Find an ERP or WMS Vendor to Fit Your Company Culture
When you select a warehouse management system vendor, it should be the start of a long, productive relationship. It’s much easier to have such a relationship when your company’s culture aligns with that of the software provider. Similar thoughts about best business practices will be mutually beneficial.
A warehouse management system (WMS) plays a critical role in your day-to-day operations and you must understand the vendor’s approach to developing and maintaining these solutions. Companies who earn the bulk of their revenue selling ERPs offer a simplified system that has the basic functionality needed in a warehouse and not much more. Minimal R&D is dedicated to this product because it is not central to their business model.
On the other hand, a vendor that focuses on supply chain software is studying and investing in market trends to find out what businesses need today and tomorrow. It dedicates all of its resources to creating a product that will help customers in a variety of industries conquer challenges specific to that line of business. Some vendors have developed adaptable systems that do not put you in a box – they will flex to match the way you work. In addition, these providers have solutions that are built to integrate with a host of different ERP and other systems, providing even more flexibility as your business evolves.
ERP vendors often add on their warehouse module at little or no additional cost, and in the moment that seems like an exceptional deal. But you must look beyond the short-term – though that’s much easier said than done. Think about future obstacles and how your partner will react to those.
Along those lines, remember that a supply chain-focused provider will attempt to build its solutions around the evolution of your market. Warehouse management systems are the primary source of revenue, therefore they are the priority. The same cannot be said of ERP vendors, because ERPs are the primary revenue generator. Supply chain solutions are a side project, so these companies are not as concerned with rebuilding their product roadmap around the “next big thing.”
This is critical to consider if your business has an innovative, dynamic culture that is always looking for a better way to do things. An ERP vendor will typically be slower to adjust, which in turn could prevent you from changing processes that could help your organization build a competitive advantage. You must ask yourself whether this is a company that will facilitate your growth by helping you knock down barriers instead of putting up new ones.
Another factor to consider is the supply chain expertise of the software vendor’s staff. This includes the services, support and product development teams that you will work with regularly over the life of the application. A veteran team will have quick resolutions to common challenges and offer more creative fixes for unique roadblocks. Naturally, you will find more people with supply chain-specific knowledge at a company that specializes in these systems. The ERP vendor may have a couple people with years of experience in supply chain, but a best-of-breed WMS provider will be stocked with such experts.
The bottom line is that you want your company culture to align with that of the software provider because it will lead to a healthy, productive relationship. Dialogue and collaboration is much easier when you see eye-to-eye with the vendor, which will minimize headaches.
To gain a better understanding of what it’s like to work with this vendor, call multiple references who have used the product for at least a few years. Ask those references about their implementation experience, how the provider has handled subsequent issues and how long it took to find a resolution.
The culture fit should be a key part of your evaluation process. If the vendor sells an adaptable WMS and encourages users to manage workflows and handle upgrades themselves, you need to make sure you have the necessary internal resources to make that model succeed. Does your IT team buy into that approach? Does operations see that flexibility as an advantage long-term?
On the other hand, perhaps your CIO is a big believer in one ERP vendor and feels most comfortable working with its solutions. That executive may prefer to work with the vendor – and pay additional services fees – to avoid building out the IT team for a system designed to be managed in-house. Similarly, the operations side might agree to adapt its processes to what is built into an ERP warehouse module instead of creating its own processes.
A few questions to keep in mind when trying to identify a culture fit:
- Does the vendor have strong domain expertise? What is its understanding of the nature of the problem?
- Does their sales and services staff show interest in your unique challenges during the sales process? Are they committed to presenting a solution that matches your specific needs?
- Has the provider dealt with the realities of exceptions on the floor and how to handle them?
- Is there a disparity in size between your company and the ERP vendor that could lead to your not getting the attention you require on an ongoing basis?
- Is the vendor able to adapt the software to match your strategic needs where it makes sense? Or does it claim you should change your business to fit the software?
- Is there a sense of mutual understanding of the domain problem that needs to be solved by the vendor’s product?
- What do the references say about how the vendor conducts itself during the sales cycle, implementation and ongoing maintenance?
Culture fit is just one critical consideration when deciding between a true warehouse management system and an ERP warehouse module. To learn much more about the differences between these two options, read this white paper, The ERP Warehouse Module vs. Best-of-Breed WMS.