7 Red Flags to Watch for When Selecting a Visibility Provider

Advanced Visibility is now an expectation for shippers, logistics service providers, and their customers.

In fact, in their 2019 Top Supply Chain Technology Trends You Can’t Ignore, Gartner stated that ​“Real-time visibility is a core part of logistics technology and plays a complementary function that supports transportation management, warehouse management, yard management, and fleet management.” Visibility technology has progressed to the point where it can provide supply chains with the information needed to optimize efficiency, increase shipper revenue, and provide Amazon-like experiences for customers of any business. Every company should have a visibility partner, but not all visibility solutions are created equal.

Choosing a visibility partner requires research and due diligence, but because many of these modern capabilities are relatively new, some solutions overpromise and under deliver. To ensure you don’t end up partnering with a sub-par visibility provider, we’ve identified the red flags you need to watch out for during the buying and vetting process.

Red Flag #1 - Manual Processes

One of the key benefits of Advanced Visibility is automation fueled by timely, accurate data. The only way this can be achieved with a reliable level of consistency is by eliminating slow and error-prone manual processes like using phone calls, email, manual data entry, or legacy technology to gather and disseminate information.

What to look for: while vetting visibility providers, ask them where they get their data, how that data is inputted into your systems, and what level of manual intervention is required for their solution to function properly.

Red Flag #2 - Lack of High-Fidelity Data

The quality potential of visibility data has improved quite a lot with the introduction of new technologies. In fact, there’s a good chance that was a big factor in your decision to find a visibility partner. Still, not all visibility providers have solutions capable of pulling in and enriching high-quality data. Without high-fidelity data, accurate, up-to-date ETAs and predictive analytics are simply not possible. Data quality is essential when selecting a visibility provider.

What to look for: the source of a visibility provider’s data is important. GPS/​telematics integrations and direct API integrations are the preferred methods to gather high-quality tracking data. Ensure that a provider works with their partners to set up and optimize their integrations and that they scrub and normalize their data before feeding to your systems.

Red Flag # 3 - Reliance on Mobile Phone Tracking

With a recent increase in data privacy policies, all major cellular carriers have disallowed cellphone tracking. This method of tracking was previously prominent among visibility providers, and despite no longer being viable as a primary tracking method, many companies still rely on it.

What to look for: you need to find out how your visibility provider obtains its tracking data. Cellphone tracking should only be done via native applications with clearly defined opt-in rules. Ask if a provider uses more preferred methods like GPS/​telematics integrations or direct API connections, and what percentage of their data they get from each.

Red Flag #4 - Load Matching and Brokering

Some visibility providers try to leverage private fleets and match loads with shippers who are looking for capacity, then broker backhaul models on behalf of their other shippers. This can take business away from 3PLs, tends to play into favoritism among carriers, and it doesn’t always keep the best interests of a shipper in mind. Not only do these solutions rarely function as advertised, but they typically require visibility providers to register as a brokerage.

What to look for: it’s a good idea to be wary of any visibility provider that claims to do capacity matching. This, understandably, causes logistics service providers and brokers to limit their interactions with the company because it positions them as a competitor. Stick with visibility providers who are neutral and focus on their core competencies.

Red Flag #5 - Security and Reliability

In the information age, few things are more important than data security. Especially in supply chains where you’re not only responsible for your own data, but your partners’ data as well. Good visibility providers put data security first and take measures to ensure data stays safe.

What to look for: you need to run a thorough security audit of all the visibility solutions you consider. Ask about their physical and cyber security policies, vulnerability management, monitoring, disaster recovery and backup, and incident notification policy. If you do business here in Europe, make sure they are GDPR compliant as well.

Red Flag #6 - Low Network Reach and Slow Onboarding

Visibility requires participation from your carrier partners, but if they’re not included in your visibility provider’s network, you won’t be able to receive data from them. Many solutions will help you get your preferred carriers onboarded to their network, but that isn’t always the case. Providers with small networks are a red flag because it likely means they don’t have an efficient process for onboarding new carriers. The quality of a provider’s connections to carriers is also extremely important—in order to receive high-fidelity data in real-time, the connection must be excellent.

What to look for: ask providers about the size of their network. Don’t be afraid to get specific and ask if your favorite carriers are included. Find out what their carrier onboarding process involves, and how quickly you can get your carriers on their network so you can see a faster ROI. A provider that works with carriers to ensure their connection meets the highest data standards is strongly preferred.

Red Flag #7 - Limited Modes and Geographies

Some visibility providers specialize in providing services for a particular mode or two. As you know, however, in order to get the full visibility picture you need a partner that stitches together all the modes your shipments touch. The same is true for geographies. Many of your shipments will have international legs.

What to look for: ask visibility providers what modes their solution covers and what the differences are in their tracking methods for each. Ask what countries and continents they are able to provide data in as well. There’s no good reason to pick a partner that will have blind spots during important legs of your shipments.

Visibility is a significant investment. Finding the best provider for your needs can create advantages for your organization. It optimizes your operations, provides you with better analytics, creates a better customer experience, and allows you to make more money. Selecting the wrong partner, however, leads to technical debt, wasted money, and frustrated customers and partners. Watch out for these red flags to avoid making the wrong decision during your search for a visibility partner.



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