Photo: iStockPhoto.com, Arda Guldogan

Photo: iStockPhoto.com, Arda Guldogan

Vendor customization and electronic data integration were the top vendor and software factors fleet managers consider when buying software, according to a survey conducted by Carrier Logistics Inc.

Like other vendors, the New-York-based software provider routinely surveys customers and potential customers. CLI’s recent survey of 200 trucking executives asked them to rate various factors they consider when considering vendors and software.

The top factor in selecting a vendor to work with was the vendor’s ability to customize software to a company’s specific needs. Close behind was the ability to easily reach engineers when questions or problems arise.

These findings are somewhat different than they were 10 years ago, says Gary Snyder, manager of business development, CLI. Customers stressing the importance of vendor customization “really surprised us,” he said. Snyder said company officials had expected today’s customers to be more interested in a “plug and play” option.

The fact that so many listed availability of support as a top consideration was also a surprise, says Ken Weinberg, vice president and co-founder CLI. “I thought that was significant. We thought some of the other items would be more important than support.”

For instance, having access to the software’s source code did not score high. “I think they are still looking for vendors to understand their needs,” as opposed to customizing the software in-house.

Weinberg says the results suggest that carriers are not evaluating software as much on functionality. “They assume that’s there.”

As for the software itself, survey respondents listed EDI and other electronic integration capabilities as the number one factor when considering a product.

The top five factors fleet managers identified when choosing a software vendor, according to a recent survey by Carrier Logistics Inc.

The top five factors fleet managers identified when choosing a software vendor, according to a recent survey by Carrier Logistics Inc.

Return on investment ranked a close second, with overall cost ranked third. Ease of integration with legacy products and third-party applications and the capability for real-time shipment tracking/alerting rounded out the top five concerns.

Snyder was surprised that the ability for the software to run on multiple platforms — which would track the current mobility trend — wasn’t ranked higher. “But people are more concerned with other factors,” he says. “All of the IT questions: whether or not it’s in the cloud, or if it’s Windows-based, did not come up as high.” What the results show, he says, is that “our job is to give [customers] support. Even if they are happy, it doesn’t mean we don’t continue working with them.”

Above are the top five factors fleet managers cited in choosing a software

Above are the top five factors fleet managers cited in choosing a software

The importance of vendor customization also underscores the trend toward less in-house IT programming and customization. Fleets still want to be able to customize software to their needs, but want their vendors to do the work rather than bringing that work in-house.

The results, Weinberg says, “support the fact that every carrier is the same, but different. We have to acknowledge that.”

That means making the changes customers want and need. On the other hand, not all customization is cost-effective, he pointed out. “We have to temper some of the requests that don’t improve things, but just increase costs.”

Snyder believes the survey underscored the importance of vendors and carriers understanding what the system will be like up front.

...AND THE SURVEY SAYS

Carrier Logistics Inc.’s survey asked carrier executives to rate factors related to software and vendors on a scale from very important to not important at all. The factors were:

Vendor Factors

  • Has a large client base
  • The salesperson I am dealing with
  • Offers work process consulting and project management services
  • Holds annual user conferences
  • Easy to reach engineers directly to answer and fix issues
  • Adheres to a formal methodology for system implementation and training
  • Vendor needs to know my primary business as well as I do
  • Offers on-line help and support facilities
  • Will customize their software to my needs
  • Reputation
  • Has a 24/7/365 support program
  • Offers subscription based pricing
  • Offers annual upgrades
  • Years in business

Software Factors

  • Application is cloud based so an in house server is not required
  • Overall Cost
  • Full Web Suite is included in the base package
  • Can be programmed to work along with my current system
  • Easy to integrate to legacy software products or other third party vendor applications
  • Includes all support and maintenance costs
  • I can have access to the source code
  • Can run on multiple operating systems i.e. Windows, Unix, Linux etc.
  • Has EDI and other electronic data-feed integration capabilities
  • Offers a fully integrated crossing docking system
  • Has an in-house full integrated accounting package
  • Has real time shipment exception tracking and alerting
  • Return on Investment
  • Software comes with a built in dynamic report writer
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