Establishing a Product Selection Framework based on functional and non-functional requirements and budgetary constraints enables the selection of a right-fit Warehouse Management Solution.
Selecting the right enterprise technology product can prove challenging for decision-makers. A part of this complexity stems from the lack of direction and purpose, as well as the complexity of the criteria involved in evaluating products. Add to this the sheer number of options available in the market, and buying teams get overwhelmed with noise.
Our client, almost a century-old household name in the food and beverage space, wanted to purchase a new Warehouse Management Solution (WMS) that would replace the current solution at its warehouses across the United States. They wanted to run a formal RFP process for WMS market leaders, who would then demonstrate their capabilities.
The client engaged Birlasoft as an IT partner that would add business value through the product selection initiative. Birlasoft devised a comprehensive framework to guide the product selection decision and engaged the right stakeholders to evaluate the products based on critical parameters. In addition, Birlasoft teams also conducted due diligence and vendor profile evaluation to ensure the selection of the right-fit product.
This enabled the client to pick the solution that catered to the level of complexity characterizing their warehousing operations. Read the details of this journey below.
Client Requirements
Our client is a renowned leader in the flavor innovation and syrups and sauces space. They wanted to replace the existing Warehouse Management Solution (WMS) with an improved, best-of-breed solution that would be implemented at their new warehouse and other existing facilities.
The client had plans to run a formal RFP process where leading WMS providers would demonstrate their capabilities. However, the client was looking for a partner that could help them streamline their decisions and implementation process, from product evaluation to finalizing scope and articulating the timeframe, migration, implementation, training, and cutover strategy.
For this, they partnered with Birlasoft to help them select the right WMS solution, which would not only address their current requirements, but would also prove fit for their future aspirations to drive higher automation, adopt GenAI use-cases, and deploy Automated Guided Vehicles (AGV).
The Solution
Upon engagement, Birlasoft deployed domain experts in the warehouse management technology space to identify potential products relevant to the client organization. In conjunction, our technology leaders devised a comprehensive product selection framework to establish the evaluation methodology in collaboration with business and technology stakeholders.
Here are the key highlights of the process, from identifying relevant solutions to articulating and pivoting the WMS program.
#1. Identifying relevant WMS solutions for the client
After examining the client’s warehousing operations and key requirements, Birlasoft picked eight WMS vendors to demonstrate their product fitment based on the client’s usage scenarios. Business users and technical teams would then evaluate these solutions based on the key attributes.
#2. Devising a product selection framework for evaluating the products
One of the most crucial aspects in evaluating an enterprise product is understanding which attributes it must be evaluated against and how much weightage these attributes should be given in the decision-making process.
To build the framework, Birlasoft collaborated with the client’s teams to identify their functional and non-functional requirements. Budgets and other key expectations were discussed, including the target state of business processes and security requirements.
Based on these findings, Birlasoft built a framework that brings the voice of business users into the product selection process. Product functionality, assessed by business users, was attributed maximum weightage. This was followed by technology considerations, vendor profile and automation, respectively. Usability, financial visibility, vendor history, TCO, and product roadmap are some other attributes included in the framework.
#3. Narrowing the solutions based on the product selection framework
Once the framework was devised, the eight identified vendors were invited to demonstrate their product fitment for the client’s usage scenarios. The relevant stakeholders were asked to rate the products based on the attributes that impacted them.
Through this exercise, the top four WMS solutions were selected and these vendors were engaged to present their proof of concepts (PoCs) and demos. Birlasoft articulated the demo scenarios, and client-specific use cases to the vendors. The evaluation exercise was repeated once again using the product selection framework.
In addition, Birlasoft identified the differentiators of each product to facilitate a more focused decision-making process for selecting the best WMS solution. For instance, one vendor’s standout capabilities were Slotting Optimization, Order Streaming, and Yard Management, whereas another stood out for its Inventory Management, Route Planning, and Warehouse Control System capabilities.
Additionally, Birlasoft flagged vital concerns that could impact the client down the line – like platform compatibility, integration issues, or constraints posed by the support models of each solution. Such attributes were visually codified in the selection process.
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The Impact
Enterprise product selection is usually a months-long process that requires concerted efforts from multiple stakeholders. At the same time, product selection decisions significantly affect the outcome of digitization and modernization programs.
Therefore, the scope of impact of enterprise product selection exercises is highly underestimated. Through this engagement, Birlasoft drove value for the client in the following ways:
  • Enterprise product selection requires multi-party collaboration. Through this engagement, we brought the right stakeholders on board to understand their expectations. These were communicated to the vendors to facilitate PoCs and demos.
  • Warehousing operations are a core competency for F&B businesses, especially of our client's size and scale. Therefore, selecting the right WMS will enhance the competitiveness and operational efficiency of the client’s business model.
  • Enterprise products require thorough assessments, often on peripheral aspects like fitment with their existing technology or the cost of supporting customizations in the long run. With the enterprise product selection framework, Birlasoft systematically addressed each of these issues to select the best-fit product for the client.
In addition, the Birlasoft team also helped the client identify and account for crucial watch-out factors, that can otherwise undermine the success of such initiatives:
  • While many products offer support for infrastructure glitches and bugs, the ability to troubleshoot and fix transactional issues (for instance, why a truck is stuck at the warehouse) is also important.
  • Gaining an in-depth understanding of run costs and managed services support costs is essential to measure the overall cost of a solution to a business in the long run.
  • Understanding change management overheads can be challenging if the buying team has not led such projects before. Bringing our insights from other such initiatives, we helped the client scope and weigh these factors into the selection process.
  • Sometimes, multiple ongoing programs can interfere with new product selection. We helped our client align the product selection process with another initiative wherein they were moving to a new physical facility.
Lastly, we also encouraged our client to leverage the product selection initiative as a transformation opportunity, which would help them unleash the true potential of the adopted solution.
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Key Takeaways
There are several insights that technology decision-makers can draw from enterprise product selection decisions. For instance, the scores of each product can change from early impressions to demos and final selection.
Moreover, while the voice of business users is essential, it is not the sole determinant of the best-fit product. In our client's case, one vendor ranked 2nd overall and received the highest scores for functionality but lagged on technical themes and vendor alignment – indicating that a holistic perspective is crucial in such decisions.
Lastly, a targeted framework is important to mitigate the lack of purpose, which typically erodes the outcomes of product selection decisions. With our holistic and targeted product selection framework, Birlasoft enabled the client to pick the ideal solution for its warehousing operations – and this alignment was also observed in Gartner’s Critical Capabilities report.1Birlasoft is now helping the organization roll out the WMS program in a systematic and predictable fashion.
1Gartner® Critical Capabilities for Warehouse Management Systems report, July 2023.