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Why software support is essential for WMS success

Post go live you will require operational and system support to iron out any challenges with process, people and systems

Most vendors will provide you with post implementation technical support to ensure you stay on track and minimise the impact on your business 

This article is also helpful if you already have a WMS in place and need to take another look at how it’s supported. But what happens when the technical support or implementation team leave?

Here are six guidelines to follow for Software Support

Build a support team

Having a good team to support your operations after implementation of a software solution is very important. This team of subject matter and system experts will ultimately be your first point of contact, within the organization. Your team will need a way of tracking support requests and keep an issues log for resolving and categorising the various types of requests received. Find a support ticket system that will work for you.
Should you not have internal resources for this, ask your vendor if they can assist with support services.

Maintain your environment

Maintenance of the IT Infrastructure is a big issue for most companies post implementation. Clear roles and responsibilities should be defined for continuous maintenance and monitoring of the various system areas, and related infrastructure such as wireless networks and hardware. Do you have a hosted environment or your own hardware stack? There are different approaches to these options. Get clarity on this and put a proper maintenance schedule in place with proactive monitoring and alerts where possible.

Systems governance is crucial

Having a production system, which your operation relies on for daily processing of inbound and outbound shipments, that is stable and supports the operation is crucial. Ensure that you implement the appropriate governance measures to control changes to configuration. Incident management, problem management and change management should be in place.

Looking for some key metrics to keep track of? Here are the daily health checks that you should monitor in your warehouse. Read more>>

Root cause analysis is key

Short term fixes for an issue that is recurring are not solving the problem. We refer to these as "plasters". Should you identify an issue being experienced in the operation continuously, take time to properly evaluate the problem by doing root cause analysis (RCA). Finding the root cause and solving issues once and for all will result in less support incidents and work stoppages. An RCA investigation will identify bad processes, system configuration or user discipline issues which need to be addressed. Fix it once and for all or  it will come back to bite you later.

Manage by exception

You will want to look at as much data as possible when you have implemented your WMS, but this is a futile exercise. Being overloaded with reports, extracts and manual checks for possible anomalies is unproductive and will rob you of time that can be better spent on important decisions.

Develop  reports and dashboards to identify and highlights exceptions. If 90% of shipments are processed smoothly then you should focus on the 10% that are a problem. Dive into the detail with RCA to resolve the exceptions. Ask your vendor to assist with this if needed.

Partner with your Vendor

Having a good relationship with your WMS provider is important because implementing a WMS solution is a long-term commitment. You should view this relationship as a partnership and include them in your team. Remove the "us and them" from your relationship to build the partnership. Instil the "we are one team" mentality and you will reap the rewards. Ultimately the "team" must be aligned with the business strategy. You should feel comfortable enough to approach your service provider with any questions or requirements you may have to improve your operation and drive efficiency for your business.

Support of a system does not just entail technical support for the issues or problems that you might find. Support should be a lot more to get the most from the software you have implemented. Your vendor can assist you with consulting on best practices, benchmarking your processes, new functionality or requirements, reporting and dashboards etc.

How to implement support services

Support services are best constituted as a three (3) level hierarchy and is best practice for enterprise software systems. If you don’t have this in place already, start out simple and build towards this model over time.

See below representation of support levels and escalation path:

 ITSM_3_level

Level 1 Support 


This should be a local on-site support person within your company's team that is familiar with your internal processes and business. Being on the ground has quite a few advantages such as: 

  • Urgency and prioritization – When your first line of support is local, they can better understand which issues are urgent and need to be given priority.

  • Hardware support requiring physical contact – There are several things that need to be done that simply can’t be done over the phone, such as installing and configuring printers, RF devices, network devices, etc. These tasks require physical presence and contact.

  • Understanding the physical layout of the facility and the physical processes – It’s a tremendous asset when your first line of support not only understands the layout of the facility but can also visually observe the processes and how the users are interacting with the system.


Looking for some advice on how and why you should optimise your warehouse layout? We’ve compiled some helpful tips for you. Read more>>


 This should be the first line of support which records the support request and does the initial investigation. Small issues such as user errors or process failures can be solved at this level. If they can't find the solution it should be escalated to the next level.

** Important to ensure as much detailed information as possible is recorded for further investigation

 Level 2 Support

Level 2 support is the next point of internal investigation and should also be in place to support Level 1. However, Level 2 support could also cover for Level 1 in situations which require them to stand in (sick, vacation, etc.). In our experience with the kinds of software applications we implement and support, Level 2 support is typically an IT role where the people staffing this help desk have administrator access to the application and, if qualified, the database and a solid grasp of the technologies and configuration. Level 2 support may require experts in server and database administration, in addition to application experts. 

In some cases, your vendor will provide a resource on site to assist the Level 2 help desk for some time to help train their staff on how to perform the functions needed to be an effective help desk, versus being just a trouble ticket dispatch agent. Ask your vendor if this option is available for post implementation support or as long as required.

Level 3 Support

Ideally, you are only reaching out to vendor support on a limited basis and only Level 2 staff is the reaching out to Level 3. One reason this is successful is that having limited interaction with vendor support will help to streamline the processes. It will also teach Level 1 and 2 staff how to better troubleshoot issues that may arise. For example, many times we have seen customers log support tickets directly with vendor support and witness frustration as the customer support staff may not have the correct skills or access to troubleshoot the issue with the vendor’s support staff. Another challenge with general users or Level 1 contacting the vendor is the same issue often gets reported multiple times which only slows down the resolution of other items. See root cause analysis above.

Having a support service retainer in place with your vendor is also something to consider. This will ensure you have a planned monthly support budget and resources allocated to you as per your requirements. Having ad-hoc requirements will mean your vendor cannot necessarily meet your expectations for meeting internal deadlines.

 

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