Tell It to Me Straight: What You Should be Asking a Warehouse Management System (WMS) Vendor…Before You Buy
If you’re like me, you sometimes skip over the first few lines of a sales brochure because you know it’s stating the obvious and, well, it’s boring reading. The same is true in the way many supply chain management software vendors answer all your questions with the same marketing-eze and endless feature/function lists. Choosing a WMS is a big deal and getting ambiguous answers only lengthens an already protracted process.
What if you could simplify—and sharpen—your WMS selection by comparing all the potential WMS vendors with a common set of questions? The questions are based on the latest WMS industry themes and can help you view each vendor and their products through the same lens—ultimately helping you determine which is the best fit for your requirements.
10 Questions to ask a WMS vendor…before you buy
1. What level of expertise and experience do you have in my industry?
Does the vendor really know the ins and outs of your industry? Do they “speak your language”?
2. Do you offer a zero-modification implementation WMS?
Be sure to speak with each vendor’s customers about the process of making changes to the WMS and what involvement—and cost—is required by the vendor.
3. Do you offer your WMS in an on-demand/cloud delivery model?
A vendor with a cloud deployment alternative gives you more options with which to build the most effective, low-cost-of-ownership WMS for your needs.
4. What’s the experience of the implementation team we would be working with?
Ask the vendor about tenure of the implementation team and project manager with their WMS and in your industry. Ask each vendor’s customers about their implementation experience and whether the project was completed on-time and on-budget.
5. Does your WMS allow us to make changes to business workflows ourselves or would we need to go back to you [the vendor] to enact these changes?
Many WMS packages may seem like a great value until you estimate the cost of making changes to fit the software to your business processes, and to upgrade the systems regularly. Ask the vendor about how system modifications can be made and the real cost of upgrades.
6. Are you investing R&D in a single WMS or multiple WMS products?
Ask how many WMS platforms are being supported and maintained, and how the vendor’s R&D dollars are invested and divided among their products.
7. Does your WMS go beyond standard reporting to offer business intelligence and enhanced decision making tools?
Ask the vendor if they have tools to turn the hordes of data your WMS is collecting into graphical, easy-to-interpret, actionable information.
8. Will your WMS support our business as our volumes and requirements change, in order to maximize the lifespan of our technology investment?
It’s unreasonable—and ridiculous—for a WMS vendor to claim their system includes all features and workflows your business will ever need. Ask the vendor whether they provide a straightforward upgrade path to advanced WMS capabilities.
9. What’s the upgrade path for your WMS as our business grows or our needs change?
Ask each vendor if upgrading requires additional cost to have configurations brought forward by the vendor. Will the vendor guarantee the cost of upgrades?
10. The average lifespan for a WMS is between 7-10 years. What is the total cost of ownership for your WMS over that time?
Ask each vendor to map out a basic total cost of ownership over the projected lifetime of your WMS, including license fees, initial implementation, upgrades and “change orders”.