By Tom McLeod, President and CEO
At this year’s User Conference, I opened with a discussion of “The Connected Enterprise.” This is a subject we believe is very important for all transportation companies. For quite some time, we have been striving to make your company a Connected Enterprise. Our development efforts in recent years have been focused on finding the best ways to help our customers realize this vision.
To be Connected, transportation companies need to be moving toward what I call “frictionless movement of information” across many traditional system boundaries. Not only does information need to flow freely within your company and your systems, it must also move easily, with little or no effort, with customers, drivers, carriers, and partners.
Connected Enterprises empower each person to have the right information at the right time. This gives them a better chance to make the right decision, and win in the marketplace.
There are five technology streams we are focused on for our customers to help bring about the Connected Enterprise.
It is essential to push the right information to the right person at the right time, rather than force them to go search for it. To that end, there must be mechanisms that collect and communicate information proactively to every employee, customer, and partner. Once configured, there should be no further effort to get the information where it needs to go.
One great example of this is our Rapid Alert Notification System (RANS) which detects events, or a set of circumstances, that people need to know about and pushes that information to them in a variety of ways, including instant messages, texts, or emails. Other examples include our ETA/Out-of-Route module, the call check subsystem that monitors and alerts on any gaps in planned driver call in’s, and the report scheduler that proactively pushes critical reports to the right users’ email inbox every day.
In the future, we hope to provide alerts and information about events before they happen. We plan to even be able to warn about specific goals that you are not on track to achieve.
Workflow without Boundaries
Companies need automated workflow to help them automate business processes without boundaries, including those processes that extend beyond their own company. This concept of workflow enabled business processes that can cross these many boundaries means transportation companies can move to the paradigm of management by exception, and use business process automation to handle the routine elements of both their internal and external business processes.
Good examples of this today are the process automation tools in our system, such as rendition billing or FlowLogix that allows user configurable decision trees, in your own defined business processes. Going forward we hope to provide better business process automation for driver and carrier onboarding that will incorporate both internal and external sources of information. We envision process automation solutions that create rating exception queues, or automated audit processes for things like lumper fees or tolls.
Connected Enterprises can take advantage of the “Big Data” at their disposal and do something truly useful by turning it into “Big Insight.” When companies can present managers and workers with actionable information, in easily understandable formats, and in timeframes where that understanding can influence decisions in a positive way, they gain the potential value of Big Insight that can be derived from the Big Data they have access to.
We have been able to put several of these big insight tools in place already with Profitability Analysis, Lane Analysis, Vital Signs, McLeod Navigator for strategic goals and KPI’s, and most recently the McLeod Carrier-Broker Exchange for greater market rate insight. As we look to the future, we see many more opportunities to give you rate decision support at critical decision points, such as load entry and the quote process. Our new Pricing and Bid Management system will continue to grow and incorporate even more rate and freight volume level information from inside and outside sources for lanes. We hope to continue to expand the use of driver hours and event planning beyond the first steps we have taken with our driver Feasibility function.
The Connected Enterprise is mobile, and not just for drivers with mobile communication systems in the cab. It is essential that transportation companies take advantage of today’s mobile technologies to enable their employees to perform critical time sensitive work away from their desk. They must also find ways to connect with their customers and industry partners using these devices.
Our seventh and latest version of the McLeod Anywhere Mobile Applications will be released in a few weeks. We have already delivered the ability for your team to handle things like advance requests, checking load status, sending and receiving mobile communications messages, and seeing your KPI’s with Vital signs all on your mobile phone or tablet. At our Users’ Conference, we announced the McLeod Customer Branded Apps which will be available in the first quarter of 2015. These apps are ones you can brand for your company in the mobile app stores and provide to your customers, drivers, and outside carriers, so they can be connected with you through their mobile devices.
Every Connected Enterprise has systems that are easy to integrate with the outside world, both quickly and inexpensively, using low cost Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) paradigms such as web services. As the acceptance of this approach to building interfaces and communications bridges between systems continues to grow, the Connected Enterprise will take advantage of it because their systems already support it. It is a competitive advantage, and as time passes, it will become essential.
This aspect of your system may not be as visible to you today as the other technology streams we identified, but it is crucial, and you already have a leg up with your McLeod system. In the last few years, we have been able to move most of our new interfaces with outside systems and services to Web Services. This Service Oriented Architecture makes new integrations less expensive and quicker to implement, while also reducing the expense associated with maintaining them. Our current Application Program Interface (API) document is over 350 pages long and growing. As an example of how valuable this technology is, in a recent request for a new integration solution from one of our customers, we found that using the existing McLeod API with the vendor reduced our labor to produce the interface from two weeks to a single day.
We believe that there are so many new connections we can help you gain from this SOA technology, the sky is the limit. We are using them to connect our customers to new rating sources, directly with shipper systems, offering load status information to external systems, and soon to integrate rail rates and schedules with your system.
When these Technology Streams Come Together
Connected Enterprises also set the stage to drive improvement. They create an environment where continuous improvement programs and goal setting flourish. This happens when Big Insight, Workflow & Automation, and Frictionless Information are combined to produce extraordinary results.
Thank you again for your business the opportunity you have given us to help you grow and become more connected. We are excited about the future the opportunity to go there together with you!