“SOWing” The Seeds of Success in TMS Selection

The TMS selection and implementation process is fraught with challenges and liabilities for those tasked with driving it.  Choose the stodgy, uninspired logistics IT solution provider with the middling results/poor cost efficiency it delivers and you’ll be remembered as lacking vision.  Choose the sexy, innovative/disruptive provider with unproven capabilities and you risk being remembered as having saddled your organization with a costly and ineffective solution.  Is it even possible to make a well-conceived choice that protects your legacy as visionary leader with a knack for sussing out the solution with the most applicable capabilities with appropriate total costs of ownership?  

The answer is absolutely, “YES!”  It can be done.  You can select the perfect logistics IT platform for your specific needs at a cost that is completely transparent and without nasty “hidden cost” surprises.  You just have to know how to shop.  Look, you wouldn’t decide which apartment to rent solely on the recommendation of the realty agent.  You’d surely review the lease agreements for each.  You wouldn’t choose between two automobiles based on what the car salesmen tells you about them.  You’d seek a side-by-side listing of included features and options.  Why?  Because there are so many variables surrounding what an apartment or automobile delivers (not to mention how much it will cost in the future).  So why aren’t you attaining a similarly concrete rundown of what is included (or not) in your TMS software purchase?

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The SOW comparison is far more efficient and effective than trying to reconcile sprawling RFP answers which do not provide as equitable a comparison.  If a provider is unwilling to provide an SOW, they should be viewed with suspicion if not immediately disqualified.

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You only get one chance, during the selection process, to compel prospective solution providers to be forthcoming with details of their solution and their associated costs.  Most buyers are too intently focused on features and functionality to the detriment of service levels and costs.  Asking for a statement of work (SOW) for the overall project provides the buyer with not only a concrete list of features and functionality, but more importantly, the service levels and associated costs included in delivery of said features.

Ask each invited TMS or other logistics IT solution provider to deliver a TMS SOW that includes the following details:

  • Business Requirements expected of both the customer and the provider
  • Gap Management/Assessments to identify gaps and assign responsibilities for filling the gaps identified
  • How Data Loading is accomplished and by whom
  • Integration Responsibilities for both customer and provider
  • Testing, Support and Training service levels
  • User Onboarding service levels
  • Change Management responsibilities
  • Numerous other points that help to define the scope and resources to be allocated

The TMS SOW document should clearly define which elements are included in the provided pricing and which may be expected to incur additional costs.  It should contain rate structure for any costs occurring outside the quoted cost.  Once you’ve collected the SOW from each provider in the running, you can make a level-headed and informed like-kind comparison of solutions.  The SOW comparison is far more efficient and effective than trying to reconcile sprawling RFP answers which do not provide as equitable a comparison.  If a provider is unwilling to provide an SOW, they should be viewed with suspicion if not immediately disqualified.

Take this unorthodox step of demanding the SOW and ensure your reputational legacy as the leader of a successful TMS selection and implementation.

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