After selection and reviewing the expectations during integration, the process of actual integration begins. Unfortunately, attempting to integrate a TMS with other supply chain systems may come with significant challenges, and it’s best you take the planning of integration seriously, even if the TMS provider has what seems an easy integration process. Moreover, after getting top-down support for integration, which is similar to the TMS selection process, as outlined in our previous white paper, “TMS Evaluation: How to Evaluate, Select & Build the Case for A TMS” shippers must begin identifying the issues present that warrant integration. In other words, how will integration improve operations? The answer is simple; integration ensures data continuity and sharing, reducing delays, and optimizing TMS value. Of course, it hinges on following the right steps to integrate a TMS with other supply chain systems too.
At the onset of the process to integrate a TMS, it is essential to identify the environments of existing systems. For example, a Windows IIS server or Lenox Apache server is necessary to enable the standard integration through Cerasis. Knowing the situations in operating systems of your current systems will streamline integration and ensure your software developer understands your needs.
Depending on the capabilities of your software vendor, you may be able to go through a standard implementation and integration process or a Web services process. It depends on whether your solution will reside within the cloud or leverage your on-premise capabilities and servers. At this point, it is essential to visit with your software vendor and thoroughly review the details and functionality of standard versus Web services integration.
Next, it is vital to think about the schedule for integration. While everyone is focused on the return on investment, focus on realistic goals. This will help ensure the TMS provides the maximum ROI within the shortest period. However, creating unrealistic goals will only serve to build hostility within your organization and could lead to a loss of shareholder support for integration.
Shippers should also set aside appropriate IT and labor resources to enable optimum integration. Although the software vendor knows how to integrate your platform, the experience and on-premise familiarity with your existing systems will make the IT team’s involvement invaluable. Furthermore, allocate plenty of resources to eliminate delays from an inability to complete tasks. This initial assembly of your team will also lay the groundwork for change management in order to get TMS adoption throughout the enterprise.
Your TMS software vendor will also provide a list of steps and actions to take to complete integration. It is essential to follow these steps thoroughly, and if any issues arise, contact the TMS developer for clarification or advice.
The testing environment is the area where the TMS developers and your internal IT staff will work together to put together new functions and ensure the TMS performs the appropriate calls to retrieve information from your other systems and execute functions based upon them. In other words, the testing environment is the preemptive phase of use of the TMS before your go-live date. It is crucial to take advantage of the testing environment fully.
After the integration is complete, shippers will also undergo a certification process, verifying that data called through the TMS is routed accordingly. This is essentially a final step of testing, and once it is complete, shippers will be given production access to the TMS.
Receiving their production access is the first real step in moving data from your existing systems and putting the TMS to use in your facility.
Finally, any successful integration will also depend on your ability to build support for the new systems integration in your existing operations and train your team on how to use it appropriately.
Although initial integration may take place relatively fast compared to developing a TMS within your organization, it will be necessary to update the system according to manufacturer and developer specifications routinely. Fortunately, those leveraging Web services integration and cloud-based platforms do not have the added worry of downtime when the system updates.
Shippers that take the time to follow these 10 steps can successfully integrate a transportation management system with their other supply chain systems without unnecessary delays and added costs. Furthermore, those that work with an established, experienced partner, such as Cerasis, can rely on their expertise to streamline and optimize integration.
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