What Every Supply Chain Organization Needs to Know about SaaS to Make an Informed Decision on Their Next WMS Deployment
As on-premise software deployments give way to the proven economics of deploying on the cloud, another option has surfaced in recent years that is gaining much momentum among supply chain businesses: Software-as-a-Service (SaaS).
More and more companies are choosing SaaS as the way to run their Warehouse Management Systems (WMS), and for good reason. However, to appreciate the advantages, one must first understand the differences between these three viable options, as follows:
- On-premise deployment: You own the hardware and software. You are responsible for maintaining and upgrading it. You control the systems and data internally. Upfront capital costs and ongoing maintenance costs are high and provisioning during peak demand might be a challenge.
- Cloud deployment: You purchase the computing power. The provider then owns, provisions, and maintains the hardware. Your software and data are hosted there, where you pay on a monthly, quarterly, annual, or per-use basis. CapEx is eliminated, while business resiliency and scalability are assured.
- SaaS deployment: SaaS is software delivered over the cloud. Your software is accessible online via a controlled subscription. You own the data, but your provider stores and manages it. SaaS is quick, easy, and efficient to deploy. However, it does not offer the scale or control you get with cloud or on-premise deployments.
A Matter of Priorities
Deciding what deployment model is best for you depends on your business strategy and operating philosophy. Traditionally, WMS installations have been facility-specific. WMS is an execution-based system and governs the way products are shipped from location to location. As a result, many firms are reluctant to relinquish control of their WMS.
Over the past five years, however, SaaS has proven to be quite dependable, especially in terms of performance. Those companies willing to surrender the touch-and-feel of servers find the remote connectivity afforded in a SaaS deployment provides tremendous cost savings in terms of hardware and labor (cloud-based benefits) but also great flexibility across geographies (where internet connectivity is reliable).
It comes down to what you want to invest in. The current trend sees warehouses operating with more automation and fewer people on the floor. As SaaS becomes more popular, IT staff can be reduced or repurposed, lowering overhead while pushing system management responsibilities to a qualified provider.
The Issue of Modifications
As a word of caution, if you do a lot of system modifications, you may want to retain your IT staff. Open Sky Group has found that system modifications raise enough problems to consider a “no modifications” approach as best practice. Here’s why: every time you modify your software, you create unexpected downstream complications that require more workarounds, ultimately leading to systems falling out of warranty or becoming prematurely obsolete. And while modifications are possible in a SaaS environment, the idea that each warehouse or operation is totally unique has become rather quaint.
Modern supply chain software has reached a critical mass where very few operations fall out of a base WMS product norm. Most facilities operate the same way. By keeping your modifications to a minimum, you enhance the continuity of your operations across your operating footprint. Warehouse training becomes more standardized. Expansions become simplified. Cost is lowered. And with a standard product running everything from the cloud, speed-to-market is enhanced. If you’re ever inclined to modify something, first think about how you can approach the change operationally before writing new software code. You will likely save yourself many headaches in the process.
Your Next WMS
Whatever you decide, Open Sky Group can help you install, configure, and deploy your WMS and other systems in a way that suits you. We have been serving the supply chain industry for 15 years and our agile, templated, “no modifications” approach to implementation has served our clients well. Instead of spending nine or more months getting to solution “go-live,” we can turn most projects around in four-to-six months, no matter what deployment option you choose.