Upgrading a warehouse management mystem at a leading retailer

Grayce Analyst, Callum Naylor shares his learnings from working across four different change roles at a leading retailer.

I’ve been with Grayce for two years now. Recently, I was promoted to Lead Analyst following a successful appraisal which marked my transition into the third year of the Grayce Development Programme.

The project

I started at my client in October 2018 on a 2-year End to End Warehouse Management System (WMS) upgrade in a PMO role.

The assignment was crucial so that my client’s warehouse could operate successfully. Without the upgrade project, their WMS would have become obsolete and unsupported. It also meant my client could remain relevant and competitive in the market.

My project focus was the delivery of the base Manhattan 2018 WMS with a number of modifications tailored to my client’s operational requirements. As part of this project, we were able to reduce the number of modifications within the WMS from 40 to 28, meaning my client now has less reliance on this customised code, which can be costly.

A traditional waterfall methodology was used, with the alteration of overlapping the design, build and test phases to be more agile in response to a constrained timeline. The project was completed to budget, despite COVID-19 impacts on schedules.

Efficiency driven trends

Two of the main innovation trends throughout the logistics industry are cloud computing and automation.

With the WMS Upgrade we delivered, one of the key changes was the proposed move from an on-premises system to an on-cloud one. This means that all data would be stored in a cloud database, instead of locally. Using the cloud provides great cost benefits and drives efficiency when a change is being deployed into the system. I was lucky enough to witness this move and manage code deployments into the new WMS, which was a great learning curve.

Additionally, although my client’s warehouses were not fully automated, some aspects were. The packing bench systems that conveyor products through the warehouse and the hanging garment system that carries hanging products through the warehouse, are two examples. Automation provides great efficiency benefits and is something my client will look at increasing for future transformation projects.

Role evolution

Despite starting in a PMO role, throughout the project I worked in various other roles, such as project management, business analysis and IT support.

In March, the announcement of a national lockdown had an adverse effect on both my client’s operations and the WMS upgrade project. Based on my performance, I was then given the opportunity to move into a more high-profile role.

Initially, I was leading Business Confidence testing on the day of cutover, which means ensuring scripts were executed per the plan and providing updates to executives on progress. I then moved on to Implementation and Transition, Environment Management and Project Management roles for the remainder of the project.

My responsibilities across these four roles varied quite substantially and working across four roles at once was quite challenging at first. However, I created a WILO (Week In the Life Of) to map my routine activities and cut out waste. This kept me efficient and allowed me to better respond to and manage ad hoc activities.

A holistic view

Project Managers can tend to have blinders on for their project only because this is what they feel they are ultimately judged on in terms of success. However, it is important to be aware of projects or changes going around you and successfully manage interproject dependencies. This will help better meet client expectations and drive a positive perception of your ability to project manage. Since learning this, I have been reaching out to other projects to ensure there were no conflicts between our changes which has driven better planning management and overall satisfaction.

Looking to the future

In the future, I’d like to go into a role as a Consultant Project or Programme Manager. The various roles that I’ve worked in will provide a good foundation for my next role. I'd say the defining factor that will allow me to succeed elsewhere is the exposure I've had to a multitude of different stakeholders and suppliers. I have been able to observe different management styles and techniques first-hand. 

Why Grayce

My client uses Grayce Analysts because they believe in what we can do and have seen this first-hand; Analysts demonstrate our culture and values across all clients.

What I value most about Grayce is the opportunity to work at such high-profile companies in important roles. Throughout my time at Grayce, I’ve always had the opportunity to continue my learning and development.

Find out more about how Grayce supports leading organisations nationwide

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