A top tier cloud transportation management software (TMS) system can be a game changer in delivering a competition advantage for any company, but many businesses remain on the sidelines over concerns of an implementation during COVID-19.
Even under the best of circumstances, TMS system implementations are challenging and ripe for possible failurewhich the additional layer of COVID-19 concerns takes the risk even higher.
Our belief is there is no better time than the present to drive a competitive wedge between your company and its industry rivals through supply chain excellence, but the ultimate decision is up to you.
So, with all that in mind let’s outline what we have seen to be the 6 biggest challenges implementing a TMS system during COVID-19 that you should be aware of in your decision process and if you do choose to move forward keep them in the front of mind during the project.
Top 6 TMS Implementation Challenges During COVID-19
Employees Distracted with Personal Responsibilities
Home Office: Connectivity, Hardware and Environment
Communication: Non-Verbal, Formal & Informal
Let’s start this article with the number one issue, which is the hesitancy to move forward with a top transportation management system because of the company’s uncertainty in surviving the pandemic. Also, if the company does make it will the business look the same as it did prior to COVID-19.
Adding to the general business question is the uneasiness and potential risks brought on by implementing a system that touches every aspect of a company’s success, with a remote workforce.
One way to mitigate the business uncertainty question on implementing a TMS during the pandemic to get the leadership on board is to provide a business case on how the new TMS will drive a competitive advantage in the market for your company. Include in your business case the financial and market positives, along with the risks and how you see they can be lessened.
It’s critical you highlight the challenges and risks to show to the leadership team you have thought of all aspects of an implementation at this time and how you’ll build a team and project plan to reduce potential pitfalls.
Employees Distracted with Personal Responsibilities
There is no question your employees have taken on new challenges that distract them when working from home during COVID-19 that they did not have to deal with previously. The biggest distractions are coming from the day-to-day care of their children with schools and daycares shutdown.
Your employees are now homeschooling their children and having to care for their children at home. Let’s face it. There is a reason why many of us are not cut out to be school teachers, so for employees to have their work burdens along with their parenting responsibilities can cause distractions and stress they would otherwise not have had when working from home a year ago.
Flexibility and understanding is key to your company being successful with these new responsibilities during “working hours”.
One suggestion to improve your team’s success in this area is to provide flexibility during the day that can be dedicated to homeschooling, then have the entire team determine two periods of time during the day where 100% of the team is “on-the-clock “. This common time is the same, no matter the time zone the worker is located, meaning that if the “common time” is 8:30 am to 10:30 am EST it means employees in central time would be available in the core time of 7: 30am to 9:30 am.
Home Office: Connectivity, Hardware and Environment
Not all home offices are created equal and that’s ok. The important part is to understand the shortcomings and address them to get your entire team on equal footing that will allow them to be successful. Below are some thoughts to consider when tackling the issue of your team’s home office settings and capabilities.
Depending on where an employee lives depends on how well their internet connectivity functions and it is not necessarily based on whether they are in the city, suburbs or out in the country.
One might conclude that city connections are better than rural connections, but that may not be true. Some employees may be at the end of a run, others may have more bandwidth requirements than they originally required because spouse and children are online concurrently, they may have chosen a lesser service or their area has not received an upgrade in internet service.
Connectivity issues also can come with mobile phone coverage and reliability.
Adding to connectivity is the quality of TMS project team members’ hardware.
Depending on the functionality you are implementing, employees developing and testing the TMS system may need additional hardware or an upgrade to their home office hardware to perform to the highest levels. Some hardware considerations include: multiple monitors, printers, scanners, or a faster and more reliable computer.
As for the home office environment itself, many employees do not have a dedicated space for their or if they do they do not have one nearly as large as what they would have at the company office.
All said, there are a number of considerations to consider with your remote team and will require additional investment by the company to get those areas of deficiency upgraded for their TMS project team.
The number one reason why we are even talking about challenges associated with TMS implementations with COVID-19 is the most obvious to the list, sudden illness.
There is always a risk an employee can fall ill, but with COVID-19 the risk is increased and even impacts non-COVID-19 health care, meaning a team member may have other healthcare issues that is slowing them down, but cannot get care because the healthcare system is strained addressing the pandemic.
The best way to prepare for illness within your TMS project team is to have employees document their work, keep leadership appraised on their status and utilize cloud based software that allows others equal access by multiple team members. Some cloud based tools to consider if not already using them include: Google Drive and Office 365. Both the Google and Microsoft products allow file sharing. In the case where a document is not shared, your IT team can access employee files through their administration portal.
We have found these tools to make for a quick and easy transition.
Training is a challenge in any environment and then adding in the complexities associated with a remote team only complicates the matter.
The combination of home office environment distractions, shortcomings of video conferencing and apprehension of learning something new can and does have its challenges.
Not every employee will learn the new TMS functionality at the same pace, while at the same time everyone has a different way of learning. You’ll find some employees do better with written documentation, others with visual demonstration, some with hands-on work and others with various combinations of all.
With all that in mind, it is important to bring the different learning methods together in your training phase of the TMS project. We recommend recording the session, so employees can go back and run through the sessions again. Also, there should be written documentation employees can reference and put notes on to help remind them when they begin working in the system full time.
Also critical to the training is to keep it as close to go-live as possible, so it will be fresh in your employees’ minds. There are times large delays to the original go-live do happen, so it is important to do refresher training in these situations to ensure the team is ready to go on “Go-Live”.
Last, but certainly not least is the importance of communication. Poor communication can be devastating to the success of implementing a new TMS, but can be managed effectively.
To start, communication comes in all forms: non-veral, formal channels and non-formal channels.
Both non-verbal and non-formal are the two forms of communication that are the most difficult to manage with a remote workforce and therefore need to be addressed in the remote project TMS team plan.
Quite often there is more said via eyes, face gestures and overall body reactions that cannot be seen in a remote team, which is why we all communication be done via video channels like Zoom and RingCentral. This will help to see some, not all, non-verbal reactions. It will also ensure engagement since you will be able to see all team members focused on their screen and not doing another task on the side, which often occurs in a conference call.
As we indicated in other articles, some of the best conversations occur at a moments notice. Since informal communication comes for everyday interaction, the project leader needs to be intentional in forcing informal communications between team members.
Some tools to consider include: Slack, MicroSoft Teams or other similar message platforms.
Now that we are in a remote work situation, we ask our team members to always turn their camera on and to use the messaging platforms to write a quick note or draw out a quick conversation at the touch of a button.
Let’s face it, there will be times when the pressure is on and stress is high. To keep in front of the pressure, the transportation management team lead needs to have formal communications at regular intervals to keep everyone abreast to key dates, discussion of wins, walk through of challenges and give everyone a time to take the floor with questions.
As part of the formal communication process, we highly recommend utilizing a project management software platform.
Now that we have gone through the keys to a successful TMS implementation with a remote work team, we recommend vetting out other resources to help you along the way.
A strong implementation partner can be found by asking your TMS vendor for recommendations. If you are interested in the MercuryGate TMS, we would love to be a part of the conversation.
CSX crew is a Certified Reseller of the MercuryGate Cloud TMSwhich is consistently ranked as a top 5 TMS in the market by Gartner in their Magic Quadrant Analysis.
Other TMS System Articles that May Be of Interest:
- A Complete Guide to TMS Freight Software: Market Capabilities and Solutions for Shippers
- Gartner’s Magic Quadrant Analysis Key to TMS Buying Selection Process
- Should Your Company Purchase & Implement a TMS System During COVID-19?
- Top 7 Remote Project Management TMS Implementation Essentials
- MercuryGate Certified Integrator Channel Partner: Benefits & Value
- Best Transportation Management System (TMS) Software Packages
- Top 10 Transportation Management Software (TMS) Implementation Pitfalls to Avoid
- TMS RFP Template
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