30% Delayed? Airlines Would Love WMS’s Track Record.

Jan. 7, 2013

Statistics used to be tools for managers. Today they’re weapons for marketers. Fifty percent of U.S. marriages end in divorce. A third of the population is obese. Fourteen percent are functionally illiterate. These are great numbers for use by divorce lawyers, personal trainers and the folks who sell vocabulary builder programs. They’re used so much they become part of our conventional wisdom. But lately I’ve seen too many reports that have debunked pieces of conventional wisdom as fallacies or at least exaggerations.

You’re overweight? Don’t worry. A new report now says heavier people live longer than thin people.

So with that in mind, when I was reviewing an article on WMS usage submitted for consideration in our upcoming January issue, this sentence screamed out for attention:

“Despite the importance of WMS, approximately 30 percent of installs fall behind schedule and fail to be ready for operation at go-live.  When delayed, WMS installs typically hang-up from three to twelve months before becoming fully operational”

The author didn’t cite a source, so I e-mailed him and asked for it. He happened to be a consultant who had been involved in more than 80 such projects, and he based his claim on what he’s seen and heard in the field. But to satisfy my curiosity and to justify his statement, he ran it by Dwight Klappich, a WMS market analyst at Gartner Research. He said 30% is about right.

“I would agree with the statement based on my talking to customers,” he said. “I would say that the cause is 50% on the customer’s side and 50% on the vendor’s side, so that 30% rate is not that high in the grand scheme of things—which also says that 70% of the projects are on time.”

In fact when you read the list of the most common causes for project delays that Klappich provided along with his answer, that 70% on-time number seems even more unbelievable. They include:

· Unrealistic or overly optimistic initial implementation schedule (“What should have been planned as a year was planned for 6 months,” he said.);

· Customer unready/unprepared to undertake implementation at the start (Klappich said he found that customer ERP data quality issues frequently delay WMS implementation because the project gets put on hold while the customer fixes those issues.);

· Customer building a new warehouse and delays on that project affect the WMS project;

· Customer doesn’t have strong management leadership and things like customization explode due to lack of governance and control;

· Customer unwilling to adapt processes to base system leading to higher than needed/anticipated customization;

· Change management issues in the warehouse;

· 3rd party systems integrators unable to effectively manage a WMS;

· Vendor staffs the projects with junior people or under staffs the project;

· Vendor has consulting resource constraints;

· Vendor implementation process too dependent on the skill and expertise of a person and not detailed or specific enough;

· Vendor under scoped the project either intentionally or in error;

· Problems with customizations (bugs, poor code quality, doesn’t do what customer wanted, etc.);

· Last and probably least often a cause, product feature/function problems (bugs).

So when you read that article in our January issue and come across that 30% figure, now you’ll know the rest of the story. Let me know if you can relate to any of the above WMS challenges—or if you have a few of your own to add. Maybe we can raise that on-time rate a couple of percentage points.

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