Top 4 reasons warehouse management system projects fail

Over the last 10 years, I have involved in about 1,000 projects with companies putting in a warehouse management system. Their main aim is to help them know exactly what products they have and where they are located. Other benefits will also be considered, but this is the big one for companies putting a system in for the first time.

During these projects, I have seen a few go badly. In other words, they failed, ran massively over budget or simply did not meet initial objectives. Why?

1. When the end user was searching for suppliers, they often chose one that was a generalist in the area of barcode systems. A warehouse management systems is a specialist subject that requires people who intimately understand the processes within a warehouse, preferably having worked in one or having installed in many over the years.

Meet existing Clients of potential suppliers and go for the ones with the best support - the ones who treat your problems like an emergency. Only existing Clients can tell you that.

2. Requirements gathering: from future users of the system is often not detailed enough. Saving money up front will cost you more later. Experienced business analysts can do the requirements capture for a warehouse management system in 2-4 days for a business turning over £10m with 1 location, for example. If it takes a couple of days longer, let it, as this makes the configuration of the software much easier for the developers.

For larger businesses, say up to £100m with a few locations, this can be done in 4-10 days. Spend the time here at all levels, particularly the ones who may reject the system at go-live - the users.

3. Feature creep.

This is when you originally set out to solve 80% of the issues. That was set in stone and determined to bring the quickest return. I see this often, from both the supplier and the end user - they keep coming up with new features as the project progresses.

Again, do the requirements capture in detail to avoid this and then sign off and lock down the project specification. Get the 80% benefit in; then worry about the 20% afterwards.

4. Management buy in.

We often find that if the senior management have not shown real interest in the start, it just makes the project more harder to go from start to finish. What typically happens is the senior management start appearing as the project is showing benefits with accurate reports on information they care about.

At this point, they suddenly become interested and part of the project team! Missing their attention at the start could also lead to project being cancelled half way through - worst case scenario.