When you make a big decision like changing freight audit and payment providers, the first thing that can (and sometimes does) go wrong is the implementation. We know and understand the risk you and your stakeholders think you are taking, so we have created a number of tools and resources to guide you through the process and give you the confidence you need to feel like you are starting off on the right foot. In this success story, we explore how VTM:
Recently a national shipper of building materials and supplies approached VTM about a freight audit and payment engagement. The shipper was reeling from a negative experience with one of the largest providers in the industry and had a tight timeline to make a change as their current provider gave them only 6 weeks to offboard from their services. Having experienced a several-month onboarding cycle with that provider, the shipper was concerned that it was simply not enough time to complete a successful transition.
Further complicating the challenge facing their transition, many of the shipper’s key stakeholders, like logistics, finance, and accounting leaders, were new to their roles. With so many new team members, they were concerned that decision making and uncertainty would be major bottlenecks to getting started.
With so much pressure on the timeline, they were concerned an implementation would not be successful and have several lasting impacts:
The Process & Solution
One of the best and most unique elements of the VTM Approach is the support you receive from your Dedicated Success Manager at every step of the journey. Even from the first conversations, this client’s Dedicated Success Manager was with them to understand their situation, the constraints they faced, and the goals they had established for themselves. From there, the role shifted into helping them maximize the value of our platform and services.
When engaging with VTM for a Transware demo or just an initial exploratory conversation, you can expect your Dedicated Success Manager to take part in understanding what makes you unique. When you are ready, they explore questions like:
When you are ready to move forward with VTM, we take this information and craft a unique implementation plan that moves at your pace.
From Day 1, your Dedicated Success Manager will ensure your have clear visibility to the implementation plan with all of the milestones along the way, and how your implementation is tracking against target. Your plan is built to detect bottlenecks and raise issues as soon as possible so that they do not become major issues.
Once this client started reviewing their implementation plan, they realized that 2 weeks was all they needed to get started with VTM.
Leveraging our change management templates and best practices help kickstart the conversation with carriers and your internal stakeholders.
Often we hear that clients do not know who to communicate to in a transition like this. We offer our experience and best practices to draft clear, targeted, and effective communications to a variety of stakeholder groups, including:
Because this client’s resources were still shifting, the implementation plan had to remain flexible as their needs evolved. In situations like this, your Dedicated Success Manager will work with you to draft a plan based on information available at the time, and plan around open questions (things like what business rules are needed, who will be responsible for approving exceptions, and who are the right contacts for funding payments). Some of these stumbling blocks just take time to answer, and by getting the questions out of the plan and into circulation, we typically get answers before they become obstacles.
Solutions driven by EDI & coordination with carriers
For this client, one of the biggest challenges their implementation faced was that they wanted their carriers to send their invoices using ASC X12 Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) formats. VTM supports all of the most common ASC X12 EDI transaction sets, like:
There are several reasons a modern shipper may prefer their carriers to invoice them using EDI. For example, this method offers more timely visibility into freight costs, and more complete data can be sent and collected using an EDI file. Additionally, VTM can automatically acknowledge and confirm receipt of EDI invoices using the Functional Acknowledgement (EDI 997) transaction set for all of the carrier’s invoices upon receipt, eliminating the confusion, duplicates, and uncertainty introduced when invoicing via more manual methods.
With more than 25 LTL and Truckload carriers involved in the implementation, this client relied on VTM’s expertise and experience to guide the carriers through the implementation. Many of this client’s carriers were large, national brands with whom VTM already had connections and specifications established. This is a major time saver for the carrier and for VTM as it greatly simplifies the setup and testing process. However, this client also had several small, regional carriers that would be new integrations for VTM, and some of those carriers had never sent an EDI invoice before.
The level of experience each carrier had with EDI impacted how quickly they could establish an EDI connection with VTM. Our Carrier Support and EDI Enablement teams have produced detailed and informative guides and specifications on how to submit EDI invoices. Also, we have developed several different transmission methods to offer the most flexibility to carriers, like reaching out to a carrier’s hosted connection, or hosting the connection on our server. Various encryption algorithms are also supported.
Our Carrier Support & EDI Enablement teams work closely with you to define your carrier mix/scope and then work directly with the carriers to get setup. Depending on the nature of the setup and the carrier’s ability to respond, these setup cycle times can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to complete. Ultimately, we move at the carrier’s pace, but we help move things along by continuously following up, and providing detailed documentation to the carrier to ease the setup. We also provide a clear line of sight into status and estimated completion dates by carrier in the implementation plan so you always know exactly where each carrier stands.
While we work to complete the EDI setup for lagging carriers, we offer several additional invoicing methods so you are not surprised by a big batch of bills all at once. For example, we work with the carrier to receive their invoices via email in the meantime.
We love EDI invoices, but it is not a one-size-fits-all solution. We support other invoicing methods like sent to our email (PDF), physical mail, or in some cases, it make sense to leverage a carrier’s special, proprietary format.
Checkpoints & milestones
With all this talk around building a “plan”, you might think that we run the risk of being too ridged or slow to react to a change. The reality is, nothing can be further from the truth! Your implementation plan is there to guide, align, alert, and inform. But, it does not complete the implementation for you. Instead, your Dedicated Success Manager is there to shape the plan around last-minute changes and highlight the impact those changes will have.
These changes are often topics for regular (daily, weekly, or whatever cadence you prefer) checkpoints with your Dedicated Success Manager. For this client, bi-weekly, 30-minute checkpoint meetings were credited as being critical success factors in their implementation. This is because there were several questions around their resources, uncertainty about key business rules, and many carriers to manage this change with.
These checkpoint calls are great for monitoring progress and getting questions answered. Of course they cover whatever you need them to, but typically they will start with a summary of what has been completed recently (perhaps integration tasks like setting up a shipment feed with IT, or communications delivered), move onto items up next in the plan (like Transware training), and finally any blockers for pending items. When an item is blocked, you will always understand the implications because your Dedicated Success Manager will explain it is important and what progress will be made after it is solved.
VTM process design & expertise
This client, like many others, relied on VTM to bring our industry expertise to their freight payment process. We are happy to offer guidance wherever we can fill gaps, but our way is not the highway. Our tools and solutions are built to offer you the most flexibility in the industry. Sometimes, this much flexibility leads to decision paralysis, so our Dedicated Success Managers jump in to offer best practices we have refined over our nearly 30 years in the industry.
This client experienced the value our iterative approach paired with clear communication and dedicated resources enables.
Ongoing reviews and support
Even after your implementation is complete, your Dedicated Success Manager sticks with you. They are always keeping an eye on your analytics for you to spot trends, ask questions, offer suggestions, and unlock new sources of value.
For this client, a strong relationship with their Dedicated Success Manager has unlocked several new opportunities to leverage Transware to optimize their freight spend and improved relationships with once-frustrated carriers.