How to set up a successful freight management system

Around the globe, wholesalers, distributors, transport carriers and many other companies have been implementing transport management systems (TMS) and/or freight management systems (FMS) for decades. Technology designed to help improve efficiency, visibility and the bottom line of your logistics operation isn’t a new invention, but there continues to be ongoing concern and discussion about its implementation.

Why? Because there are many challenges that can impact whether or not the implementation of technology into a business is successful. Perhaps you’ve tried to implement technology in the past yourself and have been unsuccessful, or you’ve heard horror stories of others who’ve tried and failed.

In this article, we identify the challenges associated with setting a successful freight management system, or any software implementation project. We also give you our checklist for success so can overcome these and prepare your business for successful technology implementation.

Common Challenges
There are many common challenges when it comes to implementing technology, here’s our top three:

    People:

    One of the big factors that makes any technological implementation difficult is the involvement of multiple people, multiple groups and different roles. Bringing together their collective history and knowledge can be difficult.

    Going through the planning process and the implementation process itself can bring to light the various interdependencies (among people, groups and roles) that may not have originally been known prior to project commencement. It’s critical to be aware of this.

    For example, the operations people suddenly find out things that are happening from an IT or integration perspective that they weren’t aware of.

    Essentially, communication, process and methodology misalignments can be exposed and can lead to the stalling or derailment of the implementation process, so it’s essential for all departments to agree on the current state of the business, the objective of the project before the implementation process begins.

    Software will only get you so far, it’s the people and the team’s ability to get the project over the line and ensure your return on investment.

    Change management:

    Any sort of change can be daunting, and in business, unexpected or sudden changes can bring about uncertainty and anxiety for employees. They may start asking themselves how will change impact my job? Or could I lose my job altogether?

    When it comes to a significant change in technology, employees may fear their reputation for being an ‘expert’ in a particular system or process is in jeopardy. There can be uncertainty and potential fear that they will not know how to do their job as well. Good change management is about addressing concerns and expectations well in advance and keeping the lines of communication open throughout the change process.

    Tribal knowledge:

    Tribal knowledge is any unwritten information that is not commonly known by others within a company. In other words, the information in one or a handful of people’s heads. It can be difficult to obtain this information, not necessarily because the owner is not willing to give it up but because they don’t realise others don’t know it.

    In many instances, systems and integrations may already be in place, but the person or people who originally championed those systems no longer work for the organisation, and no one has a record of the specifics.

    Implementation of new technology can be challenging if the necessary information isn’t available as the process relies on the accuracy of master data and defined businesses rules for it to run successfully. Good decisions can only be made if such information is out in the open and exposed upfront.

Checklist for success

Being prepared is the key to implementation being successful. Below is an essential checklist which outlines the key areas to focus on, questions to ask yourself and actions to take so you can prepare your business and overcome the challenges associated with implementing new technology.

Area of focus Questions to ask yourself Action Completed Y/N
PEOPLE Do we have the right people involved? Ensure you have the right people, in the right roles, involved in the implementation project from the outset.
PREPARATION Why are we doing this? Where are we today? What does success look like? Before you begin, understand where your business currently stands, why you are implementing new technology, what you are trying to achieve and what a successful outcome will look like. Once you have done this, you need to look at where misalignments in communication, processes, methodologies and goals exist within your business and address these. Engage influence personnel within departments to assist.
REALISM Are we being realistic?

Develop realistic goals. Don’t look at an FMS or any type of software system as a silver bullet to solve all your supply chain and customer service problems. It won’t, for example, fix your financial or procurement issues.

Being realistic about timeframes and budgets is also crucial for a successful outcome.

CHAMPION or SUPER USER Who’s going to be our champion?

Appoint a champion who takes the lead on the implementation, learning and teaching of the new technology. This person is ideally a functional user of the system and a good problem solver who understands the businesses from the customers perspective.

They should be invested in learning the new system and able to train others in its use. It’s important to have multiple other users trained to prevent tribal knowledge situations from occurring.

GOVERNANCE Have we developed a governance plan for the project?

Put in place reporting processes that will help you measure how your implementation is tracking. This will help you to reach your ultimate goal.

  • Project Team Members
  • Roles and Responsibilities
  • Project Timeline and Milestones
  • Risk Management Plan
  • Communication & Progress Reporting Rhythm
  • Define Success Measures
  • Escalation of Issues
SUCCESSION PLANNING Have we developed an ongoing succession plan? Understand what will happen after implementation goes ‘live’, and how you will drive performance in years two, three and onwards.
FLEXIBILITY Can we be flexible?

Expect the unexpected and be prepared to be flexible when it’s required.

Challenges always arise out of the blue and implementation doesn’t always go to plan for many different and sometimes unpredictable reasons.

What defines successful implementation?

Every organisation is different which means that a successful implementation project can be defined in many ways. Your overall success should be measured by how much your organisation has improved since implementation. Measure how much you’ve reduced labour time and costs and how much you’ve increased visibility. These are good indicators of success, but also ensure you’re tuned in to cultural measures like improvement in staff morale.

Success does not end at ‘go live’. Success is a continuation and as much about what happens after ‘go live’ as it is within the implementation itself. At ‘go live’, the project may end, but the relationship does with your vendor should not. The right software vendor will have a succession plan and a good account management structure in place to ensure optimal user adoption and realisation of results. This, combined with your champion user, is a necessary but powerful combination for ongoing success.

MachShip API provides a simple way to integrate our shipping services with your existing systems, and we provide easy-to-follow guides for end-to-end or specific endpoint implementation. Contact us to request a free demo.