I clicked the link to the story about the advantages of cloud supply chain management solutions written by the CEO of one of the largest providers in the industry. Then I waited, and waited for the story to load. After several minutes of trying to load it (even from several different links) I gave up, unable to wait any longer for the pearls of wisdom it may have contained. It struck me that I had just experienced the perfect metaphor for the experience of being a customer of the largest transportation management system providers today. Bigger is not always better when it comes to choosing a technology solution partner.
There is value in considering the differences between engaging a diversified software giant with a portfolio that stretches way beyond transportation logistics and a smaller provider with a much tighter focus on the particular challenges of the transportation logistics function. Here are six ways to weigh the comparison:
Differences in Functionality & Development | Getting tools that address your organization’s specific needs is obviously important. The largest providers typically offer a very broad array of features and functionality. They also have experience in nearly every industry whereas smaller players may have expertise in fewer verticals. However, when it comes to flexibility, the smaller solution providers, with far less corporate bureaucracy are better equipped to accommodate input from customers with regard to identifying and activating features you need versus those you may not. The moderate-sized provider also generally welcomes a level of customer input into product road map and development the huge providers do not.
Transparency & Dependability | True, with the largest providers, it is easy to be sure the solution you’ll purchase will be around for the long term. The biggest organizations – often public companies – are verifiably financially secure and their customers need not be worried that the solution they’ve implemented will vanish or be inconsistently administered. While the opposite may be the case for the expanding number of technology startups seeking to make their name in supply chain management solutions, there are a good number of “Goldilocks” providers. These are the mid-sized cloud providers with established reputations, a decade or more of operational history, and client bases large enough to ensure their continuity.
Differences in Support & Organizational Fit |The importance of these considerations cannot be overstated. The best solutions foster truly collaborative environments and highly personalized support systems. With thousands of employees globally across sprawling portfolios of services and technology, the biggest providers typically approach customer support from a “shared services” perspective. This means customers rarely (if ever) interact with the same support person over time (if they’re not simply directed to online user groups or product manuals). Call centers and other “shared services” are not an effective means of providing the kind of partnerships offered by mid-sized solution providers; the kind of relationships that help customers derive maximum value from their solution.
The continuity that comes with the proper organizational fit between provider and customer enables the cloud supply chain management solution to flex, evolve and grow in tandem with the customer’s business. The largest providers simply do not have the time to invest in becoming knowledgeable about the specifics of each customers’ operational challenges.
Put simply, the mega-provider isn’t in the business of going beyond the comprehensive yet formulaic (and admittedly formidable) systematic approach to delivering results. The right mid-sized provider with a good reputation and more accommodating outlook, can really help an drive success in the automation of supply chain logistics processes and practices, driving value for the entire organization.