Like the roots of a tree, your technology touches and taps into more areas of your company than you may realize at a glance. Supply chain technology, in particular, is at the heart of everything from shipping solutions to fill rates; failing to maintain and upgrade it in a timely fashion can lead to a frantic series of patch-fixes that aren't durable enough to survive the long haul. Are you putting your IT infrastructure high enough on your priority list? Here's how to ensure your logistics productivity and growth live in harmony, regardless of what your tech needs may be.
Make the Tough Cuts
If your company has acquired a new division or even new leadership, the remnants of older IT structures may still be in place. Whether it's relative apathy, more important to-do list items or concern over rocking the boat, older tech will eventually turn into an albatross around your company's neck in terms of shipping solutions. Mary K. Pratt of TechTarget notes that there's almost never a clear winner when deciding which legacy IT systems stay or go in a merger or restructuring, but it's a choice that needs to be made regardless. The longer an outdated program is kept in the workflow, the more expensive and time-consuming troubleshooting will become, as new employees require additional specialized training. In addition, older programs—even legacy programs—often don't anticipate the sophistication of cyber-attacks years down the road, which means your current systems might be leaving you vulnerable to malicious digital attacks.
Audits for Clarity's Sake
Even if you know and agree that your technology needs to stay current, the big question that looms in the ledger is "When?" Business is an ongoing endeavor, and you may already feel pressed for time as it is with order flow and shipment deadlines. Much the way best practices in legal protections caution companies to destroy old files after a certain useful date passes, technology should be audited on a regular schedule. Commit to ensuring that all of your terminals are updated and scanned for malware every few months, as well as discussions on upgrades every few years or more often, if your industry tends to evolve rapidly. Get your C-suite on board and block out time to discuss problems and solutions; encourage your front line employees to note difficulties or wish lists they may have for your systems in the interim. Believe it or not, even these small complaints and suggestions can be enormously telling when the time comes to shop for new systems or modules.
Be Prepared to Merge
In traffic, ideally, merges happen by interweaving one car from each lane, over and over. In practice, it often ends up being a snarled mess of hesitation and impatience that gums up the works for miles. This is a lesson easily applied to hybrid systems in technology—if your company is planning on adding new systems to older ones, tread lightly. At a minimum, try to have at least one employee "expert" from each system on hand to plan the integration and determine redundancies. If you defer to trusted team members who know their own systems, you'll get a much more realistically successful result than winging it with a third party service that's making stay-or-go decisions on the fly. Don't think hybridization is a necessary skill? A recent issue of TechTarget called out system merger expertise as a "core IT service."
Don't let your shipping solutions fall behind because your technology isn't holding up to the pace demands of a modern market; invest in proactively monitoring, improving and merging your supply chain technology now. Or, to put it another way: it's a lot easier to steer away from an obstacle in the road than it is to repair a wreck.