Once technology breaks through in an industry, solutions begin popping up in every corner. Many of these solutions are copycats, many offer lackluster products and services, and some of them are just marketing without much substance behind them. Especially in the early adoption stages, it can be difficult for your company to tell the difference between best-in-class vendors and these pretenders.
Over the last few years, a technology revolution has been taking place within the logistics industry. We’re seeing the emergence of Uber for trucking apps, as well as countless automation and visibility solutions. A lot of these are vaporware, or too early-stage to be viable.
Let’s take APIs as a case study. This technology has only been around for decades, but just recently entered the logistics market in the past few years. It’s already clear that APIs are the preferred technology method for real-time connectivity. Since project44 launched in 2014, numerous companies offering similar sounding quote-to-invoice automation and visibility solutions have popped up. Choosing the right vendor can be complicated. How do you know who actually delivers on the promise of best-in-class technology infrastructure and data quality at the right price?
1. Quality Standards – The best-in-class providers are the ones that go through extra steps to ensure functionality. Many providers will accept any data source (ranging from APIs to websrcaping to EDI feeds or excel uploads) from their partners without checking on performance standards or reliability. When selecting a technology vendor, you absolutely must inquire about what they’re doing to keep a high standard of functionality. Our Carrier Health Check process is one way we partner with our network to help capacity providers follow best practices when building APIs. We have processes in place to monitor the performance of our network and ensure the capacity provider’s APIs are operating at the highest levels. We proactively communicate and manage our relationships with the capacity providers on our network, and keep a strict set of key performance indicators in place. If a capacity provider’s API doesn’t meet these KPIs, we work with them to improve it.
2. Scalability and Integration Simplicity – APIs are taking over the transportation and logistics industry because legacy technology was no longer functional enough to meet the industry’s growing standards. To avoid that happening with our technology, we put steps in place to future-proof what we build. Our APIs are RESTful, which means they’re built on the latest framework for scalability, that functions best for cloud applications, and is designed to allow you to work with objects using familiar HTTP verbs. Our network is also simple to integrate with. EDI’s setup time is 3-6 months, while an integration to project44 can be setup in minutes, and delivers one-to-many access. project44 uses JSON as the default API format, since it is inherently more efficient than XML as fewer bits are being passed across the wire, and less machine time is required to process the data on either end.
3. Security – Security is among the most vital aspects of a solid cloud technology platform, especially if customer information is involved. Industry leading web service platforms make security their highest priority, and it is imperative that you consider this while selecting a technology vendor. project44 uses Amazon Web Services, which is one of the most highly-regarded providers in terms of security, trusted by companies like McDonald’s, 3M, Expedia, Pfizer, and many others. It is deployed on a redundant structure across multiple AWS availability zones.
4. Partnership Strength – One way to gauge the strength of a technology vendor is to look at the quality of their partnerships and customers. The best companies want to work with the best providers, and most of them have an extreme vetting process. project44 works with McLeod, MercuryGate, 3GTMS, Shipwell, Turvo, and more.
5. Thought Leadership – Researching the vendors you are considering using can help you gain a better understanding of what their mission is. Best-in-class providers will have content that reflects their thought leadership, both on their site, and shared through reputable industry sources.
Essentially, selecting a technology vendor requires a vetting process. Making sure that your vendor is dedicated to performance through set standards is crucial. Ask smart questions and get referrals. Make sure they are being honest and transparent with you. While the real test is using the product and watching it work effectively, these steps will help you narrow it down and get it right the first time.