Technology evolves at a rapid pace, and once a particular subset gains traction in a given industry, it begins popping up in different forms just about everywhere you look. Think back to the early days of Apple’s iPod, and how many copycat .mp3 players sprung up to compete. Some of those products were actually excellent, though a large portion of them were essentially just cheap knockoffs.
The same thing happens with software. Once a software solution starts picking up steam in an industry, companies start pushing out their own versions that claim to do essentially the same thing. For businesses within those industries looking to leverage that technology, it can be difficult to differentiate between best-in-class vendors and pretenders.
Supply chains have recently entered into a technology revolution. New ideas like Uber for trucking apps or automation and visibility platforms are becoming more and more prevalent. The digitization of the industry is underway, which is definitely a good thing, but a lot of these solutions are vaporware, or too early-stage to be viable.
Consider APIs as an example. The technology itself has been around for decades, but APIs are only recently entering the logistics market. With their clear benefit of providing real-time connectivity, APIs have already proved they’re the preferred technology to drive automation. In fact, since the launch of the first API technology solution for supply chain visibility and automation, numerous companies have emerged offering similar sounding solutions. It is because of all these new providers flooding the market that choosing a best-in-class vendor can be complicated.
- Security : You cannot place enough emphasis on security, especially if customer information is involved. Security is among the highest priorities of best-in-class providers, and it needs to be taken seriously while selecting a technology vendor.
- Scalability & integration simplicity : The reason APIs are gaining so much traction within logistics is because the legacy technology they’re replacing could no longer meet the needs of the industry. APIs are easier to scale with, and they allow solutions providers to future-proof their products and services. This works the same way with hardware, as best-in-class solutions don’t need to be replaced every generation, and continue to function at a high level years into their lifetime.
- Thought leadership – It never hurts to research the companies and their executives beforehand in order to gain a better understanding of their mission. You should be looking for content demonstrating strong thought leadership. You want to work with companies who know the industry and how their product fits into it, as well as companies whose outlook and values align with your own.
- Quality standards – The way a product functions and interacts with the systems it needs is going to have the most impact on a day-to-day level. Some providers accept any data source—APIs, web scraping, EDI feeds, or excel uploads—without checking on performance standards or reliability. Keeping a high standard in functionality relies on accepting only the best data, and working with partners to make sure they’re providing data that meets that standard..
- Partnership strength – The quality of a company’s partnerships and customers can tell you a lot about the strength and viability of their product. The best companies want to work with the best providers, and these companies are likely to vet potential partners.
Always, always, always do your due diligence when selecting a technology vendor to work with. Evaluating performance standards, asking for information and referrals, honesty, and transparency are crucial to starting the relationship off on the right foot. Using this list, you can at least narrow your search down to some of the best providers available, and from there, you can make an informed decision about which provider to choose.