A Short Guide to WMS Requirements Gathering

Writing with pen and paper


Few things will relieve a warehouse headache like a new WMS that targets today’s bottlenecks. Unfortunately, you’ve got to do more than just complain loudly to get that system and ensure it’s the right one.

The first part of the process is gathering the actual requirements for a WMS in your space. While there are the normal items like product volumes, warehouse size, shifts and more, we want to focus on gathering requirements for the specific issues causing problems and leading to the new WMS discussion.

Discover ten questions you must ask prospective WMS vendors in this handy cheatsheet.

Here are six steps to help you along the way.

1. Define Your Reason for Change

First and foremost, you’ve got something that’s broken. What is it?

Define it as clearly as possible and what that means for your business. Are orders backing up? Do you not know your inventory so sometimes you run out if you re-ordered incorrectly? Have you grown too much and don’t know how to realign your workflows and the layout of your warehouse, but you’ve heard that there’s magic in a WMS that can help you do this?

Document the reason for your change and share this with your team and management to make sure everyone agrees or gets their say.

2. Review Existing Processes

Now that you’ve got an idea of what’s broken, take a detailed look at the process you currently use. If it’s order fulfillment, start with how you process a new order, how this gets picked and packed, carrier agreements, and final shipment getting out the door. Now, look at how you update inventory counts to adjust for what went out during the day, and when this tells you to reorder.

Track the entire process and see where you have gaps or what you want changed.

3. Quantify Your Reason for Change

Take your gaps or issues list and add numbers to it for each process as well as a forecast, typically for about a month. Look at things like how many orders are incorrect, how long the average delay is, how quickly you want a shipment to get out the door once the new process is in place, and more.

Define issues in a way you can measure against and set goals for what you want the new system to achieve for your biggest problem area.

4. Find Out What More You Want

Now the fun part starts. Look through a thorough list of WMS vendors and start reading about what they offer and what they can do. See what’s standard and what’s possible. As you read, record what you need and what you’d like to have.

Sort these items after a review, not only into “required” and “would like” buckets but also rank them within the lists.

Every group that is involved in your warehouse and fulfillment should have a leader that does this too. Sales, marketing, HR, warehouse teams, and management all have a stake in what’s going on, because the better your warehouse performs, the better all their jobs are. You’ll be surprised how much WMS features like ERP integration can matter and improve overall efficiency.

Discover the eight features your warehouse management system should have to support your retail or wholesale business.

5. Shortlists and Budgets

It’s time to reach out to management and figure out what kind of a budget you can get for this new WMS.

At the same time, start reaching out to vendors to get proposals for the features you need and want. Take these with a grain of salt because they’ll be promising a lot without knowing too much about your business. Look for proposals that include details and cost estimates — the harder the data, the better.

This is a review process to help you see if some of the features you listed during your initial WMS requirements gathering discussions are going to require custom coding to create, or if there was anything you thought of as a “reach” that actually is standard for an operation like yours.

6. See What’s Doable

At this point, you’ve got an extensive list of potential items. Now you need to drill down to a final set of WMS providers via a selection checklist. This gives you a core list of people to choose from and start the negotiation process.

Show them your budget and provide specifics about your features. Ask what’s possible in both your budget and your timeframe. Getting this together will help you verify that you’ve got the right people and the right requirements for your business.