How to Evaluate Logistics SoftwareWritten by Anthony Charland
What Are Your Pain Points?
It’s important to know the pain points within your organization. With numerous vendors and products available, it’s easy to get drawn in by flashy software products. If you know what problems you are trying to solve, you’re less likely to purchase more product than you need. Take time early in the evaluation process to compile a list of features you need to address your pain points. It is helpful to prioritize these features in order from most important to least important. Determine which features are required and which are simply nice to have.
Who Are Your Users?
There is a common phrase that writers and presenters use; “Know Your Audience”. This phrase also rings true when evaluating a software product. You need to understand who is using the software you are evaluating. Your product choice is very different if you’re limiting the scope to only transportation functions compared to multifunctional software. There are products available that are intended to serve users with varying departmental functions; Transportation, Purchasing, Sales and Accounting. Without a solid understanding of your target users, you can easily purchase more than you need or fall short of your project goals.
Cloud or On-Premises?
Cloud computing has received significant attention lately. It can mean many things, depending on how the technology is applied. In this context, we simply want to determine if the software product will be hosted on your network or offsite. There are many benefits of using a hosted solution; flexibility, disaster recovery, reduce capital expenditures, increased collaboration and security. To capitalize on these benefits, you need to be sure the solution is appropriate for the chosen software product. It’s important to note cloud computing is not the solution for everything. For example, if there are internal systems that need to be integrated with the product, how difficult is it to create data connections? Are there methods for moving data in and out of the software easily, such as API’s, or would it make sense to keep the software on-premises?
Can API’s Enhance Your Current Software?
There is renewed enthusiasm in the transportation industry for the use of application program interfaces (API’s). Put simply, an API is a tool used to provide additional functionality within software products. Used appropriately, they are valuable and can enhance the capabilities of existing software. There are API’s available to facilitate many common transportation functions; service times, shipment tracking, rate quotes, document retrieval and invoicing. API’s makes good sense if you have systems that could benefit from this functionality. For example, maybe your organization already has solutions for many of the required transportation functions, but would like to improve the accuracy of quoting freight on customer orders. A good example of the appropriate use of an API is enhancing the existing order management system (OMS) with real-time rates.
What Software is Available Via 3PL?
Many third party logistics (3PL) companies bundle technology products with their core services. Before you purchase a software product, you should review products and services available through a 3PL relationship. Software products provided by 3PL’s typically include transportation web portals, vendor routing tools, API’s and electronic data interchange (EDI). It’s possible to manage common transportation functions in one platform; transportation metrics, invoicing, document imaging, reporting, BOL preparation, rate quotes, shipment tracking and carrier service times.