We described what a WMS Implementation team could look like in WMS Implementation Teams – Getting the Right Mix and we hope you got some good ideas. Let’s spend some time today talking about what your team will look like once the implementation is complete. One of the most important aspects to consider after (and during) go-live is how your long-term production sustainment (or support) will be accomplished and what that WMS Implementation Support team might look like.

While there are plenty of different application support models used for enterprise software systems, we are going to share a basic three-tiered model with you that we know works well for WMS Implementation support teams. If you don’t have a plan for your post-go-live WMS Implementation support, you won’t go wrong starting with this simple model and tweaking it over time as your needs change.

The three basic tiers in our recommended model are:

  • Level 3 – Software Vendor(s)
  • Level 2 – Centralized Help Desk
  • Level 1 – Local Support

Think of this as a pyramid. At the base of the model, and appropriately so, is your first line of defense or what we call your Level 1 support. A WMS application has heavy user interaction and we believe the Level 1 support is best done at the local level. Here are some examples of why we think Level 1 support should be staffed locally:

  • Hardware support requiring physical contact – There are several things that need to be done that simply can’t be done over the phone, such as installing and configuring printers, RF devices, network devices, etc. These tasks require physical presence and contact.
  • Understanding the physical layout of the facility and the physical processes – It’s a tremendous asset when your first line of support not only understands the layout of the facility but can also visually observe the processes and how the users are interacting with the system. It is amazing how many support issues are resolved by simply reinforcing some training or showing users the correct way to use the application.
  • Urgency and prioritization – When your first line of support is local, they can better understand which issues are urgent and need to be given priority. For example, if we know there are several frustrated truck drivers in the drivers’ lounge waiting for their paperwork, we know that it might be smart to fix the Bill of Lading printer before looking at why cycle counts are not generating for the third shift operators.
  • Language and time zone – By language, we are not only referring to the spoken language (i.e., English vs. Spanish) but also the corporate and application languages. For example, we have heard the following terms used over the years to describe the exact same business process: Work Order, Shop Order, Discrete Job, Change Over, Kitting, and Light Assembly. Sometimes half the battle is understanding the true issue.

In the middle of our pyramid is what we call the Level 2 support or centralized help desk. We believe Level 2 exists primarily to support Level 1. However, Level 2 support could also cover for Level 1 in the event Level 1 is unavailable (sick, vacation, etc.). In our experience with the kinds of applications, we implement and support, Level 2 support is typically an IT role where the people staffing this help desk have full access to the application and database and a solid grasp of the technologies that are in play. Level 2 support may require experts in server and database administration, in addition to application experts. Often we will place an Open Sky employee at our client’s Level 2 help desk for some time to help train their staff on how to perform the functions needed to be an effective help desk, versus being just a trouble ticket dispatch agent.

At the top of the pyramid is what we call Level 3 or vendor support. Ideally, you are only reaching out to vendor support on a limited basis and only Level 2 staff is reaching out to Level 3. One reason this is successful is because having limited interaction with vendor support will help to streamline the processes. It will also teach Level 1 and 2 staff how to better troubleshoot issues that may arise. For example, many times we have seen warehousemen log trouble tickets directly with vendor support and witness frustration as the warehousemen may not speak the same language (see above) or have the correct skills or access to troubleshoot the issue with the vendor’s support staff. Another challenge with general users or Level 1 contacting the vendor is the same issue often gets reported multiple times which only slows down the resolution of other items.

We chose a pyramid to represent this model as the lower level will be the bulk of your effort and activity, and ideally, effort and activity will diminish as you climb the pyramid. Level 1 is also the foundation of the pyramid as that is where the users interact with the system. The Level 1 support staff should also be knowledgeable about warehouse operations.

We hope you enjoyed our simple model. It works for many companies. Keep in mind that your final implementation of this model might look different and that’s okay. For example, we have seen some organizations split Level 2 into multiple levels of escalation. We have also seen some organizations that have a simple facility combine Levels 1 and 2 because it did not make sense to have a centralized help desk with only one warehouse in their supply chain. We think our approach of having layers for your WMS Implementation Support is sound advice – the critical piece for each company is to eventually take ownership and accountability for the first line of defense (Level 1) for their WMS application.

Need help building the right WMS implementation support team? Contact Open Sky Group today to talk about what might work best for your organization.