In today’s fast-paced logistics landscape, businesses are continually seeking ways to enhance their service, productivity, and stay ahead of customer expectations.

Implementing a transportation management system (TMS) is a strategic move that can significantly elevate the level of service provided to clients by optimizing shipping operations and reducing costs.

However, implementing a TMS is not without its hurdles and can often lead to confusion and operational hiccups…

To help navigate the complexities of implementing a transportation management system, it is crucial to listen to industry experts who have firsthand experience with these challenges. Below are insights from some of the top Descartes professionals who specialize in various aspects of TMS solutions:


Customer Success Manager


Senior Product Manager


Account Executive


Senior Solutions Consultant

Our experts will help us explore the intricacies of implementing a transportation management system via three key aspects.

  1. Challenges
  2. Key Factors & Best Practices
  3. Measuring Success

Understanding the Challenges of TMS Implementation

If you’re currently implementing a TMS, it’s common to face some difficulties.

For many users, there’s a big learning curve. Nicole Edwards, Customer Success Manager at Descartes, highlighted two common issues when asked what challenges you can expect while implementing a TMS:

Lack of understanding/training in the system can lead to frustration. This is why training is such a big key to success with a new TMS. Many users are resistant to change, so embracing new and improved technology can cause setbacks.”

Similarly, Jesse Carmichael, Senior Product Manager at Descartes reiterated the same issues.

Challenges often include a strong learning curve, as users must overcome muscle memory and adapt to new keystrokes and processes for moving shipments through their lifecycle. The UI of the TMS you’re moving to should be straightforward and intuitive, enabling quick user adaptation. Complexity can hinder adoption and implementation.”

Key Takeaways

  • Training and Adaptation: A significant challenge in TMS implementation is the steep learning curve that can lead to user frustration without adequate training. This is compounded by resistance to change as users adapt to new processes and technology.
  • User Interface (UI) Considerations: The complexity of the TMS’s user interface can hinder adoption, emphasizing the need for an intuitive design to facilitate quicker and smoother user transition. Minimizing the number of clicks is essential for efficiency.

Factors of Implementation Management

Challenges aren’t the only thing you have to consider when implementing a TMS. Key factors like having the right team, time, and effort come into play. The maturity of your business and available IT resources will influence how you configure your TMS and the expectations you set for it. Therefore, it’s crucial to clearly define your objectives for the TMS before beginning implementation.

Here’s what our Dustin Torok, Account Executive, had to say when asked about the key factors of implementation.

Every business is unique, making it challenging to pinpoint just a few key factors. If I had to choose three, they would be:

1. Business Requirements: It’s crucial to clearly define the TMS’s objectives. In the brokerage world, data and speed are paramount, so the ability to quickly build loads and generate reports without multiple steps is essential.

2. Integration Capabilities: Look for a partner capable of managing multiple integrations and open to future expansions. A forward-thinking partner anticipates not only the current needs of brokers but also those 3-5 years down the line.

3. Support/Training: Often overlooked, it’s vital to understand how the vendor will support you from a customer success standpoint. Ensure there are ‘super users’ within your organization who will master the software and facilitate internal buy-in.”

Similarly, adhering to a set of key best practices can significantly help you and your team overcome the challenges encountered during the implementation process. By following these guidelines, you can ensure a smoother and more seamless transition to using your new system. Nicole Edwards, Customer Success Manager, reiterates these points.

Having a team leader who can spearhead and coordinate training with the team as well as being that primary point of contact. Having a detailed plan such as prioritizing integrations, testing them and determining a go live date to ensure for a smooth transition.”

Key Takeaways

  • Importance of Time and Efficiency: Time management is crucial in the logistics industry. Choosing a TMS that enhances team efficiency—from order entry to check calls—is vital for growth and productivity.
  • Leadership and Planning: Successful implementation involves strong leadership to spearhead training and a detailed plan that prioritizes crucial integration steps and testing phases, ensuring a smooth transition.

Measuring Success

Once a successful transition to and application of a TMS is achieved, steering towards operational success becomes paramount. However, the criteria for measuring this success can vary significantly from one business to another, ultimately depending on the individual company’s goals and needs.

Dustin Torok believes that for freight brokers:

Success should be measured by operational efficiency, carrier performance, and visibility and tracking. These include faster load building, reduced manual tasks, quick assessment of carrier compliance with service levels, reduction in carrier-related issues, rapid recovery for load cancellations, and enhanced supply chain visibility.”

Similarly, Jesse Carmichael says that to effectively gauge the success of a Transportation Management System (TMS), it’s important to focus on specific metrics that reflect both efficiency and profitability.

Measure success through metrics like load to user ratio and the cost of shipments, assessing if efficiency is increasing and if you’re generating higher revenue per user. Consider whether you’re able to do more, like booking more loads and performing more tasks. Assess if the system automates repetitive tasks, allowing for focus on more revenue-impacting activities. These metrics can guide the setup of your KPIs.”

But measuring success is not just about evaluating the features of a TMS but also understanding its impact on your team’s productivity and satisfaction. Here’s a summary of monitoring the key performance indicators highlighted by Patrick Horner, Senior Solutions Consultant:

There’s many different KPI’s you can monitor to make sure your business is doing well.

That’s why it’s important to choose a TMS that offers a large selection of reports and Analytics. In the first couple weeks of a new TMS, I’m more concerned with the overall experience of my team.

Are they happy with the new TMS and are they able to accomplish more in app?

This circles back to factors to consider when purchasing. Time is everything so I want to make sure my team can handle more tasks in a single place. If my team needs to leave the TMS to complete a task that’s time wasted. Ultimately, your TMS should transition your team from brokers to digital brokers and it does this by creating operating efficiencies and competitive advantages.”

Key Takeaways

  • Operational Metrics: Success in TMS implementation can be measured by improvements in operational efficiency, carrier performance, and visibility. Metrics to consider include load building speed, reduction in manual tasks, and enhanced supply chain visibility.
  • KPIs and Revenue Metrics: Assessing the load to user ratio and shipment costs can indicate increased efficiency and revenue. A successful TMS automates repetitive tasks, allowing teams to focus on revenue-generating activities, and supports the shift towards digital brokerage.

Final Thoughts

Adopting a Transportation Management System (TMS) represents a critical step forward for businesses aiming to enhance service quality, boost productivity, and surpass customer expectations.

As we navigate the complexities of TMS implementation, it’s clear that while the road may be challenging, the destination is undeniably rewarding.

Understanding the Challenges

Implementation hurdles, including a steep learning curve and resistance to change, are common but not insurmountable. Expert insights from Nicole Edwards and Jesse Carmichael highlight the importance of comprehensive training and choosing a user-friendly TMS to facilitate smoother adaptation.

Key Factors for Successful Implementation

The right team, timing, and a commitment to efficiency play pivotal roles in the successful deployment of a TMS. Patrick Horner emphasizes the value of selecting a solution like Aljex and MacroPoint that not only streamlines operations but also positions businesses for growth. Coordination and detailed planning, as noted by Nicole Edwards, are essential for a seamless transition.

Measuring Success

Success metrics vary by company but should focus on operational efficiency, carrier performance, and enhanced visibility. Both Dustin Torok and Jesse Carmichael suggest measuring success through improved load management, reduced manual tasks, and increased operational efficiencies. The ability to perform more tasks within the TMS without leaving the platform, as Patrick Horner suggests, marks a significant step towards becoming digital brokers.