25 September 2017

Five steps to tech success

For an end-to-end logistics solution to be both effective and efficient, a robust technology system will be at its heart.

In today’s fast-paced world, it is so important for businesses to have technology strategy to support their logistics solution, particularly for those that have multiple suppliers, manufacturers and logistics partners situated in different parts of the globe. A successful technology strategy has the ability to bring everything together plus streamline processes, enhance visibility, and all in real time.

When applied successfully, this is when businesses are able to offer a fast, adaptable service that sets ahead it ahead of its competitors. Yet, as our recent white paper and research has identified, overcoming there are many challenges associated with investing, procuring and implementing new technology services. So how can a business realistically get to tech-success and overcome these hurdles?

Here are our top five tips:

1. Make a plan, and stick to it

First ask yourself: Are you starting from scratch? Consolidating your existing systems or are you doing a combination of the two? It’s vital that you understand your business’ technology requirements right from the beginning…

This is also the opportunity to get buy-in from the whole business and begin to break down the rigid silos which your new technologies will look to interlink.

While cost, risk and speed to deploy are undoubtedly challenging factors that might come up at this stage, it’s important that these factors are considered within the realms of a long-term rather than a short-term strategy. For many, when faced with cost limitations and time-poor staff, the easy route is to concentrate on the short-term goals, but now is the time to focus squarely on the long-term and commit to the agreed strategy.

2. Put aside required budget and time

Our research, and those of third parties have really underlined the important role technology plays in gaining competitive advantage and differentiation in today’s cost-conscious market. Putting aside the required resource and time to accomplish the desired results therefore is an absolutely critical first step but a bigger hurdle to overcome than many may realise.

3. Seek support and expert advice

If you plan to run operations in-house or even if you plan to use an outsourced provider, an important question you need to ask yourself is whether you have the expertise required to ensure your business gets the best out of the technology you implement.  Supply chains are getting more and more complex, and technology is such an integral part of this and it’s for this reason that you not only need the right infrastructure, but also the talent to coordinate such technologies too.

It’s unlikely you’ll have all of the people you need in-house for the planning, execution and optimization of your new technology stack. And, even if you do, the next question will be to assess whether they also have the skills to maintain the relationships with internal stakeholders, customers, suppliers, carrier partners or others in the industry to get everything up and running.

In most cases, there will be skills gap, and it will be at this point that you’ll need to assess what expertise you have in house, where training is needed and where an external provider might be needed too.

4. Assess the needs of ALL stakeholders, not just your customers

As we know, technology plays a strategic role in supporting today’s increasingly sophisticated supply chains and is a vital link in delivering the exceptional experience your customers want. But as we’ve seen, customers aren’t the only priority when achieving tech-success in your business. An overwhelming 91% of respondents in our survey stated that their company’s technology partner does not fully meet the requirements of all users across the business, indicating a greater opportunity for miscommunication and sub-optimal performance, potentially impacting customer experience as a result.

To overcome this, it’s important to assess the needs of all users, not just your customers. Find out what’s important them. Is it a case of streamlining processes or is it about having information in real time? Is complex paper work the problem or is data being held in several different views which means stock visibility is tricky. Get this information before developing a strategy or briefing a provider to pitch – it will pay real dividends in the end.

5. Review the decision making process for providers

We’ve seen from our research that companies are prioritising the importance of logistics technology, but worryingly this emphasis doesn’t always resonate through to the decision-making process when it comes to selecting a new provider.

We found that over half (55%) consider technology to play a ‘very important’ role in helping to meet their customers’ expectations, however ‘technology provision’ ranked only fourth when respondents were questioned about what the most important criteria was when selecting a provider. This option ranked below service capability and price.

It’s clear therefore that companies not only need to take action to update systems and strategy, but also need to review processes for selecting suitable partners. Technology provision is undoubtedly an important part of this process, however it’s also a case of selecting a partner that also prioritises continuous improvement as part of their service delivery. After all, it’s all very well building a solid foundation of data accuracy and visibility, but market change is rapid, and if partners can’t keep up with your changing business needs, then you won’t stay ahead of the game for long. No strategy delivered in-house or by a third-party can ever remain static.

A key take-away from this therefore is the important of selecting the partner that meets your current and future needs. Establish this criteria early-on with view of maintaining focus on the long-term not just short term benefits (like cost). Tender processes and the such-like should also scrutinise the people and processes that will deploy, run and enhance desired strategy and technology provisions to ensure high levels of service performance at delivered now and in the future.