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A Guide to a Successful WMS RFP

Successful RFP for a warehouse management systemOver 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.


1 - Perform an upfront business case

2 - Clear business process definition

3 - Define appropriate functionality requirements

4 - Involve your project team in the RFP definition and selection process

5 - Selection criteria


1. Perform an Upfront Business Case 

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:

  1. Why should we buy a new warehouse management software
  2. Did we achieve what we wanted to from our decision to implement a WMS

    Key Tip – Ensure that your post implementation benefit assessment is as stringent and formal as the process that you had to go through to have the project approved in the first place. This will ensure that you can demonstrate real measurable value against the goals your business has set.


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.

4. Involve your Project Team in the RFP Definition and Selection Process

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.

5. Selection Criteria 

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:

  • Investment and approach in R&D – will the vendor’s future product releases be able to add value to my business via their financial input, their product council, their customer and technological inputs and their roadmap?
  • Experience of the Consultants – will the consultants we deal with understand what we are trying to achieve and have they helped other companies achieve similar results.
  • Industry Collaboration – will we have access to similar companies that face the same challenges we face so that we can share experiences and learn from each other, rather than trying to reinvent the wheel.
  • Financial Stability – is my chosen vendor financially stable and does that mean we can rely on them in the long term to focus on delivering the best results possible from the decision we make.
  • Support – what is the support offering and what is important to us? Many companies only require the standard 24*7*365 technical support offering, but if you require on-going product and domain expertise, advice and support then your vendor must be able to offer this.

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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