Beyond Go-Live: Navigating the Post-Implementation Journey

On the surface, parenting and implementing logistics technology are two very different tasks, ones that have no overlap. I have been implementing logistics technology for over 25 years, with countless “Go-Lives” under my belt, and for 16 of those years, I have been a parent with three “Go-Lives” of my own. With those experiences as justification, I can definitively say parenting and implementations are indeed very different.

Looking back however, it is easy to see a strong correlation between these two journeys. Both require a strategy, careful planning, a team of experts, and some resources to achieve the desired outcomes. However, to me, the most striking deviation is in how shippers – and the entire software ecosystem (including us consultants) – focus nearly all their time and attention on the Go-Live, with relatively little time spent on what needs to happen next — the “parenting.” 

The process of parenting is very different from the process of childbirth. Similarly, objectives, strategies, and tactics used during logistics system implementation are distinct from the playbook needed to drive end-user acceptance, integrate the technology into the enterprise business process, and maximize the long-term ROI of the initiative. This emerging practice is referred to as “Business Integration.”

There is already a mature playbook for Systems Integration, which focuses on delivering the technology on-time, on-scope, on-budget, and mitigating as much risk out of the process as possible, given that the industry has refined this delivery model over the past 30 years (or more). In other words, we’ve gotten very good at “delivering the baby” while giving too little attention to what matters most – what happens after the Go-Live.

Often, we hear shippers say, “Our TMS implementation did not meet the stated objectives.” An informal LinkedIn poll conducted by JBF revealed that 67% of respondents are dissatisfied with their TMS, and they are probably right! 

However, the shipper’s fallacy is having the expectation that the implementation “dot” connects directly to the outcome “dot.” It’s the equivalent of a new parent saying, “This is our new baby, but I was hoping for a lawyer instead.” 

If you have ever heard someone exclaim, “I wish there were a parenting handbook!” you may begin to understand there is equal, if not more, risk and effort to what happens after your Transportation Management System (TMS) goes live. There is more “parenting” work needed to achieve your desired outcomes, and we call this stage of the implementation journey “Business Integration.”  

For shippers, here are the four pillars for successful Business Integration, laid out in order of priority based on your enterprise maturity:

Get Your House in Order

  • Organizational alignment: Like preparing for a new baby, consider reorganizing to accommodate software and automated processes, particularly if transitioning from fully outsourced or manual operations.
  • Expertise: Ensure you have individuals with the necessary technical and business acumen, such as “super users” and “product managers,” to support and continuously enhance the system long-term.
  • Clear responsibilities: Establish clear delineations of responsibilities and accountabilities between the Logistics Business and IT organizations, akin to a “two parents” model, to promote successful implementation and operation of the system.

Consistent Care & Feeding

  • System maintenance: Treat your Transportation Management System like a living entity requiring consistent care and attention, including tuning, cleaning, testing, configuration, and discipline.
  • Resource allocation: Assign either an internal “super user” or a third-party provider to oversee these maintenance tasks essential for the system’s longevity and effectiveness.
  • Risk mitigation: Neglecting the ongoing stewardship of the system increases the risk of quickly outgrowing the TMS due to business changes, and compromises the system’s health if not properly managed from the outset of implementation.

Education & Continuous Improvement

  • Product Manager role: Designate a Product Manager responsible for staying updated on new features and upgrades in cloud-based logistics technology.
  • Business alignment: Task the Product Manager with aligning these developments with business needs and objectives, ensuring they contribute to new capabilities and address business imperatives.
  • Influence on adoption and enhancement: The Product Manager serves as a crucial intermediary, influencing end-user adoption, system capabilities, and feature/function enhancements with the software vendor.

Advanced Degrees

  • Resource allocation for ancillary tools: Encourage mature enterprises to invest in additional tools and technologies such as machine learning, modeling, application performance monitoring, and risk management to enhance the value of their systems.
  • Strategic timing: Consider the risk of rushing into these advanced topics prematurely, like handing over the family car keys to a fourth-grader.
  • Optimal value extraction: Timing the implementation of these tools and technologies with system growth and maturity ensures the most effective utilization and return on investment.

In conclusion, both Systems Integration and Business Integration are essential disciplines for the shipper to understand. Systems Integration ensures a successful delivery of the integrated system. At the same time, Business Integration focuses on the long-term adoption of the new system into the fabric of the business culture and operations.

Understanding both before your journey begins can help to set expectations properly and the timing of the “ROI/IRR” you signed up for since it is quite uncommon that you will achieve all desired outcomes on day one of Go-Live.

Brad Forester is CEO of JBF Consulting.