How to Avoid Painful Tech-Integrations: 3 Things to Look Out For
To successfully reap the benefits of digitization, brokerages must ensure that their employees can adopt the technology quickly to rapidly benefit from it. That way, your brokerage can recover the cost of your investment, and capitalize on new opportunities that may not have been available before. However, to adopt a technology solution, you must:
Clarify what you want the technology to help you achieve.
Find and engage the correct 3rd party technology provider who can help you achieve it.
Ensure the 3rd party solution can quickly and seamlessly integrate with your existing technology stack and workflows.
As a quick note, when we refer to 'integration,' we mean the connection between two pieces of software or workflows. Integration can be as simple as combining multiple screens into a single screen, or, a connection to let two or more pieces of software to communicate.
Brokerages suffer when a technology provider does not have a tried-and-true integration process. Technology has advanced significantly in the past 10 years— it is more affordable, accessible, flexible, and easy-to-use. Therefore, the integration process shouldn't be much of a process at all; it should be a straight forward connection to your existing technology stack and workflows.
Contrary to popular belief, you don't need an army to adopt and integrate new technology and software successfully. You also don't need to hire an additional developer to integrate new technology successfully. You simply need to know what traits to look for in order to identify the right technology provider. So, in this post, I share the 3 things you should look for in a 3rd party technology provider so that you can avoid painful, unnecessary integrations.
1: Clearly Defined Expectations
Recently, a friend’s brokerage had to do an Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) integration with their Transport Management System (TMS). They had the choice to integrate EDI using a very reputable industry firm, or a 3rd party technology company that may, or may not, have done EDI integrations before.
The reputable firm had a clearly defined cost and timeline, and they have performed it for almost every brokerage in the country. The other 3rd party technology company was charging by the hour.
Question: which provider would you choose?
3rd party providers should be able to give you a precise fixed cost and time-frame for their services. The exception: they are building something customized for your brokerage. Clear expectations help you minimize your risk and maximize your gain. If you enter negotiations with a 3rd party provider and they can't clearly define expectations to you:
Take a step back.
Ask why specifically there is ambiguity.
Check if that reason is warranted by calling other potential 3rd party providers. Remember: unless they are building a completely customized solution, there should be no reason for ambiguity.
2: Relevant Experience
In my example above I mentioned a reputable industry firm who had performed an EDI integration successfully for almost every brokerage in the country. For this provider, integration was as easy as following a proven process.
As a client, you should be able to ask 3rd party providers for references. It can be as simple as:
Asking the 3rd party provider, "Have you done these types of integrations before?" If they have great! If they haven't, pass on it. You don't want to be the guinea pig.
Asking to be introduced to some people who can testify to their claims.
3: Does Not Intrude Upon Your Existing Tech-Stack and Workflows
3rd party technology solutions should fit into your existing operations without interruption. Providers should give you confidence that they can work with your unique workflows and systems, and handle the entire process for you. My Carrier Packets (MCP) is a good example. MCP is an outsourced carrier compliance company that has direct integrations with all of the major TMS. When a brokerage client signs up, they can onboard their users and use it from day one.
Summing things up
Technology has come a long way in the past 10 years. If you think of something you want optimized or streamlined, there is likely a product or software that will help you achieve it. As a client, you should expect your 3rd party providers to do most, if not all, the integration and set-up work for you. That way, you and your team can focus on building your business and delivering your customers the best experience possible.