The best way we can define the benefits of a transportation management system is it gives companies a way to break away from its competition, increase customer service and vendor relations, improve their order-to-cash cycle or reduce expenses in a way that logistics is no longer a cost center, but a competitive advantage.
As we have mentioned in a number of other articles and guides, the best logistics and supply chain-focused companies win in their respective industries. Examples would include Wal-Mart for retail, Amazon for e-commerce and Starbucks for dining. All three examples exhibit outstanding supply chain performance that sets them apart from the rest of their competitors and drives great thoughts from their customer base just by mentioning their name.
Three common qualities shared by these companies are:
- Their ability to drive personalization at scale
- Their ability to leverage their ecosystems
- Their ability to execute business-led digital strategies
Becoming the best does not happen overnight, but instead through a series of well thought out decisions that drive to the end goal of delivering the best customer experience and striving to give the customer what they want, when they want it. Often times the most successful companies bring solutions that their customers did not even know they wanted. This is possible because they are several steps ahead of the curve.
One key aspect of being forward-thinking is to develop a supply chain ecosystem that gives their company insight into the flow of incoming supplies that will then be transformed into the products and services their customers want. Then, deliver it in the way their customers have come to expect.
Some thoughts along this line include:
- Who knew we wanted a text message when the delivery arrived, with a picture of the package sitting on their front porch?
- Who knew how great it would be to drop a return off and have the credit already being processed before the return package was back at the returns DC?
The baseline for playing with the big dogs is to employ the best possible transportation management system so you and your team can plan, execute, report, analyze and optimize the inbound and outbound flow of products. Without a system like this in place, it will be a real struggle toward becoming one of the best logistics and supply chain execution companies.
Once the foundation is set, the sky is the limit for the shipper. Now, all that may sound simple, it is easier said than done.
There is more to the process than simply selecting the best transportation management systems off a “Top 10” list and jumping straight into implementation.
The difficulties come from the fact that like most things in life. there is not a one size fits all solution. Although once a person or company has gone through the process of implementing several times they find there is a success formula that can be brought to each situation to help make the process easier and better positioned for success.
This is where working with a MercuryGate VAR Partner and Integrator comes into play. In this partnership, MercuryGate brings the best TMS cloud technology platform to the table, which they continue to focus their internal resources to improve and enhance and the VAR (value-add reseller) focuses on helping the company looking to drive the best supply chain technology in their selection process and being the partner to them in the implementation, integration, testing, training and then optimizing phases of the project.
The VAR has the experience of having done the work themselves and integrating and operating several other solutions in the “real-world," while MercuryGate focuses their efforts on delivering the best TMS for the market. The combination is a perfect partnership for those buying the TMS, logistics and supply chain system.
At InTek we live and breathe MercuryGate and have successfully helped 100s of companies looking to build a solid logistics and supply chain foundation and thrive into the future.
Next, we will share with you how we can help your company with the MercuryGate/InTek partnership.
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A study put out by the Aberdeen Group found 83% of companies interviewed have become aware of the cost and service impact transportation has on the overall supply chain performance of their company and see transportation as more than just an isolated budget line item to be monitored. The strategy many shippers have taken to change results for the better is bring a managed transportation service strategy through a well-respected logistics service provider.
Let’s begin by diving deep into the MercuryGate system, the focal point of the partnership solution.
MercuryGate is a single-platform, global Transportation Management System (TMS) that supports all freight domestic and international freight modes.
The MercuryGate TMS platform is a full-function transportation management system that is incredibly flexible. It's built on a SaaS cloud and is the premier choice in supply chain platform whether you're a shipper, 3PL, freight broker, freight forwarder or motor freight carrier.
MercuryGate has the ability to procure, plan, optimize, execute, report, strategize and analyze a company’s logistics and supply chain.
We like to say MercuryGate is the last TMS a company would ever have to purchase and implement.
There is no watered-down or free version of MercuryGate, as we often see with other TMS options. Most other platforms lure potential users in with a free version and then, once it’s determined that the “free” version doesn’t have the power needed, they gradually increase the tiers and pricing, often leaving the user paying more than expected.
If you are just getting started in your TMS purchase journey, you will quickly find these systems as you search for “Cost of Transportation Management Systems (TMS).” Trust us, they have figured out how to manipulate the search engines to draw folks in.
Not to drift too far off-topic, but we have seen this scenario many times when talking to prospects. Many buyers have remorse from these “free” pricing strategies other TMS companies sell. Now don’t get us wrong, there is a place for the “free TMS systems.” Their place sits squarely with companies with little complexity and very few transactions a month.
Unlike the previously described TMS platforms, MercuryGate and a number of other transportation management systems provide a powerful base system that scales well from small all the way to the largest of multi-national shippers.
The power and ease of integration also provide the shipper flexibility to move to a managed TMS option quickly.
Many logistics service providers (LSPs) that utilize the MercuryGate platform can be easily brought in as a managed service provider.
The MercuryGate TMS cloud-based software provides the following benefits:
- Highest Level of System Functionality for Logistics and Supply Chains
- Ability to Operate All Domestic & International Modes, Including Fleet
- Provides Full Transparency with Well Over 100 User Defined Reference Fields
- Great Operational Software
- Supply Chain Control Tower
- Strong Reporting, Analysis & Business Intelligence (BI) Capabilities
- Partnerships with Get Ahead of Capacity Constraints
- Integrates with over 50 Logistics and Supply Chain Platforms to build a Best of Breed Solution
- One of the Best Rate & Route Optimization Software
- Highly Rated within the 38-Page Gartner Magic Quadrant TMS Review
The above is accomplished through 10 functional components:
- Carrier Management
- Procurement Management
- Route & Load Optimization
- Freight Execution Platform
- Visibility, Reporting & Analytics
- Supply Chain Communication Platform
- Logistics and Supply Chain Data Repository
- Freight Settlement for Audit & Pay
- Invoicing Functionality
- Business Intelligence (BI)
The TMS market is exponentially growing. A big component driving the incredible growth is the surprising low adoption rates of TMS technology today, as a recent study by Gartner found:
- Companies Over $100 Million in Freight Spend - 50% Adoption of TMS
- Companies Between $25 Million - $100 Million - 25% Adoption of TMS
- Companies Under $25 Million in Freight Spend - Roughly 10% Adoption of TMS
Blending those numbers would indicate that only 35% to 40% of logistics teams are using a TMS to operate their business.
With the above in mind, there is not a shortage of options to succeed, but there is also plenty of rope to do … well you know where we're going with this.
So, there are a few things a TMS buyer should have:
- Top Down Management Support
- A TMS RFP Template
- A Strong Base of TMS Options to Choose
- A TMS Integration Partner
There are well documented step-by-step TMS implementation plans to follow that can be found in comprehensive TMS articles and TMS pitfall articles to help once a decision is made, but the above is what is needed to start the process.
Top-down management support across the entire company goes without saying.
In order for a company to select the best fit TMS for them, it is essential for the decision-maker(s) to start with a functional component review, that is well encompassed in a TMS RFP template and weighted based on the importance of each requirement. If this step is skipped, operational requirements could be missed and there could be a bias selection made.
What you don't want to do is make a choice like this based on what we would call the “sales flash” or “demo flash”, meaning one sales or demo process was better or ran more smoothly than another vendor’s process. This could lead to a decision based on feelings versus hard facts.
As the market for TMS technology increases, not only has the competitive space for providers to become more saturated, it has also become littered with lesser systems that are not been able to keep up. One of the best ways to get a handle on what’s out there is to pick up the Gartner TMS Magic Quadrant report.
The Gartner report provides an unbiased overview that outlines the pros and cons of the systems they have identified as the strongest TMS systems in the market making it essential reading for TMS buyers. Their report is based on a number of different factors. The free 50-page report is the review all TMS providers want to be written up in as it is a great way to validate their TMS system’s strength in the market.
The last component we feel is essential when beginning the TMS buyer’s journey is to find an integration partner that can help you through the buying process and also be there for the implementation. While the top transportation management software companies do offer implementation, support, and optimization services, they ten to be priced higher and are usually more from an IT perspective than an operational perspective… there is a difference.
When you find the “right” integration partner, you’ll understand what we are talking about. This is what makes the MercuryGate/ InTek partnership work so well. Partnerships like these work because both the TMS software company and the integrator have equal, but different strengths to bring to the table, thus leading to the best solution to the market.
Below is a breakdown of the typical savings MercuryGate can bring to companies.
Operational Supply Chain Cost Savings Expectations
Planning & Optimization
- 3%-12% saving opportunity
- Analyzing shipments, rates, and constraints
Execution & Advanced Visibility
- 2%-5% savings opportunity
- Automated Execution Tasks and workflows
- Rate / Capacity / Routing Guide / Carrier Performance Management
- 2%-5% saving opportunity
- Self-billing, freight audit, and pay
- 3%-10% saving opportunity
- Secure / Maintainable Durable Rates / Capacities
- Reduce Broker Dependencies
If you like what you've read so far about MercuryGate, feel free to spend some time on their website to learn more about the specifics of how they can help you and your company.
InTek & MercuryGate have established a go-to-market strategy that helps identify, implement integrate, optimize and ultimately scale an organization’s use of the MercuryGate TMS SaaS cloud platform.
The framework for the partnership focuses on leveraging the combined strengths & capabilities to onboard TMS clients and/or expand relationships with existing customers. The mutual success is validated in customers expanding their logistics and supply chain capabilities and business.
How InTek Helps New & Existing MercuryGate Users
- VAR (Value Added Reseller)
- Configuration and Testing
- Integration Interface Programming and Testing
- User Acceptance Testing
- System Optimization Analysis
- Internal & External Training
- Go-Live Support
- Post Go-Live Audit & Support
- Coaching and Consulting Services
- Project Management
- SOP Documentation
- Support Help Desk
InTek VAR Channel Partner
Not everyone is familiar with value-added software and hardware IT resellers often referred to as VAR’s or channel partners. A system software re-seller is an intermediary entity in a sales distribution channel that purchases the software and / or hardware, then sells it to market buyers with a profit, along with selling additional services to maximize the software value for a company.
The MercuryGate - InTek VAR Relationship is Different
InTek is the lead in all selling activities, but not a buyer of the software that then marks it up for profit. In the MercuryGate - InTek partnership, buyers will ultimately be buying the software from MercuryGate. The actual software contractual relationship is with MercuryGate, as is the pricing established within the agreement. More specifically, the pricing a TMS buyer receives is the same it would receive going direct with MercuryGate. As part of this fee includes all monthly usage charges that will come directly from MercuryGate.
So, what is in it for us, you ask? Well, we are paid a fee for establishing the relationship and through the IT services contract, we establish with the new MercuryGate customer to ensure timely implementation of the TMS and provide all the services previously mentioned above in the 12-point services outline.
One of the main reasons we are such a great fit as a channel partner is the fact that we have been a user of MercuryGate’s TMS since 2006. This gives us a unique perspective on how to optimize the software for any business application.
Channel partners act as an intermediary between companies that make, distribute or provide IT products or services for businesses and consumers.
Channel partners have the benefit of simplifying the order process, procurement, and product sourcing and are very specialized in their knowledge of the product and how to bring the most value to the buyer.
Benefits of Working with a Channel Partner
A channel partner’s cost structure, particularly in the IT systems industry is significantly less than that of the software provider themselves. The reason for this is their team’s system work is much different from that of the software provider and therefore less expensive.
The channel partner’s work is more along the lines of configuration, integration, testing and functional support, while software provider has actual software coders and many hours of development work on their system that is not direct billable client hours.
The combination in the percentage of billable hours being higher for a channel partner than that of the software provider and the skill set required to be different creates savings for buyers to engage in a channel partner.
With all that said, it can also make sense for a buyer of a TMS to engage an official channel partner of the software provider to split up the start-up and support work for their TMS between the software provider and official channel partner in order to save on the total cost.
MercuryGate has several certified channel integrators, which they call “Logistics Integrator Partners.” We would encourage buyers of the MercuryGate system to ask for recommendations because each partner has a different niche.
While software vendors provide great software, they do not always know the nuances of how to maximize the implementation of their system to a specific client’s requirements.
The software vendors are great listeners to the market needs, which is why you are talking with them because they have nailed the functionality and have the vision to what their current and future customers need to be successful, but between that vision and an actual implementation, there is a space the channel integrator partner fits.
Whether it is hard to see the forest through the trees or not having to work the specifics of an everyday situation, there is that gap where the integrator fits in as the “perfect puzzle piece” for the software company and the buyer.
The reason so many great software companies understand this and the cost structure that was previously mentioned is why they have “official integrators” they designate and promote on their website. They know and understand these partnerships they endorse only make them better.
Deep Product Knowledge
Channel partners have a deep understanding of the product they use and represent.
Because of this, many providers, like MercuryGate, choose to endorse companies that have been using their system to its fullest potential and not just as an IT services company.
All MercuryGate channel partners have used the system and have an in-depth understanding of the system’s functionality. They’ve had their boots on the ground running the MercuryGate platform for their own customer base.
Channel partners have in-depth knowledge of the industry verticals they serve, the product they sell and the competitive landscape. What that means for the buyer is that they have an expert that helps them validate the solution against their business requirements.
Now you may be saying to yourself that the channel partner is biased towards their solution because they want the sale, but that is just not the case...
A channel partner wants a sale that will be a success.
Successful launches enable partners to build a community of users that have had tremendous success as a result of their solution.
With that said, the referral base a channel partner builds, along with the additional services that come from companies that thrive on the solution and grow to a point of needing more support services is what drives the channel partner model.
Channel partners are often specialists in certain industries because of their knowledge of how their solution will be a great fit for their potential customers. The software vendors understand this and will choose their channel partners based on this.
This would be a good time to mention that it is important to know that the channel partner you are working with is already on a “preferred vendor’s list." It does not happen often, but it could be that the channel partner may be trying to work their way into the field and working the business before fully establishing themselves with the software company.
Understanding & Influence
Channel partners have an in-depth understanding of the product and influence with the software provider they represent. What that means is the channel partner can bring the best fit solution for the buyer and have the ability to get it done.
As we mentioned earlier, the InTek/MercuryGate channel partner relationship operates in this manner and the buyer is getting the same price whether they work with MercuryGate direct or through InTek.
Added Solution Focus
Channel partners are an extended sales team for the software provider and often with more focus on the customer’s requirements because they are experts in the solution for the industries they focus their sites.
This is not to take anything away from the software sales team, but just to say that channel partners often have a twist to the value proposition that the software provider will not because they have to be all things to all people.
To establish a successful channel partner integrator relationship one must understand that not all partners are created equal. Every partner has their pros and cons, so you’ll need to do your research to find the best fit for you and your company.
With the above in mind, let’s walk through some points to consider when exploring integrator channel partner relationships.
Know Your Goals
What is it you want out of your channel partner?
- One Time Integration Help
- Long-Term System Support
- Current MercuryGate User Looking for IT Services Only
- Business Partner, Meaning Additional Insight into Helping to Grow Business Profitably
- Supply Chain Coach
There are a lot of things you can get from an integration channel partner besides just purchasing the MercuryGate system. The items above were just a quick sample of items to consider and review when talking to potential channel partners.
Investigate and ask questions to make sure your integrator has the same values, mindset, and appreciation for logistics and supply chain.
We highly recommend not just listening to what the salesperson is telling you, but check out the company blog, check out the leaderships engagement with the logistics and supply chain industry, see if the leadership is out there speaking and writing on topics that fit with your goals and see if the leadership is actually doing the writing or they are leaving it up to marketing. You may find that what is being written and what is being said are not coming from the same voice, so it could be more of a spin than actual practice.
Find out who will be implementing and doing the work. Will it be the people you started the business relationship with? The ones that you have come to know and trust? Orr is their a hand-off once the project is underway? Business is about people, not about business, so you’ll want to make sure the initial people that started the relationship with you on your buying journey will be with you and the project from start-to-finish.
Personality & Cultural Fit
The personality and cultural fit is one that carriers a lot of weight but is often difficult to call out. Our recommendation is to think of this as an interview. Talk with as many of the people that will be part of the implementation or other support services as possible to ensure you feel they have the technical support and ability to communicate effectively with the people that they will be interfacing from your organization.
Credibility & Trust
One way to ensure the team you are partnering with aligns what they say and what they do is to do a couple of tests early on to see if the words and actions match.
Much like personality and culture, this could be difficult to vet, but talking with references can also help. In the reference calls, ask questions beyond how did the integrator perform or how did you like them. Ask about communication style, drive, etc. to ensure there will be a good fit for your group.
Transparency Is King
This one almost went without saying, but it is too important to miss.
Review how the project will be communicated through different stages. See what the escalation points are within the integrator and how the integrator will work with the software team when issues arise.
All in, make sure that you are comfortable with how the positive and negative situations will be addressed.
We may be a little bias, but we are firm believers that the integrator channel partner chosen for IT services should be certified by the software vendor, whether this is for a MercuryGate TMS or for any other software package.
Don’t take our word for it,there are many articles on the topic. For example, “Why Buy Software from a VAR Partner vs. the Vendor?”
Know Your Integrator Has the Tools & Expertise
MercuryGate does a tremendous job in helping buyers of their system align with integrators that do have the tools and expertise, as the people they officially endorse on their site are long-time users of the software themselves.
Choose a Certified MercuryGate Channel Partner
You really do not want to bring in a “traditional” IT services or consulting firm to work your MercuryGate implementation or provide ongoing support. The reason is while they will have the IT skills and they will have an understanding on how to make a company’s logistics and supply chain optimal on paper, they will not have the in-depth knowledge and experience to make the MercuryGate platform do what it needs to do to turn an idea into execution.
Again, we are not here to take away anything from the other IT or consulting services providers, we are simply stating that there is a place for all, be sure to choose the “right tool” for the job.
For example, one would not take their Timex watch into the same place they would take their Rolex for repairs. Sure, the watch repair jeweler understands the make-up of a watch and how it functions, but there is a higher level of skill and knowledge that is gained by doing the work and being able to take the tribal knowledge learned over time by working on the same complex issues day in and day out.
The “right” TMS:
- is optimized to a shipper’s logistics and supply chain requirements improve business performance throughout a company
- brings efficiencies to the product flow from vendors to customers; gives transparency to the internal and external stakeholders
- provides the platform for continuous fly-wheel improvement: improves the order-to-cash cycle
- saves money and drives competitive advantage for the company.
Choosing the certified partner that can bring the most value to your organization will be a key component to the success of your MercuryGate installation, whether a current customer or future customer.
We would love to be a part of the conversation and help you on your journey to purchasing a transportation management system. Our belief is MercuryGate could be your last TMS software your company will ever need but will add there are plenty of great TMS systems available and that decision will ultimately be decided by your team.
If MercuryGate is your choice or if you are already using the MercuryGate TMS, we are here to help.
The full listing of services under the InTek IT Services Team Include:
- System Selection
- Project Management
- Training Plan Development and Execution
- Software Configuration
- Integration Definition and Mapping
- Carrier & Business Partner Integration
- Vendor & Carrier On-Boarding
- Technical Support
- System Interface Development
- Implementation Support
- Modification Specification & Design
- Vendor Management
- Custom Report Design
- EDI and Host Interface Design
- Go-Live Support
- Support System Analysis & Project Analysis to Optimize
- Impact Management and Metrics
- Issues Documentation and Management
- Enhancement Management and Implementation
- Support and Rollout
Incorporating a Transportation Management System helps companies build a resilient supply chain. The MercuryGate TMS cloud platform has the functionality required to make it happen, and when combined with InTek’s abilities can help you do the project economically and quickly. We are certain you will capture immediate results and we will be there for long-term value into the future.
Additional Resources on TMS Implementations:
- Top 7 Remote Project Management TMS Implementation Essentials
- Gartner’s Magic Quadrant Analysis Key to TMS Buying Selection Process
- MercuryGate Certified Integrator Channel Partner: Benefits & Value
- Top 12 TMS Implementation Best Practices to Prevent Failure
- Best Transportation Management System (TMS) Software Packages
- Top 10 Transportation Management Software (TMS) Implementation Pitfalls to Avoid
- TMS RFP Template
- Top 6 Cloud TMS Implementation Challenges During COVID-19