Five questions to ask a vendor at your WMS demo

A WMS demo is an interesting dance.  The customer is interested in uncovering as many weaknesses as possible while the vendor’s singular agenda is to emphasize strengths.   

Most vendors are proud of their products, and that pride often translates into overconfidence in the extent of business problems it is capable of solving. Most customers are certain that their business is totally unique, totally different and no software will ever be satisfactory.

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You need to question your vendors persistently at WMS demos.  Don’t let your vendor off the hook until you are confident you understand the total answer to your question.  You can sense if they are holding back or telling you part of the story.  Be creative in how you phrase questions to reduce wiggle room.

Three ground rules

I have three “ground rules” that I recommend you establish for WMS demos:  

1. Do not use a WMS demo to discuss product pricing.  No vendor is going to get down to serious negotiation in front of a large group at a demo. You might get the right number of zeros in the prices, but that is about it.

2. Make the vendor operate the demo from the operational software on a physical computer (not a slide presentation).  Canned presentations give the vendor complete control of the presentation, and important features can be presented that are later explained as “conceptual” (a polite euphemism for “imaginary”).  In a good demo, you can veer off in any direction, and the vendor can respond.

3. If possible, have the vendor use your own real (cleansed if necessary) business data.  It is always easier to understand new concepts in a familiar language than it is dealing in “widgets”.   

Five questions

Five areas you should probe deeply at a WMS demo are:

1. What phases of support are offered? The implementation plan and requirements, help lines, bug fixes, hours support is open, post go-live support, and training support.   Be sensitive to phrases that indicate support will cost additional money

2. How will the system accommodate data input requirements?  Can you write your own reports?  What information is available?  If it is a dashboard, is it the dashboard you want?  Will there be a loss of historical information? 

3. Can the WMS integrate with our other systems/databases?   Also, understand how well it operates as a standalone system.  Are there special requirements for the order entry system?   Are there infrastructure costs for hardware or interfaces? What are the financial links?  Who is responsible for maintaining what? 

4. How many of the features critical to my business does this software have?  If any are weak, why are they weak?   If they appear strong, what is it that makes them strong? 

5. Will anything be changed prior to implementation?  Where have other customers found a need to customize? How often are upgrades planned?  What are the major features currently in development? 

Demos are supposed to be the test drive.  Make it count. Run whatever you hear through the filter of your own business experience.  Trust but verify.

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Shane Starr

About the author…

Shane Starr is a former ERP project manager, with business experience in manufacturing management, supply chain, finance, and strategic planning.

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Shane Starr

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