Can Cloud TMS Also Mean Enterprise Class?

Cloud TMS, Mercury TMS

In some instances, on-premise systems are being advertised as “enterprise class” – and this can be especially true with on-premise Transportation Management Systems (TMSs). The enterprise class argument is typically used to differentiate these on-premise systems from multi-tenant cloud TMS systems, implying that cloud systems are ultimately of lower value to the logistics provider as a result.

To be clear, there are differences between a TMS delivered on the enterprise’s own servers and one being hosted by a software provider. However, on-premise doesn’t always necessarily mean enterprise class.

Specifically, the presumption that only on-premise systems do the following:
  • Allow for customization
  • Offer control and access to data
  • Enable separate instances of data to represent organizations/divisions
  • Integrate easily with other enterprise systems
  • Permit only deliberate updates

 

While it is true that many cloud systems do not handle these functions, or do not handle them well, there are vendors like MercuryGate that have addressed these limitations within cloud architectures. At MercuryGate, we often find that users of the cloud-based system reap more benefits than on-premise systems. Here are the “enterprise” attributes in detail and how our enterprise cloud TMS solves them.

Customize your solution

Customization is particularly important for TMSs as often these systems and the processes they execute are differentiators to the 3PL, shipper, broker, and freight forwarder businesses they support. On-premise software installations have the ability to be custom coded and hence are customizable. Typically, on-premise customization involves making a branch off the main code base and then managing that code specific to the customer – a sticky and costly solution. At MercuryGate, enterprise TMS in the cloud allows for such customization where it matters, and does so without the cost and lock-in associated with on-premise software by allowing changes to be made without custom coding.

Indeed, the MercuryGate TMS workflow has been separated from the objects such that the user and/or administrator can define their own workflow and processes, GUI, and document formats. In terms of workflow and process, MercuryGate allows changes to be done through dynamic rulesets that externalize the software logic outside of the code. Importantly, this allows you to build highly customized processes without having to custom code or break from release.

Additionally, a programmable front-end allows customers to brand their systems as they wish. This is important to logistics service provider (LSPs) so they can reinforce their value proposition with their own unique brand.

Another area of customization important in the logistics space is allowing for custom documents to be generated. For example, we allow you to imprint documents with the brand of your company when you are issuing an invoice, or define more complex formats for your customers. This is handled by what is called Docmosis. Sophisticated documents can be constructed with tables and layouts, using precise and versatile controls over the data to be displayed.

Where the enterprise TMS in the cloud exceeds on-premise customizations is that in the cloud the operator will not be impacted by upgrade release cycles, thereby simplifying the maintenance of the customizations and configurations.

Gain more control and access to data

In the past, a fundamental disadvantage to a cloud-based solution was that you didn’t have access to your data. MercuryGate Enterprise TMS in the Cloud customers have full and complete ownership of and access to their data. MercuryGate provides access to data in multiple ways. MercuryGate provides highly customizable report writing capabilities, providing access to all objects in the database to create real-time or scheduled reports. Data can also be extracted to an external data warehouse in different formats (xml, csv, excel, EDI, flat files). Customers can schedule these extracts on a self-service basis at any time.

Organizations/divisions representation

On-premise solutions used to be built out to represent different departments and organizations. Traditionally this was hard for cloud vendors because they couldn’t support integration between multi-tenant walls within the system. MercuryGate Enterprise cloud TMS offers a control tower that provides visibility of worldwide shipping across all modes of transportation, all vendors, across all business locations, all departments, down to the user level.

Whether it is a truck, a package, or a particular end-customer it’s important that you are able to track seamlessly across organizations/divisions and across levels. Moreover, you can do this without having to integrate different TMS systems.

The power of the enterprise cloud TMS is the ability to distribute control and for visibility to be global. If you are moving freight in the Middle East, you can manage your own contracts, your own couriers, and people unique to you, but at the same time, have the ability to leverage corporate contracts for the ocean vessels, air travel providers, etc. This means, for example, that an individual in the UK doesn’t have to set up your local agents, but at the same time still have visibility into those agents. Localized control and visibility are key. Again, this is done out of the box.

Integrate easily with other systems

Traditionally, a premise-based system costs much less to integrate with internal applications and with customer applications and processes. MercuryGate TMS has paid specific attention to making smart, secure, open APIs to allow complete integration flexibility. These valuable APIs can be consumed by higher-level software solutions, such as cloud management platforms. This constitutes a fundamental compatibility layer for enterprises, allowing the deployment of consumer software with minimal (and often negligible) integration work.

MercuryGate’s open architecture streamlines the ability to integrate with external systems. MercuryGate has developed re-usable integration modules to interface with commonly available order management (OMS), ERP and accounting packages, warehouse management systems (WMS), and other homegrown systems. Bottom line, MercuryGate TMS is built on a services-oriented architecture that allows for a straightforward integration with all types of systems.

Permits deliberate updates

On premise systems appear to have definitive control regarding when the software is updated. While this is true in some sense, in other ways when it comes to updates on security and other critical functions, the ability to not upgrade software is actually somewhat of a red herring. The important aspects to consider are choice, timing, and availability – having the ability to determine when to upgrade your system and features. MercuryGate has architected the system such that all software upgrades are forward compatible by design and all new features are turned off by default. This ensures that customers control the timing and adoption of new features. Customers on dedicated servers can approve and define the specific schedule for promotion to production.

We should acknowledge that MercuryGate offers TMS on-premise customer installation, dedicated cloud, and shared cloud deployments. Regardless of how we deploy it, our system is fundamentally cloud-based, and it’s important to dispel some of the myths and legends that have traditionally taken cloud systems out of the running for enterprise consideration. As many industry analysts have reported recently, cloud-based systems are making TMS a viable option for companies of all sizes. And with MercuryGate’s solutions, we provide the proven benefits of a cloud TMS together with the power of an enterprise solution – no matter what the size of your company.