Roy Ananny, Sr. Manager, Transportation Practice
Monday, July 23, 2012
TMS vendors are generally good at communicating what their tools can do. Nevertheless, buyers often struggle to identify several major functions their TMS should do, leading me to believe that some TMS requirements are less obvious.
In most of the TMS selection projects I’ve managed at Chainalytics, the client has come to the table with at least 200 specific terms. Many of them – whether they are related to using dynamic pool point optimization, planning multi-modal movements, or modeling INCO terms – are well understood and generally “visible.” That is, they relate to things that are completely inside the walls of the TMS.
There is another set of requirements though that determines how the TMS will interact with external systems and resources. Given their ability to severely impact expected savings, you should pay close attention to these “hidden” requirements. Here are a few examples based on actual projects:
- Resource location. Understanding available capacity and constraining the load planning accordingly is critical to creating realistic plans. Having the ability to easily collect current vehicle location and daily capacity from external carriers or dedicated providers can require a combination of carrier portals, GPS or Smartphone integration, mobile technology and telephony integration. This is also an area where your requirements will likely change. You need to choose a TMS that can support your current needs and grow accordingly. Ask your TMS vendor to show you their framework for this type of activity – it’s a definite differentiator.
- Implementation resources. Some TMS implementations can go live in a couple of months, but most take much longer. Finding well-qualified implementation consultants and internal staff who not only understand the functionality of a given TMS, but have the business acumen to understand what you’re trying to achieve with the system is critical to the success of the implementation. You should be evaluating the team that can implement the solution as well as the vendor they are associated with. Consider interviewing the key implementation resources prior to selecting a TMS and guarantee their availability as part of the contract.
- Building a network. In 1984, when the phrase “the network is the computer” was coined by John Gage of Sun Microsystems, it was not widely understood. Today, there isn’t much distinction between “computer” and “computer on a network” – our kids already expect that a real computer is by definition connected to the Internet. With the growth of SaaS TMS solutions, the distinction between a TMS and the network of carriers that interact with it is similarly beginning to blur. At one point, implementing a TMS meant on-boarding carriers one by one. Today, there are other less painful alternatives. Many TMS solutions have a built-in carrier network which can be a differentiator for some buyers. Check to see how many of your current carriers your TMS provider can on-board immediately and if their network extends to any of your key suppliers.
These three requirements are by no means the only ones you should take into account. But, let them be a reminder that your TMS should participate in business processes that extend beyond your transportation group and even your enterprise.