Despite this being a blog focused on technology, I want to make my first focus the two most important elements I have found that make an implementation successful.
Supporting Cultural Shift
Implementing a TMS is a huge shift for an organization. Much of the change introduces opportunity, such as measuring and reacting to information more quickly. These opportunities are often the driving force behind the decision to implement the TMS in the first place.
But often companies focus on the technical details and challenges and fail to evaluate the roles supporting the system. The information flow differs from manual processes. In a TMS information is captured and managed on the front end (operations/drivers) and the back end (billing/settlements) is automated. In a manual workflow minimal information is captured on the front-end and the back-end mostly corrects data so billing/settlements can be sent out the door.
Further, employees often worry about their role in the organization and resist change. If their current role isn’t apparent in the system workflows they may push back against the system, not understanding that they can play a different role in the future, or even having a sense of what that future will look like.
Forcing the change is an option, though usually a last resort. Helping the personnel to understand how the processes flow and reassuring them about their role in the organization can greatly speed acceptance and support for a new system, which makes the entire implementation process faster, and fosters an environment where the team works together to overcome hurdles, rather than seeing them as justification to stop forward progress.
I firmly believe that before any implementation can be truly successful it needs to fail (or, at least, experience some degree of failure).
This seems counter-intuitive, but the idea is really quite simple. A business who has only experienced success often does not look for areas of improvement, or listen should they be recommended.
Quite honestly, I understand this. If I am purchasing a product to augment my business and the vendor recommends modifying our processes, I would be skeptical or even reject it outright. After all, I have run a successful business for years, why would someone else know better than I what works for my business?
Obviously there are limits, you should not reinvent your core business model to fit a TMS workflow. However, if you do not want to change, why purchase a new system? And while you may know what works for your current business process, you will probably not know all the possible improvements you could achieve in the new system.
Should you proceed on your own path and then fail to be successful in the new system, you will stop to look at why. At that point the business is truly receptive to improving, and that is when processes can be redesigned to fully take advantage of the new system and the business is willing to go to greater lengths to implement them, resulting in a greater chance for success.