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From SCDigest's On-Target E-Magazine

- April 25, 2012 -

Supply Chain News: Getting Scripted Demos Right for Warehouse Management Systems and More

Make it Hard and Throw Some Curves, Long Time Industry Consultant John Pearce Says; Make Sure You Don't Allow Vendors to Get You Off Script


SCDigest Editorial Staff

The use of "scripted demos" for selection of Warehouse Management Systems and other supply chain software has become commonplace, though still far from universal. Nevertheless, many companies fail to get the process quite right when using the scripted demo process.

That according to a panel of WMS experts on a recent Videocast on our Supply Chain Television Channel, notable John Pearce of the StoneCross group, who has more than two decades in the business on both the consulting and WMS software sides of the business. (To view the full Videocast, go to The Real Deal in WMS Selection: Seven Smart Moves to Enhance Your Success in Getting the System and Results that are Right for You).

SCDigest Says:

Gilmore recommended that companies not only do scripts for just functional elements, but how the WMS must be set-up and configured to create the required functionality.
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Scripted demos involve describing real-life functional and process capabilities looked for in the WMS software - usually dozens or even hundreds of these capabilities - that potential vendors must demonstrate in the sequence provided. A team of evaluators from the company and its consultants then grades each of the vendors on each capability, leading to a total score across the entire demo for each vendor candidate.

The idea is take control of the demo process, rather than letting vendors control what is presented, and to do so in a way that ensures all or nearly all of the important functional requirements are presented by moving through the "script."

As just a simple example, a script component might be "Demonstrate the RF receiving process using advanced ship notices and UCC128 labeling at the carton level, including the process for handling any receiving discrepancies such as a carton not found or extra cartons in the shipment."

While the Videocast discussion was focused on WMS selection, the reality is the scripted demo process and recommendations really apply to every area of supply chain software.

While there may also be a general "introductory demo" that happens early in on, the scripted demo usually happens fairly late in the selection process when it is down to just 2-3 vendors.

One key to success, says Pearce, is to "not let the scripted demo become a beauty contest, or let the vendor control how that day flows. You need to control about 90% of the time, maybe allowing the vendor about 10% of the time to show off some bells and whistles that may not be on the script."

Failing to well control this aspect, Pearce says, may mean you don't get the scripts completed, and/or that is becomes hard to rate different vendors because there is too much discrepancy in what they demonstrated.
Pearce also recommends making the script "hard", without worrying too much about the challenges to the vendor, and that the vendor should be forced to use the company's data or conventions wherever possible. For example, he says a few years ago, one company discovered a potential WMS vendor could not handle its extra-long part numbers, a critical requirements that actually might not have been discovered if the vendor had demoed with the standard parts numbers it usually used for demos.

On a similar vein, plan opportunities to "throw vendors a few curves," Pearce said, such as following up a scripted capability with unscripted questions along the lines of "what if we wanted to." He says that can often reveal a lot about the product versus the scripted questions the vendors had time to well prepare for.

Pearce also said too often companies only create scripts for what they need in terms of capabilities right now, and do not include capabilities they expect they might need down the road, leading to troubles in the future.

(Distribution/Materials Handling Story Continues Below )


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He also said that today, with nearly every vendor offering a "suite" of products that might also include labor management, transportation management, visibility and more, it is critical to script the true level of integration of the WMS with those other modules, saying many companies often fail to do this.

SCDigest editor Dan Gilmore noted that the vendor's pre-sale consultants, who are usually the ones that lead the demo, can be very good, and that "this is what they are paid to do, make the vendor look good in these demos. They learn all kinds of tricks in terms of making that happen."


John Pearce of StoneCross Group on the Videocast


Gilmore recommended that companies not only do scripts for just functional elements, but how the WMS must be set-up and configured to create the required functionality, saying that will often expose differences in complexity between products and/or how the functional part of the demo might have been fudged a bit to make it look like the WMS has more functionality than it really does in an area.

Joel Stachowski of Infor, a leading WMS provider, said that too often companies simply don't give vendors enough time to prepare for complex scripts.

Providing adequate time "2 to 3 weeks, isn't just for the benefit of the vendor, it's really to the benefit of the customer," Stachowski said, by giving the vendors enough time to get the demo right and show off their real capabilities.

What would you add for running the scripted demo process right for WMS and more? Let us know your thoughts at the Feedback section below.

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