What Happened to the "Assisted" Part of "Computer Assisted Ordering"?

Thoughts on Merchandising With Alex Achour


When did software companies lose the concept that the most important part of Computer Assisted Ordering was the middle word “assisted”? I have been in this business for 30 years. I have seen the coming of computer assisted ordering grow from nothing. Frankly, computers could not assist when I started. As an ordering engineer (some call us “buyers”), I found computers of little use. I had years of experience, knew my markets, and my customers. To use a Computer Assisted Ordering application meant I had to learn to use something simple… it ASSISTED ME! A computer should (in theory) help me order.


Fast forward these few decades. I see so many companies looking at this age old issue as a re-engineering. The major problem is, we are not hiring from scratch. No company on this planet is going to fire managers with decades of experience and replace them with people who are adept with computer programs… at least no company I want to shop. Most managers know their markets. They are hired because they have some idea of consumer needs. When they order, they do so for a reason, to meet demand and maximize their compensation.


I say this for food, beverage, and pharmacy.


Let’s face it. Some industries, such as fashion, can hire out of college and expect the staff to adjust to how a computer works. They adapt to screens, time requirements, and needs to create a fancy spreadsheet. But what about Grocery, Convenience, and Pharmacy? Those markets require some knowledge of the environment. Does college teach that? No. Experience does.


Experienced managers do not adapt to change well. They are too busy meeting customer needs. And rightly so. They make the money that a corporation needs to survive.


Enter “Computer Assisted Ordering”. What is the most important part of this concept? Repeating my theme, I would say “Assisted”. Yet, I think most software companies view this as “Computer Ordering” and lose site of the actual users (not to mention the assisting concept).


Any tool that will help a merchant to not only keep up with their competition, reduce costs, and MAKE MONEY requires a tool that ASSISTS managers to do their jobs. A true Computer Assisted Ordering tool does not require a store manager or buyer to re-learn their job, to spend time to learn to use the tool, to cost a company talent that cannot adapt, but instead is seamless and easy to understand, enhances talent, and creates measurable ROI. Anything else is disruptive to business and can be very costly.


Think about the calculator. Did that replace math? No. It made doing math easier. Everyone uses a calculator these days. Now think about the Slide rule. Who uses that? That tool required a re-thinking of math. One was a tool. The other a change to practice of what people have done for generations. What is easier to employ?

I am proud to work for a company that delivers such. I would love to talk to you about how to use a tool to ASSIST in ordering.

Alex is a solution specialist with NCR and has over 30 years experience in IT purchasing. Contact Alex today at  alex.achour@ncr.com