The U.S. Mint’s new order management system under development, to be implemented in 2012, is being constructed under a maximum six-year contract with a British-based vendor, at a price tag as high as $100 million.
The vendor, Venda (www.venda.com), is described as “a cloud-based commerce solutions company that provides a commerce solution known as software-as-a-service (SaaS).”
U.S. Mint officials are hoping the new e-commerce and order management solution system will eliminate order placement problems of the type customers encountered when attempting to place orders Oct. 27 online and by telephone for the 100,000 five-coin 2011 American Eagle 25th Anniversary Silver Coin sets. The sets sold out in less than five hours, with some customers reporting transactions that took hours to complete online and an inability to order by telephone.
Contract support provided by the U.S. Mint’s order fulfillment center — Pitney-Bowes Government Solutions in Plainfield, Ind., southwest of Indianapolis — is to continue.
The U.S. Mint has been operating its current order management system for more than a decade. The system has become increasingly troublesome, especially for customers trying to order limited-edition products on the inaugural day of sales.
The Mint’s online catalog was introduced in 1999 to augment the Mint’s postal and phone sales capabilities. The last major upgrades to the online catalog were made in 2001, with patchwork fixes since then.
With the new order management system, U.S. Mint officials expect customers will also experience better response by telephone, as more customers finding it easier to order online will result in fewer phone transactions, Tom Jurkowsky, director of the U.S. Mint’s Office of Public Affairs, said Nov. 2.
Jurkowsky said cost savings will be realized over the long term as the Mint will not have to maintain and support large hardware and software systems, since the systems will be provided as part of the SaaS cloud solution.
The Venda contract for the SaaS solution includes an implementation year, a three-year base contract performance period, followed by two one-year option performance periods.
Jurkowsky said the vendor’s performance will be reviewed after each contract segment, and can be canceled at any time.
The contract was awarded by the Mint to Venda on Sept. 19, 2011.
According to information released Nov. 2 by Jurkowsky, SaaS represents “ ‘off-the-shelf’ software that will integrate “front-end” functions with “back-end” functions. Currently, for order processing, the United States Mint uses two different systems — the front-end one for the Web-interface or e-commerce site that customers must navigate when ordering products and another, the back-end, to maintain customer data, process orders and manage payments.
“With the SaaS solution, all of these functions will be consolidated onto a unified operating platform,” Jurkowsky said.
Since SaaS solutions are “cloud-based” — delivering the integration of shared resources, software and information provided to computers and other devices over a network — the U.S. Mint will not have to make the large capital investments in hardware and software that normally accompany OMS upgrades.
Mint officials identify benefits that U.S. Mint customers will experience with the new order management system, including:
➤ Reliability and increased capacity for the online catalog. The order management system, as designed, will allow the vendor, who will maintain and upgrade the system’s hardware and software, to regulate capacity based on demand by increasing or decreasing the bandwidth instantly.
➤ Improved customer service through e-communications. While the U.S. Mint currently does not have the ability to answer customer email or chat online through the existing system, the new system will allow direct communication for customers placing orders and who have questions about their order or Mint products.
➤ Ease of use for online ordering and information gathering. The information for online ordering will be consolidated on one site instead of on multiple platforms. Customers will be able to place orders more easily. Information announcing new products will be delivered more quickly and customers will be able to obtain product information faster than they do currently.
Jurkowsky said the new OMS will feature enhancements such as customized Web views, mobile access, enhanced customer profiles, better order tracking information, additional shipping options, enhanced product presentation and information, online ordering business-to-business capability for authorized purchasers and bulk dealers, and new point-of-sale systems. ■