Bespoke, customised or out-of-the-box? Which TMS is best?

Finding a transport management system (TMS) with functionality to meet the specific needs of your business can be a daunting task. But it doesn’t have to be. 

Deciding what you need a transport management system to do and prioritising your requirements, is a good place to start.  Ask yourself and your staff – what do you need a TMS to do for you and your customers? Looking in detail at the issues your business is experiencing will help you to prioritise your requirements for a new system.

What issues would you like to resolve?

Documenting your challenges and how they are impacting your business will help you to focus on the key things that matter to you – prioritising what’s most important and issues you need to resolve right now, enables you to set goals and objectives for the short, medium and long term.

Establishing a project team made up of key individuals from your business will ensure everyone’s views and requirements are considered. A simple way to analyse your requirements is to canvass opinions from staff and customers. This will ensure you gain a range of responses you can discuss to help form your system wish list.

Once you know what you’d like the system to do, its worth considering the type of TMS available and will work best for you.

Transport Management Systems come in different forms, with varying degrees of functionality.

Some have the potential to be configured slightly or customised fully and some can be integrated with mobile apps, tracking and other third-party systems. Other systems offer limited integration. To what degree you can integrate your transport management system and apps, depends on the vendor you choose.

The most common transport management system types are:

  • Out-of-the-box or ‘off-the-shelf’ software with standard features available to all subscribers
  • Out-of-the-box software that can be customised by your vendor with functionality to suit your individual needs
  • A bespoke system developed from scratch

1. Out-of-the-box / Off-the-shelf software

Software that comes ‘out-of-the-box’ includes functionality, work-flow features and templates that are ready to use. Generally speaking, all you need to do is populate the system with your data and you can be up and running quickly.

Configuring your transport management system

An ‘out-of-the-box’ transport management system may allow varying degrees of configuration.  This would typically involve things like renaming fields, adding your logo to stationery documents eg. invoices and delivery notes.

Feature levels

Some providers offer features that can be switched on or off and offer packages of features at different prices.  This means you can start at a low level if required, and upgrade to take advantage of more features as your business needs change. Other vendors make all functionality available to all subscribers for one standard price.

2. Out-of-the-box software, customised for you

Another possibility is to have ‘out-of-the-box’ software customised to meet your specific needs. This means that you can implement the system more quickly than having a bespoke system developed and often take advantage of software features which have been developed for other companies relevant to your haulage sector or niche market.

Ask if the software provider has the in-house skills to make bespoke changes to the system and again, how they can support any bespoke developments over time.

3. A bespoke transport management system

Software written specifically for you may closely meet your requirements, but it is likely to take significantly more time to scope and develop the system. It will involve higher development, support and maintenance costs, as you alone will pay for the development of the system.

Ask your software vendor how new features will be developed. Once your system is live who will be responsible for ensuring the system stays up to date with developmenets to meet your changing needs?

Ongoing support is an important consideration too. Ask any potential supplier what happens if they’re no longer able to support or update the software? Also ask if the system is developed using software language that is widely used, thereby reducing the risk that you will be left with a product no one is able to support in the future.