If you’re like most, you’re probably toying with the idea of making some New Year’s resolutions for 2016 – to exercise more often, cut down on the Big Macs, stop cursing, whatever. But you don’t need to limit those resolutions to your personal life. How about resolving to improve your company’s transportation management next year?
You might think it’s too late for such an ambitious undertaking at this late date. But you’d be wrong. With a cloud-based transportation management system [TMS], you could be up and running in a matter of months and realizing a return by Easter. Let me lay it out for you.
The secret lies in the Cloud, which has become the great equalizer in supply chain software thanks to its speed, simplicity and savings. It used to be only deep pocketed corporate leviathans could afford sophisticated logistics tools to help them streamline their supply chains. That’s no longer the case with the Cloud now providing small- and medium-sized companies the opportunity to get in the game.
The Cloud has taken the traditional software buying process and turned it upside down. The move away from complicated, on-premise systems to hosted, SaaS-based solutions has made everything from procurement to implementation much more straightforward thanks to:
- Cost – No longer do you need to sell your bosses on the kind of big capital outlay that comes with on-premise solutions. Cloud software is subscription-based and can be funded through operating expenses with little upfront cost.
- Complexity – Cloud-based solutions are largely plug-and-play and hosted off-site. So they don’t require deep involvement from your IT department. In addition, the best solutions are template-based, which makes it easier for employees to learn the ropes and get started.
- Speed/ROI – For the reasons outlined above, implementation times are reduced to just a couple of months. And we all know that the quicker you’re up and running, the sooner you’re saving money. While your competitors grapple with byzantine RFPs for complex on-premise solutions, you can be banking those savings for your next round of supply chain improvements.
A cloud-based TMS solution is inherently scalable, so there’s no reason to worry about outgrowing your system. It easily grows alongside your business.
If you’re serious about buying a transportation management system, it’s imperative you look beyond just features and functionality. While those are certainly important, the heart of a strong TMS solution is its ability to connect with your carriers. With some vendors you’ll have to manually build out your carrier network, which can be difficult and time consuming if you work with more than a handful of carriers. Other vendors offer built-in carrier networks that are already dialed into hundreds, if not thousands, of carriers – with more being added all the time.
So now you can see that a cloud-based TMS is something you can get up and running quickly for your business. Gone are the days when it took 18 months or more to grind through the purchasing process and actually get the software in place, configured and working properly.
But before you rush out there and take the plunge on a new TMS – or any piece of software, for that matter – here are few tips to keep in mind:
- Identify the problems you want to solve today and target those – Don’t get distracted by fancy features that address problems you don’t have. There’s nothing worse than a solution that doesn’t deliver much in the way of immediate benefit.
- Approach the bigger picture incrementally – Find a solution that enables you to make small improvements on a regular basis and build out an overall strategy. You’ll lower your upfront costs and be able to point to your successes when looking to make additional investments.
- Do your homework – If you take a hard look at what your needs are and do your research before you start shopping, it will make it much easier for vendors to focus on how their solution can work for your business. Better planning will lead to quicker buy-in from management and a faster implementation.
- Stay away from disruptive technologies – Let the giant companies with their big IT departments roll the dice on the cutting-edge stuff. You don’t want to find yourself stuck with something unproven and ineffective.
So what are you waiting for? 2016 is almost upon us. If you want your company to take that next step, you should resolve to get out there and kick the tires on a TMS solution and learn how it can streamline your supply chain and make your business more efficient.
As Vice President of Multimodal Transportation Solutions at Kewill, Walt Heil brings over 20 years of experience in supply chain and transportation management operations, sales and sales leadership. Prior to Kewill, Walt led the worldwide commercial efforts for the IBM Sterling TMS solution, providing strategy and executive leadership for IBM’s global supply chain execution portfolio. IBM Sterling TMS was born from IBM’s acquisition of Sterling Commerce in 2010, which had previously acquired Nistevo Corporation in 2006. During his tenure in all three organizations, Walt managed several sales organizations and led Sterling’s supply chain execution strategy for the North American manufacturing market. Walter holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Michigan State University.
Tim Higham says
Walt, the user SHOULD care about the hosting environment and the respective power of the network (including how backups are made, and more importantly, accessed).
It is one thing to have a major elastic network like AWS or RackSpace as the hosting venue for the TMS provider as they are proven networks and can spool up fast if needed. However, if the “cloud” system is hosted in some non-discript data center I would stay away. If the network is down, you are down, no matter how good the TMS is.
So, stick with someone who knows networks as well as TMS systems. They go hand-in-hand if you choose the cloud route.
Dave Paul says
“IBM Sterling TMS was born from IBM’s acquisition of Sterling Commerce in 2006, which had previously acquired Nistevo Corporation in 2000.”
Sterling Commerce was acquired by IBM from AT&T in May 2010. (http://www-03.ibm.com/press/us/en/pressrelease/31742.wss)
Sterling Commerce acquired Nistevo in 2006. (http://www.logisticsit.com/articles/2006/05/31/1978-sterling-commerce-to-acquire)