December 29, 2017
Posted by Cici Liu

Reduce TMS Implementation Times

 Implementation Time

Get up in running in a few days/weeks, not many months

Legacy transportation management systems (TMS) are notorious for taking up to a year or longer to install and implement. It’s no wonder why only large companies have traditionally used them.  To get the benefits of a real TMS a company had to have the staff and budget for large-scale project management, making the purchase difficult to justify.

 


As TMS solutions have moved to the cloud, costs and implementation times have plummeted and are now within reach for small and medium size companies.  At the same time, advancements in technology have caused TMS quality and capabilities to skyrocket.



Smaller and medium sized companies don’t have a year and the additional staff to devote to a TMS implementation.

Today’s TMS customers benefit from instant, accurate and visible rate information for hundreds of carriers and freight brokers, routing optimization, packing optimization, order fulfillment automation, multi-modal support, shipping document creation and printing (bills of lading, invoices, labels and internal documents), and real-time shipment tracking. And it’s all done within one web-based platform.

Better yet, with current cloud-based TMS solutions, companies no longer have to plan a year or more for implementation. Many can be set up in a matter of days.

 

Modern, cloud-based TMS setup is easy.

The problem with legacy

Legacy systems were not built with the internet in mind. They also didn’t take into account the need to integrate with a myriad of other business systems. Software programs at the time didn’t easily speak to each other, and were so expensive that only large companies could extract meaningful value. Today, a TMS must talk to many other software systems to make sure there’s a good workflow process and to ensure company-wide visibility.  

Cloud/SaaS installation

One reason that installation is much easier is that data is brought into TMS systems using these sources:

  • API: Many cloud solutions are API-based products that can speak to your CRM, shopping cart, OMS and/or ERP.
  • The Internet of Things: IoT provides real-time data, which improves shipment tracking.
  • Plug-ins: Plug-ins for popular eCommerce platforms, WMS, ERP, CRM and accounting platforms speed setup and facilitate real-time data exchange.

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Easy updates

While updating software isn’t something top of mind when implementing a new system, everyone knows that software is constantly tweaked and improved. With the cloud model, there are no patches to install manually or buttons to push to start an update online. Plus, customers don’t have to install the updates; they’re automatically handled by the provider. There’s also virtually no down time for updates; they’re frequently pushed while you sleep.

No down time

Cloud-based TMS systems require no down time to implement. Testing is done offline pre-launch, using applicable customer data to ensure that the right requirements are met. Users are frequently trained before the system goes live, and given the nature of the modern interface, that training is usually easy.

Cost savings in implementing sooner

TMS efficiencies generate massive cost savings, making it imperative to install quickly once a decision has been made. According to a recent report by Transparency Market Research, the TMS market is expected to grow from about $9bn today to over $30bn by 2025. The main driver is cloud-based systems that offer mobile functionality and accessibility. TMS systems aren’t just for the big players anymore. Small and medium sized businesses can take advantage of the many benefits traditionally leveraged only by their large competitors.

Implementation is not the lengthy process it once was, and now that TMS systems are financially in reach for companies of all sizes and in all industries, they’re gaining wider adoption. A good TMS provides shipper and rate visibility, increased warehouse efficiency, shipment tracking, and substantially lower shipping costs.  

 

Cloud TMS Setup and Configuration

New Customer Implementation is the process by which the TMS vendor installs the new software solution, while working with the customer’s technical and operational team. From a bird’s eye view, the implementation and configuration process follows five simple steps:

TMS Implementation Steps

Step 1 - Kick off

Step 2 - Account setup

Step 3 - Integration

Step 4 - User Acceptance Testing (UAT)/Certification

Step 5 - Launch


Timeline and Milestones 

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Let’s get into a little more detail!

Step 1: Kick-off

Internal Kick-off

At this point, the TMS sales rep prequalified the new customer to ensure they’re a proper match for the TMS product/company. They know the customer understands how the TMS works, but has also reviewed the steps for a successful implementation. Here is the type of information the sales rep gathers from the customer, and what’s passed to the Product and Customer Success teams:

  • Contract terms
  • Shipping profile
  • Qualification notes
  • Client contact(s)
  • Time zone
  • Desired and committed integration timeframes
  • Professional service needs

This is part of the pre-implementation period, where the Customer Success and Sales teams want to ensure that:

  • Customer Success team has a clear understanding of customer expectations
  • Customer Success team is fully aware of deliverables required through professional services

New customers are assigned to an Account Manager, who sets up a kick-off call with all the involved parties.

Kick-Off Call

The kick-off call ensures that the customer and the Customer Success team are on the same page, and everyone understands the expectations. Some things a customer can expect during this phone call:

  1. To get a clear understanding of the implementation process
  2. To confirm that the company’s solutions meet the customer’s needs
  3. To set timelines and key milestones that lead to a successful implementation
  4. To introduce the customer to their primary point of contact
  5. To introduce the Account Manager to the key points of contact on the customer’s team

 

Step 2:  Account Set-Up

After the kick-off call, the Account Manager sets up the customer’s account and the following:

  • New account creation and configuration
  • Establish carrier/broker access
  • Account Manager sends:
    • Technical Documentation
    • Credentials and test API Key
    • Certification documentation
  • Sets up recurring weekly milestone check-ins
  • Schedules technical follow-up with the implementation team

Step 3: Development and Integration

Development and Integration

Development covers the time where the customer is actually integrating the TMS product into their internal system(s). The customer reviews technical documentation and asks any questions, and ultimately prepares their system to undergo the vendor’s Certification process. During this phase, the goals might be:

  1. Ensure that the customer’s planned implementation supports their prerequisites
  2. Supply the customer’s developers with appropriate documentation and resources
  3. Answer all the customer’s technical questions
  4. Ensure that the customer’s developers properly integrate on the first try
  5. Fully prepare the customer’s developers for Certification

Step 4: User Acceptance Testing

User Acceptance Testing

The User Acceptance Testing (UAT) and Certification phase ensures that the customer’s integration successfully meets the requirements specified in the pre-implementation phase and kick-off call. Now the customer runs through a series of tests as laid out in the Certification process. They include things like submitting a small parcel quote, submitting an LTL quote, booking a shipment, generating a receipt, and checking shipment status. The goals of this phase:

  1. Successfully complete Certification
  2. Understand any necessary changes before the system goes live
  3. Approve the customer’s move to the production environment

Step 5: Launch

Launch

And finally, it’s almost launch time! As part of this last phase, the implementation manager coordinates the testing day with the customer, then reviews and validates all the test scripts. If all is in order, the implementation manager and customer sign off on Certification and schedule the launch date. The official launch is when the customer deploys the TMS platform into their production environment for active use.

The customer is assigned a Customer Support Specialist, who works with the customer for any additional business requirements and open issues.

That’s it. It’s a lot easier than implementing a legacy system. Read some case studies on how TMS systems work with various size companies.

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