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  • Writer's pictureRobert VanEaton

Technology Decisions: Bank or Bust

The technology track in transportation is forging ahead at a very rapid pace. New technological advances from a multitude of vendors and in-house IT departments split that track into dozens of trails that keep trucking executives constantly considering which ones to follow.

Almost every trucking executive has some sort of buyer’s remorse from following a trail that dead-ends without realizing the cost savings promised or purchasing expensive technology that goes unused by those it was intended to help.

Sometimes a carrier is so overwhelmed by problems of the day that strategic technological visions of advancement are abandoned until some future date that seems to never come. If that day does come, then the argument is: “Can we do this with our current IT staff, or should we purchase from a vendor?”

The IT staff often has the talent to design specific software enhancements with the direction of the operations or maintenance managers, but when the current mountain of IT projects collides with the sea of problems in which the operations and maintenance managers are drowning, a cliff forms from which executives are hesitant to jump.

This technology decision cycle is often not recognized, but it can be crippling to the carrier whose technology is behind that of its competitors.

Carriers need insight to make good technology decisions that produce real cost improvements. This gives way to true profits and the pricing edge needed to expand market share.

There is hope. Here are a few key questions that need to be answered to ensure the trail you are following leads to the expected return on investment and not the dead end:

  • Does the technology provider have the experience to truly understand your needs?

Only the carrier can decide if the technology presented or sought is a technology that fills a current need in the carrier’s operations.

Beyond that, does the provider understand the need as well as the carrier? You would not hire an inexperienced person to manage a segment of your business, so do not purchase technology to help you manage a segment of your business from a company with no real experience in that segment.

  • Do we really believe the estimated return on investment is obtainable?

The ROI is a great way to determine the priority of technology projects when they are factored with time. The ROI is also a great way to stall meaningful technology advancements when they are not factored with time. High ROIs with short implementation times are the big winners. High ROIs with long implementation times can take you out of meaningful advancement for several profit cycles.

You must believe the ROI and then act. Many times the ROI is used as the supporting document for the predetermined decision, and not the basis of the decision. Trust the benefits of the ROI, but verify the results. Take the effort to make the components of the ROI measurable.

If the components are not easily measureable but the intangible value is obvious to you, then you need to know the cost risk if the implementation is not as successful as projected.

  • Does this technology improve our current workflow?

Let’s face it: Most of us have a predisposition to avoid change. The most successful integrations of new technology into trucking transportation are the ones that “fit” into the current workflow.

Business requirements that need completely new technology systems might be beneficial in the long run but are very painful to implement. Business requirements that need a new technology workflow and don’t “fit” the current system are simply avoided by the user and eventually completely unused.

You must be able to visualize the successful use of the new technology within your organization. Appoint trusted “champions” to carry the vision of successful integration in your company’s culture.

  • Is the technology flexible enough to meet our changing needs?

The days of “off-the-shelf” software for trucking are gone. Trucking operations and workflows demand the ability for software to be flexible enough to meet the specific operational needs of the carrier.

As carriers, you may provide many of the same services as your industry counterparts, but you run your daily operations differently. The technology has to be in harmony with the way you run your operations. We also expect advancements in mobile technology to affect not only our personal lives but our work lives as well.

Giving your employees self-service, mobile access to their work responsibilities while away from their desks allows them to be more engaged and proactive.

At the end of the day, trails must be chosen. Staying off the technology track or following the wrong trail will certainly be a bust.

Ensuring the successful implementation of desired technology will bank the return in profits and customer satisfaction needed to compete in today’s rapidly evolving market.

Robert VanEaton has over 25 years of carrier experience as a finance executive, network and pricing executive, network strategist, pricing analyst, planner, driver manager and CSR. MapGraphiX, based in Shreveport, Louisiana, a software company, provides real-time capacity balance mapping and network strategy solutions for trucking companies.

Originally published as an opinion opt for Transport Topics | December 12th, 2015

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