Implementing a WMS Reality Check

August 19, 2014 BY Jean-Martin Roux

20140819-WMS whySimply Google ‘WMS implementation stats’ and you will find alarming numbers about the reality of WMS implementations. Too many are delivered behind schedule, over budget and fail to address the problems they set out to solve. If you are considering putting in a WMS be aware the odds of a successful implementation are stacked against you.

Over the past 10 years, I have tasted the entire spectrum of logistics oriented IT implementation. In this blog series, I am going to share the valuable lessons I have learned from both hard won success to bitter sweet failures.

  • Why? If you don’t know what your objective is, you’ll never know where to steer your implementation and won’t know wether you’ve achieve your goal or not. Why are we doing this?
  • What? If you don’t know what you are buying, you can’t possibly make it work. What is a WMS?
  • Who? The largest portion of an implementation's cost is dedicated to professional services. Guess who is driving?
  • How? If you don’t follow a proven recipe, you’ll soon be lost, so will the project. How does this work?
  • When? GO LIVE, what a catchy word. How about a big bang across the entire business or what if we did one warehouse at a time, maybe we should just start with receiving… When will all of this fall into place?

Happy reading! 

Why Are We Doing This?

Step one to avoid scope creep on an IT project

What is the problem we’re trying to solve and how does it define our project charter?  These are the questions you should answer before you begin any IT project.  Otherwise, you’ll fall victim to Scope creep - the commonly used term to define business objectives that fall outside the original project mandate, and that collect on a project like barnacles to a ship.

Here’s an innocent way scope creep once invaded one of the projects I was working on:

Customer: Hey Jean-Martin, we forgot to mention the pumpkin business we do in the fall or the Christmas trees in December?  They don’t pass through the distribution center but we’d like to…..

Jean-Martin: What? Hold on just a minute!…

They begin as innocent “one-offs” but such tiny elements pile up on the to-do list causing both budgets to skyrocket and timelines to drag on to infinity.

IT projects in general, and WMS implementations in particular, have bad track records, with scope creep being one of the main culprits. Avoiding these situations starts before budget approval or project launch. It starts when your team builds a business case and the project’s benefits and outcomes are defined and specified.  These fundamental objectives become the project’s mission.  Your project team must keep its focus on this mission throughout the many phases of a project.

The most dynamic and successful teams I have been a part of made it a point of communicating these objectives to all team members on a regular basis, and they even created catchy project nicknames and motivational phrases to create excitement and awareness across the entire organization.

For example: By May 2011, with our new [WMS], our customers will be able to order their supplies online, get full product traceability and we will be able to turn orders around in 35% less time.

This is a Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely goal (SMART).

I was proud to be part of that team and was clearly focused on the mission. It was impossible for me to think that my mission was anything else, like heading to Pluto in a tin can.

This simple communication strategy allowed everyone to be on the same page with regards to what we were trying to accomplish so we could zero in on how we would get there. Of course, elements will pop up that were not part of your initial scope. To a certain degree, this shows that the project team is not overseeing operational details, which is a good thing. When such challenges arise, however, even before being flagged for review, the project team’s first reaction should be to come back to the project guidelines and identify if an accommodation would fit within the project’s agreed upon objective.

Otherwise, the ability to say NO becomes crucial:

"Listen guys, our pumpkins and trees will have to be handled the same way we do today. Let’s stick to the mission and stay on target to go-live in 2 months."

Do you have any best practice tips on avoiding scope creep that you’d like to share from your WMS implementation experience?

Feel free to drop us a line. We’d love to hear from you.

Stay tuned for the next post in this series.