One Size Fits Few – Why TMS Usability Matters

To paraphrase President Abraham Lincoln, “You can please some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time.  But you cannot please all of the people all of the time.”  Nowhere is this truer than in the development of software tools; specifically, in the development of transportation management systems (TMS) applications.  The thing is, the TMS of today is a favored supply chain technology across numerous types of users including shippers, brokers, 3PLs, freight forwarders and more – each with their own needs and requirements for the software.  So, how well does the TMS industry accommodate the needs of these disparate groups in their product builds?

The unfortunate answer is that far too many TMS solutions fall into the trap of trying to be all things to all users.  The result of this strategy is a technology tool with a dizzying array of features and functionality, of which only a small percentage is actually useful to any given class of user.   As well-regarded Logistics Industry blogger Adrian Gonzalez recently wrote in his Talking Logistics Blog, many contemporary TMS solutions:

“are crammed with too many features and too much information that users don’t need or want to accomplish their tasks; have non-intuitive workflows that don’t align with the way users are accustomed to working (or the way they want to work); and force users to open multiple windows and tabs, and click countless times, to accomplish what should be a straightforward task.”


Gonzalez goes on to report on the rising number of organizations seeking to replace their existing TMS implementations in favor of newer solutions designed with improved usability in mind.  Usability as a design consideration has never been more important as today’s supply chain managers seek to achieve more with less.  A TMS solution may have every feature and function required by a shipper, but if these tools are obscured or otherwise difficult to access, user adoption falls precipitously threatening the very success of transportation management automation initiatives.

The subject of TMS software usability for large volume shippers is timelier than ever as the underlying functions of these solutions have approached parity in the marketplace.  The features expected of a TMS have become commoditized as the TMS industry has grown mature.  What will differentiate a particular offering from this point forward is the extent to which the tools are intuitive, easy to configure and use.

This very topic is the subject of an upcoming Web Episode on Talking Logistics wherein Adrian Gonzalez will discuss TMS software usability and design with UltraShipTMS president Nicholas Carretta.  The live web event will take place on Tuesday, September 30th, from 12:00 to 1:00 PM Eastern time.  There will be time after the discussion for questions from viewers.  Register here for the web episode.


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