The Index Inside: The Next Evolution of TMS Business Intelligence

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1 ARC BRIEF NOVEMBER 2010 The Index Inside: The Next Evolution of TMS Business Intelligence By Adrian Gonzalez Summary The ability to make smarter decisions faster is what will differentiate tomorrow s industry leaders from the laggards, and it is a key reason why demand for business intelligence (BI) and analytics Although much of the focus around solutions continues to grow. BI is much more than business intelligence (BI) has been at software it is about empowering people, across the strategic and tactical levels, many companies are looking to bring business all levels of the organization, to make smarter and intelligence down to the operations faster business decisions by providing them with a level, especially in logistics. But a blind more detailed, accurate, and timely understanding spot still exists for many companies: of their role in achieving their company s strategic, they don t know how their performance tactical, and operational goals. compares against that of other companies. But an opportunity exists for Although much of the focus around BI has been at providers and users of software as aservice TMS. What if you could use the strategic and tactical levels, many companies are looking to bring business intelligence down to network execution data to create a transportation index that companies the operations level, especially in logistics. Software vendors are responding by adding BI can use to measure themselves against? capabilities to their transportation, warehousing, and other execution applications. These BI modules give users enhanced visibility to operational metrics and exceptions, and also allow them to compare current results against historical data and planned targets. But a blind spot still exists for many companies: they don t know how their performance compares against that of other companies with similar profiles. And even when companies obtain benchmarking data, either from third party sources or via their own research, it is typically standalone information i.e., the data is not embedded within execution applications, so its usefulness in driving day to day decisions is limited. This paper was written by ARC Advisory Group on behalf of LeanLogistics. The opinions and observations stated are those of ARC Advisory Group. For further information or to provide feedback on this paper, please contact the author at VISION, EXPERIENCE, ANSWERS FOR INDUSTRY

2 ARC Brief, Page 2 But an opportunity exists for providers and users of software as a service (SaaS) transportation management systems (TMS). One of the benefits of SaaS TMS is that they come with a pre built network of carriers, shippers, and other trading partners. What if you could use the execution data from this network to calculate a transportation index that companies can use to measure themselves against? What if this index was embedded within the TMS to provide users with another level of business intelligence, which can drive more informed decisions and actions? This paper explores these questions in more detail, with perspectives from a leading shipper that is currently using transportation index data embedded within its software as a service TMS solution. Demand for Business Intelligence Keeps Growing According to an annual survey of leading TMS vendors conducted by ARC, Business Intelligence/Analytics is the highest ranked functionality customers are requesting. Business Intelligence/Analytics Transportation Procurement Freight Audit & Payment Global Trade Management Appointment Scheduling Fleet Routing and Scheduling Parcel Shipping 2008 Survey 2009 Survey Multi Shipper Collaboration Driver/Vehicle Management Other Freight Forwarding 0.0% 10.0% 20.0% 30.0% 40.0% 50.0% 60.0% 70.0% 80.0% Business Intelligence a Priority for TMS Users There are various factors driving this demand for BI, including: Companies want more granular visibility to their transportation spend so that they can manage and control it more effectively. Historically, many companies have lacked detailed cost information because they have only tracked average costs instead of actual costs; have aggregated their transportation costs with other expenses; or have failed to track fuel surcharges and assessorial fees separately from base rates.

3 ARC Brief, Page 3 Companies want to identify negative trends in costs and performance and identify root causes as early as possible to take corrective action. For example, if a carrier s tender accept rate begins to decline, a company can engage proactively with the carrier to understand the root cause and correct the problem. In some cases, the shipper might actually be the cause of the problem, not the carrier! Companies want to conduct what if analyses to evaluate the service and cost trade offs of different transportation strategies and tactics, such as using different modes or utilizing pool points and cross docks. Simply put, the trend is to embed business intelligence within transportation management systems and other execution applications to bring BI to the frontlines! The Missing Link in Transportation BI Dashboards TMS vendors have made great strides over the past few years in enhancing their solutions with BI capabilities. TRANSPORTATION BI DASHBOARD Historical Data compared to last year? Plans and Budgets compared to plan?? compared to peers/market? Companies lack visibility to performance compared to broader market

4 ARC Brief, Page 4 Performance dashboards, like the one depicted above, are fairly standard in most leading TMS solutions today. Compared to table format reports, these dashboards make it easier for users to identify trends and exceptions, and to analyze specific components of their transportation operations in a more intuitive manner. There is a missing link to transportation BI dashboards. While they allow companies to compare their current However, there is a missing link to these BI performance against what they dashboards. While they allow companies to accomplished last year, as well as what compare their current performance against what they planned/budgeted to achieve this they accomplished last year, as well as what year, they generally don t provide companies with any insight on how their they planned/budgeted to achieve this year, performance compares against industry they generally don t provide companies with peers or the broader market. any insight on how their performance compares against industry peers or the broader market. There are various ways companies can obtain transportation benchmark information, such as participating in benchmarking services, accessing index data from third parties, or conducting their own market research. While all of these approaches provide valuable insights, they fall short because the data typically only represents a snapshot in time (often a quarter or more in the past) and it is standalone i.e., not embedded within the TMS, which limits the ability for users to leverage it in a streamlined and ongoing fashion. Providers of software as a service TMS, however, are well positioned to address this missing link. Software as a Service: A Platform for Transportation BI A software as a service TMS comes with a built in network of shippers, carriers, and other trading partners. The leading players in the market execute millions of transportation transactions through their networks annually. SaaS TMS providers, therefore, have the opportunity to use all of this network data such as rates, carrier performance, and transit times to develop a transportation index that gives companies visibility to marketlevel trends, and more importantly, they can embed this index information within the TMS application and BI dashboard. Developing such an index, however, is not a trivial task. Since there are many factors that influence transportation rates, taking a simple average of all network rates on a lane, for example, and using that value as an index

5 ARC Brief, Page 5 would not provide an accurate representation of the market. The best approach is to develop a model that takes into account not just rates, but also rate variance, capacity constraints, surplus and deficit market conditions, seasonality, and other factors. Shippers Historical Data compared to last year? Carriers SaaS TMS Network Data Suppliers & Customers TRANSPORTATION BI DASHBOARD compared to peers/market? Plans and Budgets compared to plan? SaaS TMS network data provides missing link How can companies use this index information? Based on conversations with shippers, having a transportation index embedded within a TMS would help them (among other things): Establish a target rate for new lanes. For example, if a company acquires a new customer in a region they haven t shipped to before and needs to establish carrier contracts, the index could serve as a target rate during the bidding/negotiation process. Evaluate spot quotes against a reference. While spot quotes and contracted rates are not always comparable, having a benchmark as a reference (or just knowing the delta between the two) is useful nonetheless. Identify trends where their performance starts to deviate from the broader market. For example, if a company s transportation cost on a given lane is rising over time while the market remains flat, this could

6 ARC Brief, Page 6 signal that some corrective action is required. Or maybe not. What s important is identifying the trend so that you can then understand its causes. Putting benchmark information in the hands of users when they need it, when they re in the heat of the moment [of making a decision], that is what s most It is important to note that no benchmark data is 100 percent accurate or a perfect representation of the market. And understanding how an index is calculated the algorithms used, the scope and appealing about having the index as quality of the input data, the assumptions made, part of the TMS. and so on is also important. By itself, an index is Bill Wade, VP of Transportation, CHEP nothing more than a number. But when you couple it with a transportation planner s experience and knowledge of the market and embed it within the workflow and BI capabilities of a TMS, then the index becomes a valuable component in the decision making process. CHEP: A Customer Perspective In October 2010, LeanLogistics, a software as a service TMS provider, announced that it had added its transportation management index ( LeanDex ) to its TMS and procurement applications. ARC interviewed Bill Wade, VP of Transportation at CHEP, a LeanLogistics customer that is an early user of the index (CHEP and LeanLogistics are both owned by Brambles). Putting benchmark information in the hands of users when they need it, when they re in the heat of the moment [of making a decision], that is what s most appealing about having the index as part of the TMS, said Wade. CHEP has historically used benchmark data from third parties, but since the data was standalone from the application, getting the information to the right people, at the right time, was not easy. The two areas where the index is currently providing value for CHEP is when users enter new rates in the TMS and when they use the spot market, both as a reference point to make sure the rates make sense. We use benchmark data as a guide, explained Wade. But a number doesn t tell you everything, he continued, warning against relying solely on benchmark data to make decisions. Understanding the factors behind the data is important, as is thinking through how to use (or not to use) benchmark data, both internally and with carriers.

7 ARC Brief, Page 7 That said, Everyone agrees that having the index within the TMS is a great tool, concluded Wade. Now that our team is using it, we wouldn t want to go back to working without it. Conclusion Business Intelligence/Analytics is the highest ranked functionality TMS users are requesting. TMS vendors have made great strides in enhancing their solutions with BI capabilities. Performance dashboards, which are fairly standard in most leading TMS solutions today, make it easier for users to identify trends and exceptions, and to analyze specific components of their transportation operations in a more intuitive manner. However, there is a missing link to these BI dashboards: they generally don t provide companies with any insight on how their performance compares against industry peers or the broader market. Traditional sources of benchmark data fall short of expectations because the data typically only represents a snapshot in time and it is standalone i.e., not embedded within the TMS, which limits the ability for users to leverage it in a streamlined and ongoing fashion. Software as a service TMS providers have the opportunity to use their network data to develop a transportation index that gives companies visibility to market level trends, and more importantly, they can embed this index information within the TMS application and BI dashboard. By itself, an index is nothing more than a number. But when you couple it with a transportation planner s experience and knowledge of the market, and embed it within the workflow and BI capabilities of a TMS, then the index becomes a valuable component in the decision making process. This paper was written by ARC Advisory Group on behalf of LeanLogistics. The opinions and observations stated are those of ARC Advisory Group. For further information or to provide feedback on this paper, please contact the author at ARC Briefs are published and copyrighted by ARC Advisory Group. The information is proprietary to ARC and no part of it may be reproduced without prior permission from ARC Advisory Group.

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