Your technology stack is a key differentiator for your freight brokerage. Each solution you deploy is a piece of the puzzle that allows your team to book more loads, provide better service to your customers, operate with profitable margins, and serve your carriers better.
However, each solution you deploy adds complexity to your business’s operations. Without a strategy to integrate all these applications, your freight data will reside in silos – reducing the impact of the different technology solutions you utilize.
Your transportation management system (TMS) is the hub of your freight brokerage and must integrate with the rest of your tech stack. From booking a load to invoicing your customer, your TMS should be able to provide your team with a 360-degree view of each load delivered.
Types of Integrations
While most TMS’s claim that they integrate with other applications, the actual implementation of these integrations vary widely and can leave a lot to be desired.
- Sometimes, integrations are simply data imports of flat files exported from other systems and are often referred to as CSV (comma-separated value files). While this type of integration can be easy to create and implement, ensuring that data from your various systems remains synchronized is very difficult. If your TMS isn’t built to properly keep load data updated, your team is potentially using flawed data to make decisions.
An API (Application Programming Interface) is a messenger that processes internal and external requests to an application. Systems “open up” APIs to a subset of their internal workings to allow external programs to access certain portions of the application. For example, your TMS might identify a load as Load ID 12345, but QuickBooks might identify the associated invoice as ABCDEF. Your TMS can call QuickBooks API to read its invoice number and associate it with the load. Any subsequent request from your TMS to QuickBooks will reference that invoice number to ensure the two systems are synchronized.
API integrations resolve many of the shortcomings of EDI integrations and are vastly superior to flat-file integrations. API integrations are:
- asynchronous – meaning they can be accessed by multiple applications at the same time.
- not reliant on expensive and cumbersome third-party translators.
Application Integration Considerations for Choosing a TMS
Many TMS’s are legacy platforms and require expensive and time-consuming customizations to deploy an integration that they market as being “out of the box.” They might have an integration with an application, but that may only mean that the applications can speak together but an extensive amount of work needs to be done to incorporate any customizations that have been made to your TMS. If your TMS vendor writes a statement of work to integrate the TMS with another application, understand that they are essentially customizing your system – which makes future upgrades more difficult and expensive.
In addition to understanding the overall complexity and level of effort required to integrate applications with your TMS, here are some other questions to ask yourself or your TMS vendor:
Does the TMS integrate with applications in my technology stack?
- Your TMS is the centralized hub for your business, and it is important to know what it can and cannot integrate with. Perhaps more importantly is understanding how the integration works. For example, your TMS might integrate with the DAT Solutions load board, but it might not be capable of posting hundreds of loads at a time (like BrokerPro).
Are integrations done via flat-file or API?
- Understand how each integration is done and determine if it is sufficient for your business. Sometimes a flat-file integration is sufficient, but other times a robust API integration is required.
What is the cost to integrate with my technology stack?
- Some vendors charge additional fees to set up and support the integration. These costs can range from a couple of hundred dollars to several thousands of dollars. Make sure the cost to integrate is appropriate for the value you will receive.
What is the overall user experience after the integration is completed?
- Understand how your users will interact with the systems. Will they need to sign into multiple applications to use the integration? Does the TMS provide a seamless user interface that shows them the right data from the right place at the right time?
Who supports me if something breaks?
- This is often overlooked, but it is essential for you to have a plan for when things break. Using the load board example above – will your team call DAT or your TMS vendor for support if loads aren’t posting correctly? If they call your TMS, what are the steps the TMS vendor takes to resolve the issue, and will they be held accountable for any service level agreements you have in place with them?
We hope you found this article insightful. We are currently writing a series of articles and producing videos that show you how BrokerPro integrates with other solutions with the goal of helping you thoroughly understand our integration capabilities. In the meantime, please see our list of integrations below or contact us to see a demonstration of and ask questions about BrokerPro’s integration capabilities.