Implementing a TMS: Are You Set Up for Success?.Connect
If you want to get the most out of your investment in a transportation management system (TMS), effective communications during the system’s implementation is critically important.
Last week I described some of the communications capabilities that shippers can look for when evaluating TMS providers. A provider that is positioned to be a good communicator is also positioned to successfully implement your TMS.
In this week’s post I look at how shippers can foster excellent communications during the implementation phase.
TMS implementations progress in carefully orchestrated stages, so let’s explore your communications challenges at each step.
Assembling the team. The first order of business is to appoint the individuals from your organization who will be part of the implementation team. Make sure that these representatives are able to communicate efficiently with each other and with team members from the provider’s organization. Initially, every key stakeholder from your supply chain organization should be represented, including VP-level executives.
The kickoff meeting. The implementation team’s first meeting sets the tone for the entire exercise. A conscientious provider will have laid the groundwork for the encounter by consulting with your staff beforehand on the current state of your operation and what you want to achieve. At TMC, we believe it is important that this inaugural meeting be carried out face-to-face—this is the best way to start nurturing the relationships that are central to the project’s success.
Day-to-day communications. After the initial meeting, the composition of your representative group can be modified to put more emphasis on subject matter experts—the functional folks who manage the movement of freight on a daily basis. From now on, the implementation team will keep in touch via a combination of ad hoc and regular (weekly is a good cadence) meetings in person, on the phone, or through web-based channels.
Switching on the system. As the “go-live” date nears, the project ramps up and communications become more frenetic. It’s worthwhile keeping this mind—effective communications are more important than ever when individuals are under pressure to deliver. After the system has gone live, there should be regular meetings to address any concerns that have arisen.
Three notable lessons
The many implementations that TMC has completed have taught us some important lessons about the nature of communications during these projects. Here are three that pertain to the shipper’s role:
- There is bound to be certain commercially sensitive information that you prefer not to convey to the provider. But it’s important that you carefully review your “need to know” policies. Withholding essential information can stymie the implementation and impede the performance of the TMS thereafter. Think about what information the provider needs in order to maximize the chances of a successful outcome. One of the worst things either side can do is to blindly assume that an action will be taken, or take for granted that the other party knows what you want. Be clear and transparent.
- The motivation of your staff members is another key consideration. Individuals who are not committed to the project and fail to get engaged can throw the work—and ultimately the TMS’ performance—off track.
- Don’t underestimate the importance of face-to-face communications. Online meetings are definitely part of the mix, but when travel budgets are being trimmed, it’s tempting to become over-reliant on virtual channels. There is still no substitute for in-person meetings when it comes to building working relationships.
TMS implementations are not trivial; they involve significant change, which can be challenging for any organization. A robust communications strategy helps you to meet the challenge, and often yields important lessons that can be used in other change management projects.
Interested in learning more about TMS implementations? Connect with an expert.