IT has changed dramatically over the past few years. Not too long ago, Information Technology departments were cost centers and its functions were limited to:
- Capturing information
- Reporting information
- Administrative and desktop support
Nowadays, IT stands for “innovation technology” because it has become a strategic differentiator for businesses.
What this means is that successful LSPs are using their IT department as a core component of their services.
And this is true for companies of all sizes, not just major players with major budgets. Cloud systems have made it possible for companies to have access to sophisticated software that allows them to collaborate with their vendors, analyze their profitability, and refine their business-development processes. From sales to operations, IT has the ability to transform any department.
The Role of IT in Sales
Technology can allow sales reps to price their products and services more accurately.
IT is a tool to make sales reps more effective. When sales reps are connected to external streams of data, they’re able to better align their sales targets with the company’s strategic plan for growth. For example, if the target is within a trade lane that your company is strong in, it may be acceptable to offer a more competitive bid.
Technology can help carrier reps find qualified trucking vendors more easily and efficiently.
Imagine replacing 20 phone calls with a digital dashboard that you can access anywhere from any device. That system can potentially reduce work hours, improve accuracy, eliminate headaches — while providing better customer service. That’s not science fiction, that’s a reasonable request from your company’s technology resources.
So again, let’s look at the difference 20 years of technology makes:
Then: Sales and carrier reps call IT when their computer breaks or they need training on how to use a system they don’t really need or like.
Now: IT proactively implements systems that make sales and carrier reps’ jobs easier and more profitable. This creates a cycle of innovation that builds on itself, allowing rapid growth by enabling more wins for the sales department, as well as many other places.
This is the shift in technology that successful companies have embraced and used as a core resource to differentiate their services and improve workflows.
What does business intelligence mean to a logistics services provider these days?
In plain English, how usable is your data? By looking at your data, can you answer all of these questions?
- Where is the pricing? Where should I set a price?
- What should I be willing to pay a carrier? Where do I find a carrier?
- What are our processes for on-boarding carriers to make sure they are qualified to our standards?
Business intelligence ties all of that together with data that speaks. When those systems connect and allow you to see patterns and opportunities within the cycle, that’s when the magic happens.
The Role of IT in Customer Service
As we’ve written about before, customer service in the age of the real-time consumer is not a luxury for the transportation industry—it’s the bar, and that bar is set really high. Customers want it delivered fast, transparent, sustainable, and a whole list of other conveniences we didn’t even have just 10 years ago.
However, when you make the leap over that bar, that’s when your company stops being a commodity and starts being a valued service. At that point, you can stop having conversations about price and start having conversations about how you’re going to grow their business next quarter and become a truly valued business partner.
The closer you are to your customers and the more in-tune you are to their needs, the more you’ll be able to develop services that are perfect for their business (and potentially, somebody else’s business).
The way you differentiate your company and avoid the commoditization happening in the logistics industry today is to deliver better solutions than the other guy, not the same solutions at a lower price.
The Role of Technology in the Product Innovation Cycle
New product or service development is tricky. For the most part, there is no shortage of great ideas, so that’s not the problem. The problem is when people fall in love with their ideas and burn lots of cash trying to make something work that the market doesn’t need, or your firm doesn’t have the resources to produce.
What IT can do in this scenario is to create a process using data and metrics to benchmark the innovation cycle. This adds discipline and accountability because it’s just as important to know when a product isn’t working as when it is working wonders.
Failures are not a bad thing in innovation; in fact, you should expect them. The key differentiator is the ability to learn from them, to stop them if they get out of hand, or to re-direct. Additionally, when the process is standardized, it allows you to see what’s working with successful projects, and to allocate more resources to speed up or enhance the progress.
Lanetix has a feature called “Stage Gates” to help projects correct their course without burning too many resources chasing the wrong idea. If you’d like to hear more about how Lanetix provides technology solutions for all parts of a logistics service provider’s business, contact us for a demo.
Sean Fernandez is an independent consultant specializing in growth strategy and company turnarounds. His remarkable career in logistics spans more than 20 years, most recently as COO of XPO Logistics, where he grew the business from $180 million to over $2 billion in revenues through organic growth and acquisitions. His focus and direct oversight on information technology revolutionized the role of COO in logistics.