How To Manage Orders With An Employee Order Website

Jun 17, 2021

Do you manage internal orders for things like marketing materials, operational print (forms, checks, etc.), or company apparel & uniforms? This post details everything you need to think about to build and maintain an employee order website, and why it's the best way to manage orders.

But first, how do you manage orders without a website? 

Maybe you maintain a PDF or Word doc that serves as a catalog of everything available for internal orders. You keep this up-to-date and send it out again every time something changes - a marketing document gets updated, a printed form changes, an item becomes obsolete or discontinued, or new items are added. You cross your fingers and hope that employees throw away their old versions and only order from the current catalog. (They don't.) 

You probably also keep a spreadsheet that tracks everything that can be ordered, and once or twice a month you assemble all of the incoming requests that came in via email, phone, a messaging center on the company intranet, or some combination of the three. Then you spend 3 days in a supply closet pulling and fulfilling all of the orders and checking them against your enormous list, then get in touch with 16 different vendors to replenish your supplies so you can do it all again next month.  

Is that what you signed up for? Does it make you feel excited and fulfilled in your career?

Quit doing things the hard way! 

We’ve seen the manual approach in action, and it's a miserable way to live. One company we work with was using a spreadsheet that was probably 20 feet wide or more! We printed that spreadsheet and taped it up on the wall, and it stretched across two sides of the room and around another corner.  

Ouch. We helped them take their order process online, and it’s been a real game-changer. (Their words, not ours!) 

So how would we build you an employee order website? 

First, we make sure we’re ultra-clear on what needs to be improved about the order process. How are orders being managed now? What isn’t working, and why? We want to understand the entire process so we can spot all the possible improvements, not just the ones that are top-of-mind. 

Next, we outline exactly what we’re going to provide so that everyone involved in the project has clear expectations about what’s going to happen and what information we need in order to complete the work. 

Once we’re all on the same page, the real fun begins. Our order sites are database-driven, meaning all of the information on the site – items, users, orders, even inventory if you're using our warehouse & fulfillment services – stays up-to-date because it all flows to and from the database. That also means that maintaining the database is the first step to every new site and every change. So, we start with the data and proceed from there. 

Steps to build and maintain an employee order website: 

1. Verify and enter accurate information about every item that will be on the site 

  • Vendor(s) 
  • Pricing 
  • Specifications – color, size, paper stock, finishing, packaging, order quantities 
  • Variables – color, size, logo variations, logo placement, contact information 

2. Verify and enter user information 

  • List of all users that will need to use the order site 
  • Email addresses 
  • Shipping locations 
  • Decisions about username & password standards – e.g., will all users be formatted as firstname.lastname, or will their email address be their username? Will their employee number be the password, or will we use another protocol? 
  • Or do you want people to sign themselves up to use the order site, creating their own username and password? If so, will there be multiple locations, and do the users need to choose their location when they register? Are there other restrictions needed? 

3. Set up other important details about the order process 

  • Will all users be able to see and order every item on the site, or are some items restricted by location, title, or some other grouping? 
  • Will user orders be placed immediately, or will a manager oversee and approve or disapprove the orders? 
  • How will users pay for their items? Is the total invoiced to the company? 
  • Does the company provide an allowance amount for apparel?
  • Can employees order more than the allowance amount if they pay for the overage with their own credit cards? 
  • How will orders be shipped and distributed?  Will they go to one central location to be distributed from there? Or will they be shipped to separate locations?  
  • Will any users place orders to be shipped to locations other than their own? Will the locations be from a known list, or do users need to be able to enter new shipping addresses on the fly? 

4. Create and upload product images for each item so users know exactly what they’re ordering 

  • Includes creating any variable options, e.g. different logo choices, logo placements, or color choices on company apparel & uniforms 
  • May include creating variable templates for things like business cards, where the design and layout stay the same but the information is unique to each user, and the artwork is created based on what the user types into the form 

5. Test the new order process

  • Does the login or registration process work as expected?  
  • Do all of the items appear as expected on the site? 
  • Does the add to cart/shipping/checkout process work as expected? 

6. Launch day and ongoing management of the employee order website

  • User training – PDF instruction handouts, walkthrough videos 
  • Ongoing user support – helping people who have forgotten their passwords or are having trouble using the order site 
  • Ongoing site maintenance – adding/removing users as staffing changes happen, removing obsolete items from the site, updating items and images when they change 
  • Fulfill orders when they come in 
  • Refresh inventory when it runs low 
  • Maintain the tech & hosting on the site, including checking that everything still works as expected after updates are pushed out 

There are so many variables to consider!

We’re able to provide this service efficiently because we have an existing platform we’ve been using for years. If you were doing all of this in-house, first you’d have to take a step back and figure out a database solution to maintain your items and track your orders, a hosting platform, a user interface, and how it’s all going to work together on an ongoing basis before you could even start from step 1 above. 

As you can see, creating and maintaining an employee order website is a complex process that takes time to put together and run. It’s our thing, but it doesn’t have to be yours! You can probably think of 1000 better ways to use your time without even trying.  

If you’re still doing any of the manual steps outlined above and you could use an upgrade, let’s talk. We’d love to set your internal order management on a better path and get you out of that supply closet for good. 

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