Last post we covered “The Cloud” and the options as it relates to trucking software (TMS). This next topic we will explore is Technology Integrations. What is the TMS provider’s technology strategy, how do they choose their technology partners, and to what extent do they integrate with those partners.
Transport Topics recent article talked about “Product Integration Among Competitors A Growing Trend in Technology Sector”. Whether it’s drones, artificial intelligence, automation, or 3D printing there is no shortage of cutting-edge technologies being explored in transportation right now. For most LTL carriers integrating with technologies like this isn’t on their immediate radar. Right now, less-than-truckload carriers are focused on building a sustainable, more productive human workforce while also trying to utilize vetted, affordable technologies that will make their businesses more competitive and compliant with regulations (ELD).
With that said, trucking software providers should, without a doubt, have an immediate strategy for how to adapt, integrate and evolve as these types of technologies become mainstream. The technology strategy of a TMS provider is going to dictate the long-term success of each LTL carrier running their solutions. For the purpose of this post, we’re not going to focus on costs or ROI. Some technologies are required and should be thought of as the cost of doing business. So with that said, here are several areas we recommend you focus on:
- What is the TMS provider’s technology strategy, both short and long-term?
- How does the TMS provider select their technology partners?
- Is the combination of their technology strategy and partner selection process going to result in quantity or quality?
- How does the TMS provider support the technology and their integration?
Additional factors to consider are:
- Will conflicts of interest dictate which integrations the trucking software (TMS) provider offers?
- For instance, if the TMS provider owns a technology group in a specific space, will-or-can they build a robust technology integration with a competitor in the same space?
- Does the trucking software provider develop integrations designed for Truckload or LTL?
- These are two very different types of integration. Make sure the solutions will be tailored to your needs, and not just an adapted version of another mode of transportation.
- How comprehensively does the TMS provider build their integrations?
- Is their existing integration robust, and seamlessly incorporated into their trucking software?
If an integration is done effectively, users shouldn’t be aware of the integration. The technology and its tools should become just another feature within the provider’s trucking software package. The most important aspect, however, (beyond how the integration is presented within the trucking software) is how is it used?
4 Levels of Technology Integration
Minimal: Users rarely use the technologies tools to complete tasks.
Occasional: Users infrequently utilize a few of the technologies tools to complete tasks.
Regular: Users utilize a variety of the available tools to complete tasks. The technology is used on a regular basis to achieve a better understanding of data.
Enhanced: The technologies’ tools optimize how user’s complete tasks. It allows users to make smarter decisions with an enhanced level of comprehension.
Enhancing a user’s performance should be the result of each trucking software (TMS) provider’s integration. Technology integrations exist to deliver access that otherwise wouldn’t be available within the trucking software package. These integrations should make both the TMS provider and its carriers more competitive and more productive by providing:
- Access to ‘live’, real-time data, and exchanges
- More efficient methods of collecting, recording and sharing data
- Flexible and customizable ways to analyze data multi-dimensionally
- Optimization of resources, materials, travel and scheduling
- Predict, prevent and/or improve critical business functions
How we interact with technology is evolving at an exponential pace; it’s not science fiction anymore. The Internet of Things (IoT) and driverless trucks are a reality. How each carrier prepares to adapt and incorporate these technologies (especially in LTL) is going to dictate their ability to thrive now and even more so in the future.
If you’re a less-than-truckload carrier that has avoided mainstream TMS packages. Say you’ve designed your own in-house system, what is your technology strategy? Can your information technology (IT) department adapt, integrate, and evolve at the pace of technology? Will you be able to attract and retain the skills needed to integrate upcoming technologies? If the answer to any of these questions is not a confident “yes”, maybe this is the time to consider a TMS provider-partner.
These are extremely exciting times, and everyone should be building a network of partners that are obsessed with innovation and technology if they want to stay competitive.
Next, we will cover – Customer Support: Look for the heroes, avoid the zeros