facebook.

You could become a hermit, build a tent city in your common area with the rest of your exec team, and never have to deal with anyone until there’s a birthday card to sign.

It’s not that it’s set in stone, either. The company line says that we can build any customized feature, as long as we can define the requirements consistently, and I believe it. Early on I watched the team stand up a customized system in 2 weeks! All you need is a small team of specialists, a big pot of coffee, and someone like our COO, Anil, who lives for the challenge.

I can’t complain about it having too many bells and whistles. Every platform is built for the client, so there’s nothing more or less than exactly what the company needs. And if that’s not good enough, there’s role- and user-based permission management to keep the packing station guy from accidentally erasing the vendor list. And if that’s still not enough, you can throw in an approval button wherever you might want one. Or, we can remove one that’s already there if you don’t like it.

It’s not even that the company is too new. It won’t take you a single minute to figure out that HotWax Systems has been around for 20 years, consulting companies from United Airlines and Herman Miller on how to do business online, chose ERPs, and deal with the whole nightmare of integrating a million different software systems licenses, and… Baaaah! Ever had to manually migrate 10 years of orders? I haven’t, and certainly hope I never will! No wonder they ended up making their own platform that ties everything together.

It’s not that they’re too expensive either. Mike keeps saying that HotWax Commerce is “like SAP without the SAP”, but I think it’s more like “SAP without the price tag of SAP.” Everything else is there. Except the huge hourly rate and the redundant consultants you’d expect to show up at the SAP kick-off meeting – no wonder that 30% of all SAP implementations leave users unsatisfied, it’s a wonder they can even keep track of the participants.

Anywho, they use small, focused, dedicated teams here, and they’re the ones in charge of everything from requirements gathering to implementing the systems. Simple as that. They just happen to manage the product development and own the business too, just so you know who to send the check to.

Seriously, though, it’s not that it has unclear benefits of any kind. They’re so obvious that I probably shouldn’t have a job. I don’t know why I’m here, what am I doing here? The second I finish putting together a clear definition of “unified commerce” this thing will blast off like red roses on Valentines Day, or beer hats at the Super Bowl, or flat screen TVs on Black Friday. I’ll be out of a job! Maybe I should hold off on that description…

It’s not that it’s too complex. Yes, it is 10 products in one, I get that, but all this product does is allow you to follow and interact with the complete commerce lifecycle, from ordering raw materials to printing out the UPS shipping label to fulfill your client’s order, and everything in between. You don’t even have to leave the office.

You could become a hermit, build a tent city in your common area with the rest of your exec team, and never have to deal with anyone until there’s a birthday card to sign. Just approve the automatic suggestions for reordering low inventory items, and then play Candy Crush Saga while you’re watching the dashboard for your order manager, inventory levels, income, all of that stuff. Look busy, you know? Maybe fiddle with that product description you’ve been meaning to update (it’s Nordic Skis, not Cross-Country), or finish defining that promotion idea you want to run. And make some tweaks on the B2B website, while you’re at it.

But, I mean, this is what commerce is in real life, isn’t it? It’s not just B2C or B2B, not just Inventory, or just CMS, it’s a bit of everything. All these different aspects of the business rely, by definition, on one another.

You know what? Unified Commerce… I think I’m starting to get this…

Ben Johnson, our Director of Sales has long mastered the notion of unified commerce. Prompt him to give you a call and see what suggestions he might have for the office tent city you’re soon to build. 

DATE: Feb 24, 2017
AUTHOR: Anca Matcovschi
HotWax Commerce, Anca Matcovschi