How To Choose The Right TMS That Fits Your Business

Cloud-based TMS provides tools needed to achieve transportation optimization
If you follow any of the transportation or supply chain publications, blogs, or websites, you’re probably well aware: there are LOTS of transportation management system (TMS) solutions on the market today. Transportation has arguably been viewed as an extremely costly and time-consuming area of the supply chain to manage. Factor in the current capacity crisis, rising freight costs, and growing consumer demands and it becomes even more critical for organizations to have the right technology to help efficiently manage their shipping strategies. And, while more and more organizations recognize that spreadsheets and manual processes just aren’t going to cut it anymore, those organizations are also asking the question: which TMS is the right fit for MY unique requirements?
In the not-so-distant past, a TMS was generally regarded as necessary technology for only very large organizations with huge budgets and complex global shipping requirements. But let’s face it, in today’s environment just about every organization has some degree of complexity when it comes to their transportation strategies. So, while more small and mid-sized businesses are realizing the benefits that technology can bring to optimizing their supply chain and transportation processes, their requirements may still look a bit different from a very large organization. Remember all those TMS solutions we mentioned? This is where they come in.

Narrowing the Field

Knowing where to start in evaluating and selecting a TMS that meets your unique challenges and requirements can be a daunting task. There are broad-based TMS solutions available, TMS solutions that support specific segments and specific industries, and there is a dizzying array of features, functionality, and levels of complexity in the many solutions out there. While no two journeys are going to be exactly the same when it comes to evaluating and selecting transportation management software, it can’t hurt to hear from others who have been down that road, and maybe learn from their mistakes and successes.
Whether you’re a first-time buyer or perhaps you’ve outgrown your current system and are evaluating what’s on the market today, you should first understand the critical issues driving your need for a TMS solution. Is your current system – whether manual or automated – not producing the results you need, or is it inefficient to get those results? Maybe your current system isn’t keeping up with your growth? By first having a clear understanding of what your business needs are, you can make sure you’re not buying more than you need.
Once you have determined the issues driving your need for technology, you are then better equipped to gather your critical requirements – ensuring along the way that you’re considering the full range of stakeholders in your organization. What do IT’s requirements look like? What about finance and purchasing? You can save yourself a lot of headaches in the purchasing process by aligning everyone in your business who may be impacted by a TMS.

Accelerating Time to Maximum Value

When it comes to selecting any technology, you don’t have to be in finance to recognize the importance of ROI – better known as “when will the system pay for itself?” Let’s turn for a minute to the experts to understand a bit more on the ROI that a TMS can deliver: in both 2011 and again in 2016, the ARC Advisory Group studied the ROI for a TMS, and in both reports found that it is consistently strong and growing.
Most organizations believe that they will realize benefits, including ROI, from transportation technology, but perhaps the pressing question that more organizations are setting out to answer is under what circumstances are they able to achieve maximum return on their TMS investment. While it’s clear that technology can drive significant financial benefits for a transportation department, technology is only one part of the equation for achieving maximum ROI. Software implementations rarely fail or succeed because of the capabilities of the software itself. Success is most often determined by the plan for implementation and the readiness of the business to take advantage of the new capabilities.

Listen to What the Experts Say

Once you’ve taken a look inside your organization to identify your critical requirements and determine what ROI looks like for your business, you’re at a good stage to see what’s out there. We’ll mention it again: there are LOTS of TMS solutions available. Many organizations rely on leading industry analysts to help prepare a short list of vendors for further evaluation.
The Gartner Magic Quadrant for Transportation Management Systems, and its companion piece Gartner Critical Capabilities for Transportation Management Systems (August 2018) evaluate leading TMS solutions in the industry and provides an assessment of each vendor’s strengths and cautions, providing a deep dive into the ever-evolving TMS market.
When it comes to selecting a TMS for your business, careful planning and research can take you a long way.

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