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Blue Yonder ICON offers insight from Walmart, Forrester

Blue Yonder ICON 2022 offered insights from Walmart and Forrester.

The recent Blue Yonder ICON 2022 event featured a close look at Walmart’s workforce management and Forrester’s view of order management systems.

I attended the Blue Yonder ICON 2022 customer conference held May 23-25 in Orlando. Riding the buzz of being back to an in-person event and the news Blue Yonder may be spun off as a public company by parent Panasonic, the event featured a lot of excitement about operational management. Here are two highlights:

Walmart puts the associate first
In a conference session, Rory Graham, senior director of workforce planning for Walmart U.S., discussed how the discount giant manages labor with the interest of the employee at the forefront of its processes.

“You need happy associates,” stated Graham. “We use Blue Yonder workforce management solutions to allocate resources in the right place to deliver the right value. We don’t necessarily save money, but it helps us use money wisely and use people in the right way. People are our most important resource.”

Walmart began globally replacing its workforce management systems back in 2011 at Asda, the U.K. supermarket chain it eventually sold in 2021. The retailer initially implemented workforce management technology from Red Prairie, which was later acquired by JDA Software, which in turn rebranded to Blue Yonder in 2020.

“It’s not an overnight process,” said Graham. He said Walmart has mostly completed its Blue Yonder implementation across the U.S., enabling access to clean operational data.

“Employees have to believe in the hours they are given,” said Graham. As an example, he said with its Blue Yonder system, Walmart can accurately track and forecast how many cases come into each individual store day by day, which it then aligns with how many customers come into each individual store on a daily basis to help optimize staffing hours. In contrast, distribution centers only need to track total volume of cases shipped out every day to accurately forecast their labor needs.

In addition, managing store headcount is more complex during regular business hours, when Walmart determines how many associates are needed in each area of the store in 15-minute blocks. Graham explained that overnight staffing is much simpler, with hours allocated evenly among available employees.

Graham also credited Walmart’s Blue Yonder workforce management system for helping it address staffing issues during the disruptive peak period of COVID-19, when most Walmart stores stayed open.

“We had to look at things like needing to close a store early for deep cleaning,” said Graham. “Frontline workers didn’t get to go home and be remote.”

Forrester – Order management drives customer satisfaction
Emily Pfeiffer, senior analyst, commerce technology, Forrester Research, remotely addressed the crowd to discuss current trends in order management during a morning keynote session. She reviewed Forrester data showing that 69% of surveyed U.S. consumers say it’s important for retailers to show in-store product availability online, while 68% say it’s important to know when items will arrive before placing an online order.

Meanwhile, 30% of surveyed consumers have checked for a product online before purchasing it in a store, and 33% are less likely to go into a store if inventory is not available online.

“Order management systems will become the bridge to successful customer expectations management,” stated Pfeiffer. Perhaps in recognition of this, Forrester data cited by Pfeiffer indicates organizations are moving toward replacing or complementing their order management systems (OMS) with SaaS-based technology.

Close to half (46%) of businesses surveyed by Forrester already have implemented SaaS-based OMS, while 44% plan to replace (29%) or complement (15%) their OMS with SaaS technology within 12 months. Only 8% have no plans for using SaaS in their OMS environment, and 3% don’t know.

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