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Top 10 Transportation Management Software TMS Implementation Pitfalls

August 17, 2019 Rick LaGore

TMS Implementation

Risk-taking and big changes can be daunting to any company.  When a change involves the company's flow of products, which is the lifeblood of the company, the importance of choosing the correct solution and having as close to a flawless an implementation as possible is amplified several times over again.

It cannot be understated that a TMS implementation is an extremely complex undertaking.  Between routing, rate tables, communications between systems, vendors, customers and departments and inventory flow are just the many functions being touch by "just changing the freight system".  The reason for the complexity is today's transportation management systems (TMS) are more than a freight management system.  The top tier TMS systems are "the" logistics and supply chain management platform of a company and when done well will drive a competitive advantage.

In this article we will walk you through the potential pitfalls we have seen with TMS implementations, which will hopefully be of help in avoiding them in your TMS implementation.  To start the discussion, we will provide a top 10 list, then dig into the details.

tms  freight software thin cta

Not Choosing the Correct System

A company needs to take the time to choose the system that will be the best fit for them both now and into the future.  There are a number of systems seem to expand daily because software vendors and logistics companies that have developed a TMS platform sees the market opportunity.  The problem is while many of these systems have the flash, they do not have the long-term focus and capital behind them to be the best and last TMS a company can ever need for their company.

With that said, it is important to choose the correct TMS that has the functionality needed today, yet can also grow and expand with the company's future direction.  A good place to start is looking at the top market TMS platforms and the Gartner Magic Quadrant on TMS software.  Do not be afraid to look at the best rated systems because with many of them being a SaaS cloud platform the user is only paying for what they use, so the cost of entry and to play is minimal when thinking over the long-term.

Lack of Corporate Alignment & Resources

The next three problems can all be classified as not having corporate alignment and resources for a successful implementation of the TMS. 

  • Not Assigning a Project Lead that Will be 100% Committed to the TMS Project
  • Not Assigning Resources from Every Department in the Company
  • Not Having the Approval and Support from the Top Leadership 

Too often we see where a company misses the point that a TMS implementation is a life changing event because it is seen as just a freight system that will help improve freight costs and bring more visibility to the freight being moved.   When done right, a TMS is a Logistics and Supply Chain game changer needed in today's competitive environment to drive superior customer service and improve its order-to-cash cycle that will free up more capital for further growth.

This miss on the vision of a TMS then drives the problem of not having leadership support from the top of the organization and at every functional head.  The problem with this is there will not be enough human capital resources assigned to the project, both in what it can do for each area and also having the people assigned to get it done.

With all that said, the team must be aligned around a lead that will have all other duties removed from them, so they can focus 100% of their efforts to the TMS.  Under the project lead, there will need to be others assigned from each of the functional areas that will also have a portion of their time dedicated to the project work and its ultimate success.

Not Recognizing the Complexity & Impact the TMS Could Have to the Company

The issue of missing the vision also plays into the issue of not recognizing the complexity and overall impact a TMS could have on a company.  The problems that come from this issue is the capital and hum resources are not assigned to the project, which then cause unattainable timelines, budgets and a lot of corner cutting that will cause tremendous issues at the beginning, middle and end of the project.

Not Having a Great Project Plan

The next three problems of a TMS implementation are a result of not having a great plan.

  • Not Outlining the Current Processes and To-Be Processes
  • Not Having a Good Project Plan & Adhering to It
  • Not Having a Solid Testing Process

The lack of a very detailed project plan that starts from the very beginning step to the last step is of utmost importance.  What we mean from the very beginning is even the steps of how the TMS will be selected needs to be part of the plan, meaning the project plan is not when the TMS is starting to move through implementation, but when the idea of bringing a new TMS is first brought to the table.

Understand the project plan will start off with headers of the steps and then be added to in more details as the scope requires.  Intek Freight and Logistics has assembled a comprehensive list that it has found to be a top-level project plan for a TMS implementation: 

Step 1: Set the Goal that the Project will be Measured Against

Step 2: Get Stakeholders Involved

Step 3: Design the General Timetable Plan

Step 4: Assign Project Leader & Prepare for Change

Step 5: Assemble Requirements Document

Step 6: Map Current Processes

Step 7: Start the Evaluation Process with Plenty of Education to Determine the TMS Software Vendors to Include in the RFP

Step 8: Determine Your Design and Best Fit Against the TMS Software Providers Responses to the Requirements Document and the Pricing Proposals

Step 9: Begin the Selection Process

Step 10: Narrow Selection Process to the Top 2 or 3

Step 11: Onsite Visit

Step 12: Weight the Plus / Minuses

Step 13: Map the New Process and Compare Against Old Processes to Identify Possible Shortcomings that Will Need to Be Addressed with Recommended TMS before Presenting Recommendation

Step 14: Present Recommended TMS to Stakeholders Committee for Approval

Step 15: Negotiate Final Pricing Details that May Exist

Step 16: Actual Implementation Process Begins

Step 15: Assemble Detailed Project Plan to Adhere To Over Project

Step 16: Assign Responsibilities to the Project Plan

Step 17: Work the Details of the Project with Regular Meetings with Team Members and Every Two or Three Weeks Check in with Stakeholder Committee. 

Step 18: Final Testing, Training and User Acceptance Testing 

Step 19: Implement the System in a Thoughtful Way (No BIG BANG)

Step 20: System is Fully Implemented

Step 21: Review Final TMS Performance Against Goals to Make Adjustments

Step 22: Continuous Evaluation Against Best in Class and New Functionality and Adjust as Necessary


Not Having a Solid Testing & Training Plan

As the project comes closer and closer to fruition as it approaches its go-live date there is a tendency to get overly aggressive on "just put the system in" mentality.  This becomes even more of an issue if the other pitfalls listed previously are present in the TMS project.

The result is integration testing, end-to-end process testing of each business case and user acceptance is short-changed in the process, which can spell disaster in any TMS project.  

On top of this, training is often brushed over in a more cursory manner versus having in-depth training sessions.  Our recommendation is training by the TMS software provider be given to the team of "super-users" and then they train their team.  The reason for this recommendation is because once the TMS project is fully implemented there needs to be full ownership and understanding within the company and since they were also part of the "way things used to be done", they are the best to demonstrate not only the "new way", but also put it into terms the user community will understand on a process side, but also from the company's business perspective.

"Big Bang" Implementation

Much like testing and training getting less attention when the project is nearing go-live, so is the actual go-live implementation plan.  We have seen it too many times where the comfort level is very high and executives are wanting to get the system in play, so they can stop spending the capital resources and get onto the savings that cause them to ask for the "big bang" implementation.

The "big bang" implementation is when all functionality for all departments and offices are turned on at the same time.  While it may sound good at the time, there are too many moving pieces and too many people questions that overwhelm the go-live team to get issues addressed timely and thoroughly.

So, it is highly recommended to turn on parts and pieces of the functionality and to the teams so anything that might have been missed in the test environment can be addressed properly.   Not only is this good for business continuity, but it is good in the fact more users will know the system and can help train and answer questions from the new teams coming on-line.

In addition to the above, the methodical implementation will create a feeling of success when the parts and pieces are turned on and going well versus if the entire company moves to the new platform and issues abound from what may seem everywhere.  If the latter happens, there is a lot of questioning on the TMS, the team and many other factors that cause the user community to look back and use the old system versus the system of the future.

tms rfp template

Being Short-Sited

Last, but certainly not least is the pitfall of a TMS implementation being too short-sighted.  

If done "correctly" a TMS implementation can be a single event and not be something that has to be ever done in the history of the company.  So, to make this the case choose the system that has the ability to scale.  To do this, look at the software company and its financial backing, focus, the current functionality and leadership team. 

There are two issues on short-sited: not realizing the life changing event a TMS can provide a company in its evolution to be a leader in its industry and picking a TMS that does not have more functionality coming out of the box on day one.

We cannot stress enough how a TMS is more than a freight system.  A TMS is a logistics and supply chain game changer for the company that will build long term value and drive a competitive advantage for your company.

On the front of not having a TMS that has more functionality then is required on day one is a must.  There are a number of TMS software companies coming online to a market that is thirsty for a solution.  These companies often have a long way to go before they can make it in the space and make big promises to bring a new client onboard. 

There is no need to go with the big promises when there are companies like MercuryGate that has 450,000 users logging in every day from companies of less than 5 to over tens of thousands.  The MercuryGate platform has some of the best and highest-level functionality, great leadership team, road map for the future and the venture capital to take any company to the next level today and over its lifetime.  All this comes at a cost per shipment that starts at roughly $4.00 a shipment and goes down from there, as a company's volumes increases.  For a check on functionality we again suggest reading the 38-page Gartner Magic Quadrant on the TMS market.

Wary of a SaaS Based TMS Software System

For those that have made it this far in the article, we are adding in an eleventh concern that causes failure and that is a company is concerned over implementing a SaaS cloud based TMS

Those companies that are wary of the cost of SaaS TMS implementation are because they have concern of the fees over the lifetime of ownership. 

What is missed in the cost calculation concern is the savings in costs over the lifetime of ownership that comes from not having to have the internal IT team and hardware, along with the many additional functional adds that will come from the entire base of system users.  The value add in just these three components will well make-up for the cost of the transactional costs of a SaaS TMS.

Add into the equation the additional functionality present in the system that will easily bolt on that does not need to be paid for until it is time to use it.

Summary of the Pitfalls of a TMS Implementation

All in, we hope you found this article helpful in your whatever part of the journey you are with buying, using or just frustrations with your TMS.  When looking for the one that is best for you and yor company keep in mind that a TMS is more than a freight management system, but a supply chain management platform.

If you have more questions on the topic, please do not hesitate to reach out to us.  As a MercuryGate integrator and re-seller of their software, we'd love to be part of the conversation when you are ready to start in on your TMS buying journey.

For more on Transportation Management Software (TMS), that will help you in your buying journey we invite you to check out these articles:

We also invite you to visit our “Knowledge Center” tab for a comprehensive guide to Transportation Management System software and how to correctly leverage its potential efficiencies.

tms  freight software thick cta

If you're ready to take the next step, at InTek Freight & Logistics, we can help. Just tell us what you need and we'll discuss how our expertise can help with the unique shipping challenges your business faces. Rather do a bit more research first? View our Freight Guides for comprehensive articles and eBooks on all things freight and logistics.

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