10 Questions to Ask When Buying a Visibility Solution

  Blog Post 2019 12 11 10 Qs 3000x2000

Transportation visibility has quickly become a staple for global supply chains. Because of the substantial value companies can gain from visibility, it’s no wonder supply chains are rushing to implement these new solutions. However, any transformational technology comes with options and new considerations.

As you explore the market and work toward making an informed visibility solution decision, there are several factors to keep in mind and compare across vendors. Here are ten questions to ask when you’re selecting a visibility solution.

1. How is the data collected?

With more access to data, organizations are focusing efforts on how they can leverage information to improve processes and increase revenue. With such a strong focus on how to use the data, it can be easy to overlook data quality when selecting a solution. 

Data collected manually will never result in the level of insights needed to make impactful decisions. If organizations are tracking down shipments over phone calls and emails, they not only waste time and resources, they never have access to the latest information, and one of the key benefits of Advanced Visibility is automation fueled by timely, accurate data.

Many have also attempted to use mobile phones to track shipments, however, this method comes with major adoption challenges. Because all major cellular carriers have disallowed cellphone tracking, the success of mobile app tracking depends on each and every driver. This approach should only be used with no other options are possible.

To access data in real time, it’s important to have direct API connections and ELD/​telematics integrations. project44 prioritizes these connections to gain the highest quality of data in real-time. 

While vetting visibility providers, ask them where they get their data, how that data is inputted into your systems, and what level of manual intervention is required for their solution to function properly. 

2. How do they onboard new carriers and ensure carrier compliance?

Carrier coverage is the linchpin to visibility. Without adequate coverage or carrier compliance, you won’t be able to gain visibility into your shipments. Because the carrier market is complex and fragmented, building a sufficient network and ensuring compliance is no small feat. Working with a visibility provider that has an expansive carrier network means you can accelerate your time to value and see results quickly. 

Because a network is never complete, ask what the provider is doing to actively grow their network. What kinds of campaigns do they run to build awareness with carriers? What types of relationships and partnerships do they have with carriers? In addition to these practices, project44 has built integrations with other onboarding applications, such as RMIS, to make it as easy as possible for carriers to join.

But even with the largest network, you’ll likely work with carriers that aren’t yet on your vendor’s network. To help shippers and LSPs gain as much coverage as quickly as possible, project44 partners with customers to create a carrier onboarding strategy. This includes outreach and resources for your carriers and an automated onboarding application, the Network Management Center™, to accelerates the process.

With project44’s network and onboarding process, customers have seen an accelerated time to value, such as a large building materials manufacturer that achieved 95% carrier compliance in 45 days. A leading food and beverage manufacturer achieved more than 70% carrier compliance in only 6 weeks, while their previous provider struggled to achieve 50% compliance in 18 months.

3. What modes and regions do they cover?

While you might start with one mode or in one region, a provider that offers coverage across modes and in various geographies will allow you to scale and expand visibility as needed. In order to get the full visibility picture, you need a partner that stitches together all the modes your shipments touch across all regions.

With coverage across modes and geographies, project44 allows you to gain complete transportation visibility and stitch modes together to track your shipment through its entire journey, including truckload, LTL and volume LTL, ocean, rail, parcel, and final mile.

project44 has coverage in more than 48 countries and is continuing to expand to additional regions. As you evaluate providers, consider your global supply chain and where you may need visibility in the future.

4. What partnerships do they have with 3PLs, carriers, and technology providers?

In a massive, fragmented industry, partnerships are critical. Your visibility provider needs to have strong relationships with carriers, integrations with leading TMS systems, and deep ties with the 3PL community. For example, project44 has partnerships with more than 760 ELD/​telematics providers as well as 57 TMS and ERP providers to ensure visibility seamlessly integrates with the solutions our customers already use every day.

Not all vendors have the same approach when it comes to 3PL partnerships. The visibility providers that get into load matching and brokering encroach on 3PL territory, hindering relationships with 3PLs and favoring certain carriers. This means they don’t always keep the best interest of a shipper in mind. 

project44 is focused on visibility, not load matching or brokering. This allows us to remain neutral, build solid partnerships with 3PLs, and keep our attention on meeting our shippers’ visibility needs.

5. How is data privacy and security handled?

Ensuring all your vendors have adequate data privacy and security practices is a given, and your visibility solution is no exception. To ensure your data is safe, as well as your carriers’ and partners’ data, you’ll want to learn about their security posture.

As data privacy becomes an increasing concern around the world, it’s important to understand your providers privacy policy. Run a thorough security audit of all the visibility solutions you consider. Ask about their physical and cyber security policies, vulnerability management, monitoring, disaster recovery and backup, and incident notification policy. Are they SOC compliant? Are they GDPR compliant?

6. How do users, stakeholders, and customers access the data?

You also need to think about how your users and stakeholders will actually access the data. If the right people don’t have the right information at the right time, visibility is useless. 

Because every supply chain is unique, your solution should offer flexible accessibility. With a data as a service (DaaS) option, you can access high-fidelity information through the systems you already rely on every day – without any lag time. project44 has integrations with more than 57 TMS, OMS, WMS, and ERP systems, making it easy to seamlessly feed visibility data into your existing workflow.

What if you want to share information with customers or stakeholders that don’t have access to your TMS? What if you don’t use a TMS solution? project44’s cloud-based application, the Visibility Operations Center™, allows customers to see all their visibility data in one place, share updates with stakeholders, set rule-based alerts, and dig into analytics. 

These options provide you with the flexibility to chose how various stakeholders access data. And regardless of how you access the data, project44’s Advanced Visibility Platform™ cleanses and normalizes it to ensure all users can easily understand the information and derive actionable insights.

7. How are ETAs calculated?

Access to predictive ETAs is increasingly important for supply chains. With robust data and the latest technology, ETAs are becoming more accurate than previously possible. But not all ETAs will provide the same results.

When selecting a provider, ask about what factors are included in their ETA algorithm. In order to achieve the most accurate predictions, ETAs should include a range of factors from historical data—such as lane models for LTL or vessel route data for ocean—to traffic and weather information as well as driver hours of service and political events for over-the-road ETAs or speed changes and port congestion for ocean shipments.

By making sure your ETAs leverage computational and statistical models based on historical data, you’ll be able to take a more proactive approach, improve planning, and handle issues before they occur.

8. What analytics and reporting capabilities are available?

With troves of high-fidelity visibility data, you’ll be able to leverage analytics tools to uncover exceptions before they happen and improve overall performance. These tools can offer considerable value for your supply chain, and it’s vital to consider analytics when selecting a solution.

Look for tools that offer carrier benchmarking and lane analysis to evaluate performance, dig into trends, and address any areas that can be optimized. With project44’s customizable dashboards, each stakeholder can access the information they need. 

9. What type of implementation assistance is provided?

Implementing any new technology solution comes with considerations that can be hard for companies to manage and figure out on their own. In the world of cloud-based technology, you need to think of your tech vendors as partners.

When evaluating visibility solutions, evaluate their implementation support as well to make sure you’ll be set up for success. project44 helps customers beyond the technology, ensuring their people and processes are ready for transformation. With a custom plan, timeline, and dedicated support, your implementation experience is built around your supply chain.

Additionally, project44 works with your team on functional and technical training to make sure they have the knowledge needed to get started. Finally, the team assists with user acceptance testing to ensure the solution is functioning according to your standards before going live. This level of support enables customers to be successful on day one.

10. How does the vendor support you beyond set up and implementation?

You want to be wary of vendors that will leave you high and dry as soon as you’re set up. Find a long-term partner that will work with you to make sure operations continue to run seamlessly, troubleshoot any issues, and uncover new value for your business. Transportation visibility is still in the early stages and benefits of the technology will only grow over time. Your provider should be constantly on the lookout for ways you can optimize your operations and increase your ROI with visibility.

project44 builds these relationships with customers to ensure they’re not only successful, but thriving. With support available in 13 languages and in various countries, global supply chains always have access to the help they need. Our Customer Success team acts as an extension of your team, staying up to date on your system health and finding new opportunities to optimize your visibility workflows.

While you’ll ask more than 10 questions in the buying process, these key questions will uncover key capabilities that are essential for your short- and long-term success. To learn more about the buying process and what to ask, schedule some time to chat with a member of the project44 team.

Learn more about finding the best visibility solution for your supply chain.