How User Friendly is your OMS and WMS?

In addition to the ease of training new employees for optimal efficacy with your OMS and WMS, there are many other aspects to evaluate to ensure that you can really get all the benefits that your OMS and WMS claim to offer.

The ability to effectively use an OMS or WMS is predicated on the assumption that your staff will be comfortable with the processes controlled by these critical systems.  There are several key concepts that invariably come up when examining how user friendly an OMS or WMS really is.  These include:
  • Speed of implementation
  • Level of customization available
  • Language options
  • Ease of training
  • Flexibility
  • Customization for individual users
  • Access and restrictions
Let’s look at a few of these more closely…

Speed of Implementation

You don’t want to endure a lengthy implementation. It is costly, disruptive, and confusing. Certainly, you will want to run parallel systems for a brief period of time to confirm system accuracy. But, if the new OMS and WMS are designed well, the conversion should be very fast. Assuming your old screens contained enough data for your requirements and your staff is comfortable with the look and feel of your old system, a new system ought to be configurable to appear sufficiently similar to your old system so that employees are “up and running”on the new system right away.
Implementation ought to be fast and easy. By sharing the data with your OMS and WMS provider in advance, they should be able to configure the new system prior to implementation. The new system should be installed quickly and the up-to-date data imported instantly upon implementation. The key is to have a really good OMS and WMS supplier with extensive implementation and integration experience. A really good OMS and WMS will supply not more than 80% of the functionality you require. The remaining 20% is customized by your OMS and WMS supplier. Anybody who tells you their system will do 100% of your requirements is offering you a system to which you must adapt, rather than a system that adapts to you.
Be very cautious about OMS and WMS suppliers offering a turnkey implementation. Software sales people are notorious for offering functionality that their software developers can’t deliver. There is a lot of truth in the old joke “What is the difference between a software salesman and a used car salesman?  At least the used car salesman knows when he’s lying to you.”
The pre-planning is the most critical phase. Know what you want. Know how you want it to look and feel. Have the implementation planned before the start of the actual implementation. The OMS or WMS supplier that plans to arrive and begin the implementation from an out of the box software package is doing you a disservice. The best partner will come with a sophisticated knowledge of the functionality of their software and will explore how that software can most efficiently be adapted to your operating processes. The planning and conceptualization will succeed in direct relation to the experience of your software / implementation partner. Once the software has been customized to meet your particular needs, it will be ready to plan the implementation. Out of the box solutions are implemented in reverse, with painful results.
Once the customization has been accomplished, the final implementation should be fast and simple.

Level of Customization Available

Similarly, you ought to be very attentive to the level of customization that can be accomplished. This relates not only to y our operating processes, but also to the integrations with the other software platforms in use in your company.
You should be able to describe your operating processes (for a WMS, these would include receiving, putaway, inventory replenishment, picking, shipping, etc.) in step-by-step detail and the WMS you select must be able to automate those processes, rather than requiring you to adapt  your processes to the activities contemplated in an out of the box WMS.

Caution is prudent when considering an automated order management system.

How often are we driven by the projected financial benefits of a new process, only to be disappointed when the anticipated savings fail be realized?
And how often, in retrospect, was that because our rank and file employees never got on board?
The solution may be found, in part, by early involvement of the sales and order entry staff in the decision and evaluation process. If it is possible to have the people with the most hands-on connection with the order management software (OMS) create a list of frustrations and inefficiencies and potential solutions to those challenges, it is possible that the implementation of a new OMS will be received as a cooperative response to their concerns rather than as a top-down initiative driven by financial concerns rather than by sensitivity to the needs of the employees and customers. Clearly, an effective OMS will conform to the existing processes of your company. But, equally clearly, it will change much of the data entry function—hopefully to everyone’s benefit. Benefit doesn’t necessarily equate to enthusiastic acceptance and adoption. People resist change simply because they are unused to new processes and procedures. Change is more readily accepted if the employees feel they have been the architects of that change. Dictatorial mandates for adherence to new procedures breeds resistance and damages morale.  Donâ’t forget that the people most frequently using your OMS are also the people with the most frequent and interdependent relationships with your customers. We have all spoken with a sales, or customer service representative whose attitude screamed “I don’t know why management doesn’t fix this and I know it’s making all of our customers crazy!”
Recognizing this dynamic demonstrates another important consideration when evaluating a new OMS.  The integration with your CRM must support instant access to all the data that a customer service person might need. On-premises systems and cloud-based systems with insufficient horsepower to deliver data instantly will cause frustration for your personnel and your customers. When assessing a new OMS it is imperative to have a thorough and professional evaluation of your data delivery infrastructure. If you do not have employees with the knowledge and experience to evaluate this critical feature, it is imperative to work with a qualified OMS provider who can offer the necessary expertise.

Ease of Training

Assuming you’ve got employee buy-in to the project and the requisite infrastructure to support it, another critical consideration is the training of employees. Look for an OMS that is simple to use and configured to conform to your business processes. An off-the-shelf system may appear to be less expensive, but the contortions required to adapt your business processes to the new system and the retraining required to get your employees up to speed can rapidly wipe out any perceived savings. You should have a goal that a new employee can be trained to function independently in less than two hours. If the training is projected to take longer than that, pick a different system. Remember, this isn’t just a one-time challenge. Every time you get a new person, he or she will have to be trained. This is a challenge you will face for a long, long time. Be clear with your OMS provider that you want a system that is so simple and intuitive that new employee training can be accomplished quickly and easily. Drop down menus, and other controls can help, but you must be careful not to allow those restrictive elements of your OMS to limit the data management. Again, the OMS you choose should conform to your business practices, not the other way around. An OMS that is advertised as a “plug and play” is a bad idea for a business of any significant complexity—now and in the future. Remember, you aren’t acquiring an OMS for your current business level. You are acquiring a tool that will assist you to grow and become more profitable. Roughly speaking, an OMS should have about 80% of the functionality you require and your qualified OMS provider should be able to customize the remaining 20% of the functionality you need to optimize your current and future business processes. This customization—what we at Avectous call “the critical 20%”—should contemplate the ongoing training necessary to make the customized functionality easily accessible to current and future employees. Talk with your OMS provider and ask them for their plan to accomplish this.
It is very important that your OMS provider isn’t just a provider of technology. They should have business process experts on their team. These individuals should be able to look at your business processes and translate them for the technical product developers. It is obvious, but frequently overlooked, that the best programmers in the world are seldom well versed in business processes. Does your OMS team have that depth?

How customizable are the reporting functions of your OMS?

How integratable is the OMS with your CRM, accounting, inventory and other systems? How complete and simple is the data transferability between these modules? Your OMS should be written in the most modern language available to ensure that it will communicate simply and effectively with your other software. Be certain to ask precisely what language was used to create the OMS you are considering. If you do not have the in-house expertise to evaluate the response, retain the services of an outside professional to help you gain certainty that you are working with a modern, flexible OMS.

Can your OMS grow with your business?

What is the expense associated with increased users or increased activity volume? Confirm with your OMS provider what the future cost associated with your software license will be as your company grows.
The bottom line: you can get a cheap, inflexible OMS, but it will cost you in the long run. It will cost you in the opportunity to grow and in employee and customer frustration. Recognize that your orders are the lifeblood of your business and your choice of an OMS is one of the most important decisions you will make. Find an expert in customization and complex implementation. Find the OMS provider that can offer you the critical 20% that gives you a simple, intuitive, yet powerful system that allows for fast, easy training of employees. Work with your OMS provider early in the process to design the system in cooperation with your existing personnel to ensure their enthusiastic adoption of the new system.

We can help.

 

Avectous.