Transportation Management Software
Trucking is a business of logistics, and to do logistics well in this day and age you are going to need both experience and a software package that will allow you to optimize your time and assets in order to turn a profit in this competitive business.
There are a number of terms you’ll hear tossed around as you begin your search for the best software package. You’ll hear from independent software vendors who call themselves “ISV”s. You’ll be told about how your transportation management company is a part of the largest supply chain execution of the companies whose freight you’ll be moving, and that really you are not running a trucking company, but a supply chain execution system, which these folks will sometimes refer to as an SCE.
With all these letters and terms flying around, it is easy to get confused. Transportation management software is a complex thing, but once you understand a few things about it, all the details get MUCH easier to handle. The simple most important thing you need to know is that these software packages have three generalized approached.
- You can buy the license outright and install it on to your own computers (called a licensed solution)
- You can connect to a server that hosts your software and your data remotely (called a hosted solution)
- You can both buy a license and have the data and software hosted remotely (called a hybrid solution).
There are pros and cons to each approach. Basically, the licensed option gives you the most control, but the downside is that if something goes wrong it will be your staff who fixes the problem (maybe with some over-the-phone customer service support). If you do not want to have an IT person on hand, a hosted solution will mean the software company manages your data on their computers, so if something goes wrong they are in the best position to fix it. This takes a lot of the burden off you, but you will have to pay for this service, and you’ll need to be sure the company you are working with is competent and responsive, or your business can go on hold while they delay and make excuses.
While that’s range of options for the setup of your software package, the next thing to grasp is the three different areas of operations that any worthwhile package will offer. It is important to remember the difference between features and benefits while you sit patiently through the sales rep’s pitch: features are the bells and whistles that make programmers proud, but benefits are what those bells and whistles actually enable you to do (or not do).
So while you may hear about dozen of terrific capabilities of the software, always be asking yourself “do we need that?”, “how could that help us run our business better?” If you don’t see any great benefit in the bells or whistles, and the sales rep can’t give you a truly solid answer about how they can help you really run your business in the day to day world, then don’t fall in love with that technical capability. It can be hard, because some of these systems seem like they could get you to Mars and back if you wanted to. But in reality, they need to show you how to manage your fleet and your staff in the most profitable way possible. Anything else is just hype, and you need to save your money for other services.
In terms of benefits, look for transportation management software that empowers you to make better planning and business decisions, helps you stay on top of your fleet and their activities, and gives you powerful measurement tools so you can track every metric of your business that matters. The only way you can improve company performance is to track key metrics, so a software package that lets you do that becomes the kind of tool that’s truly valuable.