The last 10 years have been extremely busy for the warehouse management systems marketplace. During that time, packaged WMS providers invested a lot of time and effort in creating sophisticated solutions for the market demand. These solutions focused on a common platform for better efficiencies, reduced total cost of ownership, cutting edge features like put walls, and tightly coupled integration for omni-channel support and intelligent supply chain decisions.
With continuously evolving systems and technology, packaged WMS upkeep and maintenance present numerous challenges. These challenges include lack of quality support from vendors after end of life, outdated hardware that leads to performance limitations, inability to align with enterprise technology and even lack of the right skillset.
The business case for moving from legacy systems to a best of the breed solution presented plenty of opportunities for a return on investment. With very mature warehousing processes and a top of the line warehouse management solution in place for over 5 years, a lot of companies are now exploring the right answer for their future needs.
Future questions that arise:
- When do you start an upgrade exploration?
- What options exist for end of life extension?
- How can I support my future business requests?
- Will my operating systems vendors continue to provide security patches?
- Will I get adequate support from the application vendor during an outage?
- Does the application continue to provide scalability options based on business growth?
Best of the breed solution providers are taking note of the challenges faced by customers and are focusing a lot of energy on ease of implementation for customer WMS upgrades. This focus allows for a better WMS upgrade business case, aligned to supporting business continuity for the customer, with minimal disruptions. However, there are many key parameters that will dictate if a customer qualifies for a lift and shift approach in a WMS upgrade.
Here is a list of things to think about:
- Understand the architectural and technology advancements in the latest vendor package versions to assess the scope of a lift and shift approach
- Focus on the feature set in newer versions that address your current limitations and pain points
- Grasp the economies of scale (Better design, common QA, Training etc.) presented with a one-step upgrade compared to a multi-phase upgrade focused on “as-is” features on better technology, followed by improved features
- As part of a proposed upgrade, ensure your internal teams have adequate opportunity to learn the new system for long term support
- Evaluate the change management and support challenges during the rollout when you just lift and shift upfront and incrementally add new features
- Figure out if better technology alone will create a return on investment by way of faster system processing times and performance
A lift and shift technology WMS upgrade (Hardware & Software) will have a shorter project cycle because it eliminates process design and system configuration. This approach may be very effective if you upgrade a couple of vendor package version levels but can become complex if you need a big leap spanning across several versions.
There is not one right answer but your software vendor is there to help. If required, engage a third-party consultant for an unbiased perspective on the appropriate solution path for your specific need.
Leaning on our experience with WMS process and technology upgrades, our consultants have been able to help customers establish the WMS upgrade path that is right for them.