Facilitating a Software Switch
Q: We bought our TMS over 10 years ago and have upgrades coming up. We're considering something cloud-based. What is it like to switch software? The last time it took one year.
A: There are a lot of factors that play into this, but generally it's a lot easier than it used to be. Even so, depending on a number of factors, it can be days, weeks, months, or in the worst cases, years.
Q: What are the main factors involved?
A: A deciding factor is whether to go with a cloud-based or enterprise system. An enterprise system can take months to just get the equipment in place, and then you would be back where you started with expensive updates and server considerations. A cloud system is by far much faster to implement. No servers and equipment to order, configure, and install, plus a lot less training is required.
Q: Can cloud-based systems serve big companies?
A: Yes, some cloud-based systems can do it very well indeed. Depending on how big your company is, they can have a system ready in a day or two. That's the easy part. Size matters—switching a company with hundreds of users can be challenging. Each department and group needs to be trained to make sure the new application will handle their needs. Each business scenario must be looked at carefully to make sure there are no surprises on the first days. Your business continuity is critical.
Q: What are the other factors?
A: Consider the uniqueness factor. If you are doing something unusual, perhaps a process required by an important client, you may need customization. Some systems enable customization, others do not. That should make it easier to decide on a provider. If you need it and they can't do it, they're just not suitable. But remember, even if you don't need customization now, it may become necessary as you grow and take on new customers with unique needs. Ask your potential TMS suppliers about their abilities to customize. How much will it cost? How long will it take? Ask for references to see if their forecasts are accurate compared to previous customization.
Q: What about EDI?
A: That will depend on how many integrations and EDIs you have. EDI is problematic. Integration times vary depending on who your partners are and how busy their IT team is. Some EDIs will be much faster than others. EDIs can take a week, or they can take 6 months.
Q: Months? Why so long?
A: You are always only as fast as your partners. If you get immediate responses, it goes quickly. But, some partners take a week or weeks to reply, so it can drag out. If your big clients are really slow to respond, how much can you really pressure them? The key is planning ahead. Finding out the proper contacts and getting specifications ahead of time can make a world of difference.
Q: What about training my team?
A: Training is really important. Maybe your new system provides some efficiency on day one. But to maximize your investment and save the most time, your people must know how to use what your system has to offer. That means training. Does your potential provider offer training? Do they come to your offices? Do they offer online sessions? You need to ask. Where online resources are concerned, you need to look for yourself.