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Mark Fralick

Fralick on WMS


Mark Fralick is president of GetUsROI, a WMS and supply chain execution consulting and solutions company.

He is a well recognized expert on WMS, Service Oriented Architectures (SOA), material handling systems integration, and other technologies. Prior to founding GetUsRoi, Fralick was Vice President of Architecture for RedPrairie (now JDA). He is co-founder of Software Architects International, a successful Warehouse Management System (WMS) provider subsequently purchased by RedPrairie.

Nov. 20, 2017

Supply Chain Comment: The Dated Model of WMS Maintenance Fees

Pondering ROI of WMS software maintenance
 (or paying a lot to be "Skating to where the puck has been")

Well, it's that time of the year. Leaves are rustling, football and hockey are back, and now logistics professionals are expecting their least favorite interaction with their WMS vendor: the maintenance bill. For the WMS vendors it is a great time, as nothing quite rivals the sheer profit pulled in from the support & maintenance bundle.

Look, I do not begrudge the WMS vendors support and maintenance fees. It is a relic of an antiquated way of doing business (license + maintenance vs subscription), but it does allow you the ability to get support and updates for your software. Fine, that might be important for some portion, or even many, of their customers. The major problem is the inflexibility of the maintenance/support combo and what you actually get for your money.

Watson Says...

No wonder the release notes for some of these new WMS versions looks like a patch-work of fragmented ideas rather than a strategic move forward..

What do you say?

Click here to send us your comments

Even if you never call their support group (hint: people have successfully negotiated support out of their arrangement) - you say to yourself "Okay, but at least I get upgrades and that is worth it, right?"

Not so fast, let's look more closely at that. These days, nearly all the WMS vendors fund a lot of their product enhancements via Customer Funded Development (CFD). In other words, someone is paying for their enhancements to get shoved into the standard product.

This means, for most customers, unless you are really well-aligned to some big company, whose license fees were great enough to impact the build schedule, you will likely be disappointed in up-coming features. If you are asking, isn't that "double-dipping" because you are paying maintenance (for new features) but most of the enhancements are funded - you'd be asking a good question.

But that's really not the biggest problem with all of this.

You see, CFD is pretty much the opposite of "skating to where the puck will be" as Wayne Gretzky is quoted as saying. Meaning it is typically not innovation, but more about customer-specific modifications that are getting squeezed into the next release. So, it's more like "Skating to someone else's opinion of where the puck has been for the past couple years in their previous WMS."

No wonder the release notes for some of these new versions looks like a patch-work of fragmented ideas rather than a strategic move forward.

Frustrated? You are not alone. We've been frustrated watching it.

Part of their Innovation Drought stems from views inside the big WMS companies characterized by a conversation I once had with one of their product managers. He said, "It's a WMS - there isn't much more to do!"

Well, we beg to differ! Innovation in this space is happening with or without these big WMS vendors. We think WMS vendors should support innovation, no matter where it comes from.

As an example, we're looking at new ways of interacting with the system which better supports the ways the current generation of workers use their mobile devices in real life. This "Intent-based" metaphor allows for better interactions with mobile devices via voice and texts in more precise ways. Text the WMS "Follow order #1232343" and it sends you the current status and all the status updates on that order until you text "Stop #1232343".

So, no, Mr. WMS Product Manager, there actually is a lot of innovation going on out there - and it will change everything.

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