In April 2013 UltraShipTMS Director of IT, Darren Graham, published a post at the Supply Chain Collaborator blog titled, 5 IT Questions to Ask Before Implementing a Cloud Based TMS. In his post, Graham provided questions shippers should ask to suss out whether the solutions they were considering implementing were native to the cloud or merely web-enabled versions of old-school, on-premise solutions masquerading as cloud solutions. This week, CIO Magazine published an article titled, “Why cloud apps must differ from on-premise apps”, which does an exceptional job of explaining why cloud-native, SaaS TMS solutions are superior to on-premise solutions that have been – as they so artfully put it – “forklifted up” to the cloud.
Read the CIO article for a fantastic, accurate comparison between true cloud solutions and those trying to pass old technology off as cutting edge. Then, revisit the 5 questions Darren Graham provided nearly two years ago which we’ve reprised here for your convenience. If a cloud-based or SaaS TMS is what you’re seeking, these questions will help ensure you’re getting what you’re after from a solution provider.
1. Is the cloud based TMS solution an adaptation of an existing, locally installed solution, or was it designed from the ground up to be a cloud-based TMS solution? Solutions adapted from non-cloud origins often lack some of the functionality enjoyed by those designed to be SaaS at the outset. It may be difficult to determine where these deficiencies lie, and the provider won’t be inclined to share such weaknesses. But be aware they exist and do your due diligence before you buy (or suffer the consequences after it’s too late to change).
2. Does the SaaS TMS solution offer the ability for unique, configurable implementations or does it require that every customer implementation is identical? This is important because if you require a custom solution somewhere in your process flow will you want to know the selected vendor will be willing and able to support it. You don’t want to be told, “We can’t do that, because then we’d have to change it for everyone…”
3. What processes does the vendor have in place to ensure that existing functionality is not impacted adversely by the roll out of new features? Having new features forced on you in a predefined release schedule that does not take your needs into consideration is unacceptable. Better that upgrades are performed as a collaborative effort between your team and your vendor.
4. Exactly what level of support does the solution include? Not having a clear answer to this question may result in costly, ala carte support charges which you’ll be hard pressed to avoid when inevitable challenges arise. If support is included, is it provided by the same teams that build the software itself or is it a national call center with tiered support (or worse, outsourced support to low-cost providers overseas)?
5. Is there a zero downtime failover/disaster recovery system in place to ensure that a server or network outage does not take your TMS offline? If so, ensure that the system is running off of a transactionally replicated database and not a nightly (or worse, weekly) backup. This ensures that when the system cuts over your data is up-to-date.