Navigating Change: The Vital Role of Change Management in a Successful WMS Implementation


Implementing a new warehouse management system (WMS) can be a large monetary, resource and time investment. Often, one of the obstacles to a WMS implementation project is breaking down the barriers to successful change for the end users and key stakeholders. If the impact of the change is not proactively addressed and managed, then there will be serious negative consequences for the success, timeliness and return on investment of the project.

What is change management?

Change management refers to the process of identifying, planning and implementing changes in an organizational structure, processes or technology to improve performance and competitiveness or meet new business needs and challenges. It involves assessing the impact of changes, communicating with stakeholders, minimizing resistance to the change and implementing strategies in a controlled and organized manner to mitigate risks and minimize disruptions while ensuring that the change is adopted and sustained in the long term.

Why should change management be considered alongside a WMS implementation project?

Change management is an essential aspect of any warehouse management system implementation project. Change management is critical in ensuring a smooth transition from the old system or way of doing things to the new one.

WMS implementation projects can bring many organizational changes, including processes, procedures and technology. These changes can affect various stakeholders, including company leadership, IT, warehouse staff, customers and suppliers. It is important to ensure that these stakeholders are aware of the forthcoming changes and understand and accept the changes. They must also receive the necessary training and support to adapt to the new system, which should be reinforced to promote long-term sustainment of the changes.

Effective change management starts with preparing a clear and comprehensive plan for the WMS implementation project. This plan should include the objectives, timeline, budget and resources required to complete the project. It should also identify the key stakeholders and define the communication and training plans to ensure they are fully informed and prepared for the changes. The key stakeholders should also be given a platform to rate their initial perspectives on the changes to help garner key risk areas that can be addressed and managed by the implementation partner.

In addition, change management requires active communication and engagement with the stakeholders throughout the implementation. This includes regular updates on the progress of the project, addressing any concerns or objections and providing additional training and support as needed to help the stakeholders adapt to the new system.

Change management also involves anticipating and managing any potential risks or challenges that may arise during the implementation process. This may include resistance to change from some employees or technical difficulties in integrating the new system with existing systems. Having a plan to address these issues can help minimize their impact and ensure the smooth implementation of the warehouse management system.

Thus, change management is essential to any WMS implementation project. Focusing on implementing change management practices to address the changes that come with a new WMS can be critical in the overall success, engagement and return on investment of the project.

How does change management scale on a WMS project?

No matter the size of the WMS implementation project, some level of change management is required. At the very least, awareness, acceptance and understanding of the change and a training and support plan are paramount in increasing the rate of adoption for the end users and key stakeholders. Informally, active communication between engaged parties and stakeholders on the project is a great way to start championing change management on a project.

As the size of the project increases, whether it be a large number or a large impact of changes or a multiple-site roll-out engagement, it would be strongly recommended to consider a formalized change management partner and approach. A formalized approach has been proven to lessen the amount of risk incurred on a WMS project by being proactive instead of reactive to the impacts of the changes. enVista partners with Prosci, to train associates to become certified change practitioners who have the knowledge and tools to make change management a competitive advantage for your business.

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