Supply Chain Expertise and Technology Blog by TMC, a division of C.H. Robinson

Are You Asking the Right People Questions?

Human resource questions to ask when buying a TMS

Last week, Elizabeth described how people processes and strategy are aligned at TMC, and the huge value we place on the talented individuals who define our organization (see the Technology is Important, but What About the People? blog, 18 November 2010). She also made the point that clients do not usually vet our workforce with the same rigor that they evaluate our technology. In this week’s blog, I’d like to take this point further by looking at what human resources questions buyers of transportation management systems (TMS) technology should be asking as part of their due diligence. 

Just as the goods supply chain aims to deliver the right product to the right place at the right time and in the right quantity, so the people supply chain should provide an adequate supply of the right kinds of talent when and where it is needed. And, these individuals should be motivated to surpass the expectations of the client and their employer organizations.

If this is not the case, the likelihood is that the client will soon discover that even though the TMS technology it is buying might be state of the art, the way it is being used is not. The end result is costly service shortcomings and a troubled working relationship. The best TMS solution in the world is deeply flawed if it is not being managed by people capable of extracting the maximum value.

This is why I find it somewhat surprising that more buyers of TMS solutions do not put the people supply chain under the microscope when they are evaluating systems providers. From my perspective, the provider’s workforce is the magic ingredient that makes the difference between a solution that is a middle-of-the-road performer at best, and one that is truly world class. This is also why we put so much effort into recruiting and retaining the right people at TMC.

To help companies assess the HR dimension when procuring TMS technology, here are some questions they should consider asking:

  • How do you build your strategic goals, and those of clients, into your people supply chain?
  • When recruiting operations folks, what backgrounds, qualification and experience do you look for?
  • What kind of career path do you have for these people? For example, do they have individual development plans, and what training programs do you provide?
  • How do you keep your skills base up to date? For example, is your staff on top of issues such as the carbon efficiency of supply chains?
  • What training do you provide in key areas such as leadership, communications, and managing international relationships?
  • How would you describe your corporate culture, and how is this culture imbued in your work force?

We are not suggesting that you do a deep-dive analysis of the provider’s HR department. But it does make sense to get a feel for the competence levels and culture of the people who will play a key role in ensuring that you buy into a TMS solution that meets – and exceeds – your competitive goals.

On an unrelated note, I’d like to wish everyone a happy, healthy Thanksgiving. Enjoy!

- President, Managed Services
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