A strong digital ecosystem is vital for success in transportation. A digital ecosystem works well only when the lifeblood pumping through it – aka data – can be comprehended and manipulated by the diverse applications in action in that ecosystem. In the transportation industry this challenge increases manifold because of the multiplicity of vendors, partners, geographies, routes, and modes of transport. Add to this the complexities of warehousing, security, quality control, and adherence to national and international regulations, and you’ve got a Titanic challenge to surmount.

Comprehending a challenge is the first step toward tackling it. There are three aspects to this challenge: data, visibility, and support. Let’s explore how they complicate the situation, and how adopting a framework such as ITIL can help organizations

Data

An average logistics provider manages both warehousing and transportation of goods for its customers. The digital ecosystem of such an organization would be populated by its own internal stakeholders from various business units, trading partners, and customers. All of them would share and require ‘data on demand’ in a secure and easy manner, to make informed business decisions.

However, in the absence of suitably designed ecosystem-wide solution, data is at the risk of being stored in disparate systems ranging from excel sheets to ad-hoc designed solutions. Since there is a high degree of manual intervention, such data is likely to be inaccurate and insecure. Moreover, it is also likely to be outdated by the time someone may want to use it.

The challenge is complicated by the fact that transportation is just an umbrella term for a host of sub-industries. For instance, any logistics provider will need a solution to manage its HR processes, another for fuel management, yet another for fare collection, and another for vehicle maintenance, and so on so forth. The data collected using disparate solutions, while belonging to the very same business, might be in incompatible format, making analysis impossible!

Next, even if the in-house data is in good form, it might be incompatible with partners’ systems. Such data will have to be suitably transformed before analysis. The challenge is compounded if they are working with legacy IT systems, because they are extremely difficult to maintain and customize.

In another post I recently wrote, I had referred to a report by the American Shipper, in which it was mentioned that an overwhelming 66% of shippers and over half of 3PLs do not have a single view across all regions and modes of transportation. Instead, they patch together data from different systems and solutions. A patchwork can hardly suffice for accurate real-time insights.

Visibility

In transportation industry more than any other, it is natural for all stakeholders to be interested in knowing where their stuff is at a given point of time. Any decision taken in the absence of this information can, at best, be tentative, or at worst, be a mistake. Moreover, people would like to know if their intervention is needed to address an unforeseen issue that might turn into a problem.

Ideally, a logistics company should first figure out what visibility means to them, and to their end customers and users. In addition, they should introspect what kind of answers, or advantage, do they hope to gain from visibility. The current trend is to look for real-time insights that can be driven only by real time updates. Real time updates can be registered and interpreted only if the technology platform connecting all the stakeholders is technologically agnostic i.e. it utilizes a technology that everyone can comprehend and work with. This technology platform should ideally exist throughout the digital ecosystem.

Internet of Things (IoT) can play a huge role in making this possible. With IoT, organization may track not just its truck or ship, but even individual items comprising the cargo. The data could reveal not only its location, but even other details such as its temperature. Adriana Diener, Global Lead for Freight and Logistics, Accenture, says: “Understanding and investing in these technologies will be important for logistics companies and whoever gets there first will have a competitive advantage.”

However, all such solutions come at a cost. Most organizations are comfortable using their existing transportation applications and have neither the time nor the inclination to migrate to newer, and more agile, solutions.

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Our support services will free your senior IT staff from the overwhelming burden of day-to-day maintenance issues. They’ll have time to launch those new projects and applications you’ve been waiting for. Simply put, we can free up your resources and contain your costs. Let’s have a quick chat to discuss our exclusive services.

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Support

Since no solution is perfect, costs for support and properly dealing with it post-implementation is also expensive and difficult. This can include supporting legacy systems that are not as commonly used.

Clearly, it is futile to wish for a uniform, secure, and efficient digital infrastructure throughout the business ecosystem. Different businesses made different choices depending on availability, budgetary limitations, and preferences. Hoping to do away with disparate solutions and replacing them with one coherent platform is the same as hoping for perfection.

PWC, in its study Transportation & Logistics 2030, has stated: “Logistics service providers should be prepared to continue to operate in imperfect transport infrastructure systems and will need to adapt their business models to the prevailing infrastructure provision. Flexibility and scenario planning will be key to analyse and forecast future infrastructure facilities, not only for logistics service providers, but also for all supply chain players, transport infrastructure operators, users and owners.”

In other words, organizations must manage with what’s available. This isn’t an easy ask. That is why, if your organization wants to optimize its extended transportation application ecosystem, it is advisable to work with an IT partner – specifically one that specializes in IT service management frameworks such as ITIL.

ITIL: What’s special about it?

Like I have discussed in an older post, Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) is the most widely recognized approach to IT services globally. It is a framework that describes the best practices for IT service management. Its emphasis lies on continuous measurement – for both customers and businesses – to ensure continuous improvement. It provides both – structure and flexibility – to bring about change.

In a highly fragmented industry such as transport, employing IT best practices are the best bet for ensuring growth. Designed by experts, the framework isn’t a set of rules that specify how you must run your business. Instead, ITIL approaches any challenge by breaking it into five parts – service strategy, service design, service transition, service operation, and continual service improvement – and addresses the unique requirements of each stage of a typical project in the most productive and cost optimized manner.

Points to keep in mind:

  • ITIL is not a tool. It is not something that you ‘implement’. This is a framework that you adopt, and then adapt to your specific requirements.
  • Businesses need not use ITIL in its entirety. They may use portions of it that give them value. They may also use ITIL in association with other ITSM frameworks.
  • ITIL need not be implemented at once. It can be implemented in stages as per the requirements of your organization.
  • ITIL is not dependent on any particular technology. That makes it especially suitable for a highly diverse industry such as transport. Remember the point I made above regarding complexity of data and how it prohibits integration of transportation applications? ITIL can help address that challenge.
  • ITIL espouses a universal taxonomy. This is great because irrespective of location, language, and individuals leaving or joining a project midway, everybody will be able to comprehend what others are talking about. Once again, this feature is extremely useful in the global context of transportation.

Thousands of companies, having used ITIL over 30 years, have refined it to a great degree. This means that you get the opportunity to learn from others’ mistakes.

ITIL has been widely adopted around the globe. The shared methodologies and vocabulary makes it easy for any organization to find the resources to take their work forward in any part of the world. Akshay Anand, ITSM Product Development Manager at AXELOS states in an article in PCMag, “Every year we see about 300,000 people taking an ITIL exam around the world, translated into 21 languages… If you’re looking to bring people in to work and support your service and they’ve already been trained on an ITIL foundation, you don’t need to train them again. ITIL does not change from company to company. ” This is a great advantage in the transportation industry where organizations don’t really have much control over the individuals accessing and sharing the data in their extended ecosystem, except perhaps the demand that they be conversant with ITSM.

Takeaway: Prioritize and delegate

If you’ve got a business to run, you need to choose your battles wisely. Operating in the transportation industry requires one to walk the tightrope using the latest in technology while also utilizing legacy systems and processes. Partnering with an IT service provider that specializes in an ITSM framework such as ITIL can be both profitable and productive. What is your experience in this matter? Do share your opinion below.

Looking for a Transportation Management Solution Partner?

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Capabilities include:

  • Business Intelligence & Reporting
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Keep Moving Forward with Aptude

Aptude is your own personal IT professional services firm. We provide our clients with first class resources in a continuous, cost-containment fashion.

Our support services will free up your senior IT staff from the overwhelming burden of day-to-day maintenance issues. Now they’ll have time to launch those new projects and applications you’ve been waiting for. Simply put, we can free up your resources and contain your costs. Let’s have a quick chat to discuss our exclusive services.

CONTACT US TODAY