‘Freight Tech’ Fit-Out: 3 Critical Steps to Successful Integration
Updated: Aug 23, 2019
Signing a contract with a technology vendor does not guarantee you will be able to realize the benefits of the technology quickly. It is not as simple as signing a contract with a vendor, saying, “Let’s get started!”
When adopting anything new— people, technologies, processes— companies must understand how to integrate those changes into their existing operations. They also need an implementation team (which includes vendor representatives) to instruct, guide, and advise your organization as the new technology is rolled out. If not, your brokerage could:
Be stuck with a solution that simply doesn’t work.
Discover a great solution you need but can’t use.
No surprise, there are warranted levels of apprehension about technology vendors in the freight brokerage industry.
In previous posts, we encouraged brokerages not to get distracted by all the hype around the technology. Though it is necessary to leverage emerging technologies to improve your key business metrics, it is just as essential to approach technology strategically. Furthermore, we discussed foundational elements you must have in place, and practical strategies for ‘rapid adoption’ so you can improve productivity, profitability, and competitiveness.
In this post, we discuss some common pitfalls to integrating new technology successfully and how to avoid them.
3 Critical Steps to Successful Integration
1: Identify and Engage the Technology Lead in Your Company
The first step to benefiting from a technology solution is to have quality data to work with. A lot of this data sits on your Transport Management System (TMS). However, you must ask yourself these questions: 1) How do you quickly capture, validate, and present that data? 2) Who is the best person to help you get that data?
You need to find somebody in the company to be in charge of implementation and give that person a clearly defined roll-out plan. Now, it might not be clear to you who this person is in your company. However, here is a question you can use to identify them in your organization:
Who on your team knows how to export data from a database?
If someone in your company has done this before, they probably have the capacity to work with your vendor, providing them the data they need. Your ideal technology lead is someone who is organized, data-driven, and if you give them a schedule or milestones— they can achieve them. Ideally, your technology lead has the following capabilities:
Can manage and validate data sets based on a given specification. For example, if you gave them a spreadsheet with 15 defined fields that require filling in, they could fill it in.
Is familiar with your company’s unique operating procedures.
Has experience managing projects and can, therefore, keep the technology integration project on track. They might not be titled with ‘Project Manager,’ but in effect, they will act as a quasi project manager.
What if no one in your company meets the above criteria? Reach out to your technology vendor and ask if they provide that level of support to get you started quickly.
2: Validate Your Data
When you order something online and your package is delivered, it is wise to check the package and see if what you ordered is what you got. Similarly, you want to do the same with any data you collect. Because the quality of your data will determine the quality of the intelligence you can extract from that data.
Validating the data requires a human touch. The process is very manual and technical. For this reason, it is better to find a technology vendor who can work with you to validate your data because they will understand common issues and their causes and how to address those issues. For example, standardizing time zones, equipment types, and carrier information.
The right technology vendor can figure out a way to verify the data on all loads. Once the team (brokerage and vendor) is confident in the data, the next step is to get the data in real-time.
3: Get Data in Real-Time
Most freight brokerages do not store data on a cloud. Instead, their data lives on a physical server in their offices, siloed off in their TMS. Furthermore, they might be paying a lot of money for their physical servers already, so it is simply not economically viable to switch to the cloud immediately.
Because of this, many brokerages stop exploring technology solutions, simply because they couldn’t get the data off their TMS in real-time to send it to their technology vendor. If you have encountered this problem in your brokerage— not to worry. Be sure that your technology vendor can help sync your information between your TMS and their system, whether that is via API or an automated CSV file.
Technology solutions should be flexible enough to work with your unique business and processes, turbo-charging your results, and minimizing disruption to your business throughout the integration period.
Benefitting from the right technology solution does not mean you must drastically change your business operations overnight. If you are in doubt, we always recommend you reach out to vendors, outline your concerns, and be transparent with your needs. Technology might not be your area of expertise, but it should be theirs!