Shopping for a Transportation Management System: Factors to Consider
Is your organization seeking to replace its current Transportation Management System (TMS) or obtain a TMS for the first time? Besides the obvious factors, such as overall cost, functionality that meets your requirements, and the ability to integrate with your current system and trading partners, below are five points to consider when shopping for a TMS:
- Understand how the software works. Do your homework and define your requirements! Does your company need a cloud- or premises-based technology? Similarly, whether you seek an auction-based TMS, a TMS based on your preferred carriers, or a combination of both, each TMS provider you consider should have a website with accompanying marketing materials. Read the website content, including digesting any available case studies and/or whitepapers offered about similar customers’ successes with the product.
Above all, be sure to view any marketing or demonstration videos the company has made about their products. If you do not come away from a marketing video without at least a cursory understanding of how the company’s TMS product works, move on to stronger options with clearer explanations. If you have questions about the TMS features, be sure to reach out to your contact at the TMS provider. A strong provider will respond with prompt and thorough information.
- Seek a partnership rather than just a product. A company with a solid website, informative videos, and detailed case studies typically will have a long history of customer partnership. Your organization will cherish this partnership when onboarding the RFP. Rather than simply choosing a "plug-and-play" TMS, consider providers who are able to understand your business’ unique rules and needs. If you work in procurement for a small to medium-sized organization without a robust, dedicated IT department to onboard the product, a friendly, professional relationship with your TMS provider is paramount.
For example, should your volume suddenly escalate, you will need open and effective communication lines with a provider that can quickly and accurately respond to your needs and adjust the product’s rules. A good TMS partner will teach you how to adjust the unique rules in the future, adding to the product’s utility and convenience.
- Prioritize scalability. Similarly, the partnership you seek with your TMS provider should allow you to scale up—and down—according to your business needs. If you need to integrate the new TMS with an Enterprise Resource Program (ERP) or an existing Warehouse Management System (WMS), the TMS should be able to deliver integration with little fuss. A customizable solution is best, especially if your organization merges with another, is purchased as part of an acquisition, or simply grows in size. TMS providers with dedicated, in-house developers can respond to these needs quickly, adding features to optimize the product for your organization’s needs.
- Seek value-driven options. Consider TMS companies with cost-per-transaction pricing models. Some customizable TMS programs cost as little as $1 to process an order. A low per-transaction cost, combined with customizable scalability and a communicative vendor partnership, equals the best value for your buck when it comes to TMS products.
- Consider the value of quick implementation. A customizable product with low cost—what’s the catch? Often, custom products require a steep learning curve. To reiterate point No. 1: "Understand how the software works," and, if possible, try before you buy. A dedicated TMS partner will take the time to demonstrate the product for you, or it will have resources you can use to try the product by yourself before committing to a purchase and contract.
The onboarding process for a new TMS should not be painful; prioritize a simple interface and the software’s ability to integrate easily with your existing systems. If anything feels or looks unintuitive to your eye during the set-up process, point it out to your provider. A truly custom solution will change those screens or buttons to appear exactly how your organization wants them to appear.
Best of luck in your comparison shopping for a new TMS! When you do begin researching, be sure to evaluate each TMS equally on these 5 factors.