Over the years I have filled in dozens of RFP’s and then subsequently have been involved in the implementation that follows. One of the outcomes that most frequently occurs during the implementation following an RFP (and I would suggest that this phenomenon is not limited to WMS) is that the actual requirement of the implementation is vastly if not totally different from the requirement prescribed in the RFP.
This often leads to misalignment of expectations, over inflated implementation costs and implementation timelines being missed.
If you are considering embarking on a warehouse management software RFP, below are a 5 key steps, which, if followed, will ensure that you avoid the vast majority of typical mistakes made during the RFP process and that you set a solid foundation for the subsequent implementation.
The reason you are embarking on a WMS selection process is to improve your business’ bottom line, so you should clearly define the business case and the ROI.
This sets clear expectations for the two most important questions:
2. Clear Business Process Definition
Identifying the detail of how and what companies actually require from a WMS, is a task which often sorely misses the mark. This is not because you are expected to be a WMS functional expert, on the contrary, you should be focusing on the specific warehousing and distribution challenges that you are trying to solve.
Whether you are a 10 year WMS veteran or whether this will be your first implementation, clear definition of these challenges and goals is the most important thing. Once your selection team has a clear understanding of the key process challenges these should be used to support your business case and form the foundation of the functionality requirements that you need now and in the future.
Key Tip– Although it’s important to have an overview of all of the functionality of a WMS, the key is to ensure that the WMS and perhaps more importantly the vendor can solve the specific business problems you are facing. Your RFP should require your vendors to demonstrate their ability to solve your challenges via key reference visits and focused functional demonstrations and subject-based interviews.
3. Defining Appropriate Functionality Requirements
The mistake most companies make here is a symptom of not clearly defining what’s actually important to them. The amount of times that we have seen pages and pages of generic functional requirements listed in RFP’s where less than 10% of that functionality is actually relevant during the project design phase is quite astounding. That is not to say that you should not be aware of what the WMS is capable of, but the key is in choosing a WMS and a vendor that can provide you with the functionality and resources that are going to help you deliver on your business case.
Key Tip – Clearly defining your business process challenges should lead you (or you in conjunction with external WMS experts) to ensuring that vendors are challenged to respond specifically on how their WMS will help you achieve your goals.
The vast majority of WMS purchase decisions are made by a company’s senior executives, who then play an executive sponsor type role during the project. Once a vendor has been selected the project is handed over to an internal project team for execution and delivery. The challenge with this process is that if those who are tasked with project delivery are not clearly involved in the definition and selection process, key elements are often miscommunicated or not clearly understood. In addition, most vendors have specific project methodologies on which they base their implementation estimates, these methodologies rely heavily on the customer being well organized and focused on the end goal.
Key Tip – Early and clear definition and alignment of project goals, constraints and timelines across all parties involved (internal and external) is critical to delivering an on time, on budget, value based implementation.
Each company has its own internal corporate governance process that typically mandates who and how external vendor selection processes are judged and approved. If you have performed a thorough analysis and definition of your key problems and vendors can assist you in solving these, these should typically form the majority scoring matrix. You should require concrete proof from the vendor that they can deliver on their promises. In addition, the following are other key scoring criteria:
Key Tip – Put the most emphasis on what is really important in helping you achieve your goals and once you are satisfied that your vendor can deliver, embrace their knowledge and domain expertise and the benefit you will receive will be exponential.
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