April 2013 | Commentary | Checking In

Navigating New IT Pathways

Tags: Logistics I.T.

Felecia Stratton is the editor of Inbound Logistics magazine.

Logistics information technology is many things, but static isn't one of them. In the supply chain, cloud computing opened new ways for logistics managers to deploy best-of-breed solutions, capture and disperse information, and execute change. Mobile communication enables practitioners to seed the cloud from anywhere, then feed off that shared data. Social media offers a real-time communication stream for connecting partners through this moving cloud.

The burden many logistics IT buyers carry today—whether they are shippers, carriers, or intermediaries—has less to do with the technology itself, and more with interpreting information to make it purposeful. While Software-as-a-Service and pay-as-you-go price structures helped democratize capital expenditure, and made it easier for smaller organizations to compete against companies outside their weight class, big data presents a considerable challenge and opportunity. Our cover story, Business Intelligence in the Supply Chain delves into this emerging trend.

To a degree, cloud is a solution in itself. On-demand applications allow myriad users at different supply chain touchpoints access to a common data stream. While this creates greater visibility to information, the internal expertise to leverage all this new logistics IT power sometimes does not exist.

To fill the void, logistics managers increasingly rely on IT partners, or third-party logistics providers. This evolution is changing the way companies approach technology investment and execution, and how solutions developers are serving the market. IL's annual Top 100 Logistics IT Providers list reflects this changing paradigm, and serves as a resource to find the solutions that are right for you whether you buy logistics IT directly, or get it through your carriers or logistics partners.

When evaluating the IT providers who submitted credentials for Top 100 consideration, our editorial selection committee saw a marked uptick in those who exclusively target intermediaries. About 90 percent of surveyed IT companies serve 3PLs, warehouses, and carriers, according to IL's 2013 logistics technology market research (pg. 56). This surpasses every other industry niche by a considerable percentage.

With this empirical evidence, and after some thoughtful debate, we decided to include some of these IT companies, for the first time, in the Top 100 list. While we value developers that deliver best-in-class techonology to logistics managers directly, we also recognize that various pressures are pushing logistics managers to consider other options—often through the purview of their third-party providers.

Today's IT trends—big data, cloud, integration, visibility—let you harness technology in countless ways to find greater efficiency and economy. Why discriminate against how you access that technology?