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Navigating the Technology Product Development for Logistics and Supply Chain Companies

June 1, 2021
Volodymyr Rudyi

Today, logistics and supply chain management (SCM) are crucial for manufacturing and distribution operations. That requires investing in technology product development to provide efficient management and coordination at all stages of the value chain. The particular technologies help maintain warehouse stocks, transport products, ensure optimum utilization of resources, facilitate changes in processes, and boost customer satisfaction.  

According to International Data Corporation, logistics firms will dedicate about 35% of the outsourcing services budget to increase automation, with the emphasis on inventory, order, and shipment tracking by 2022. Therefore, the appropriate technology product development for logistics and supply chains is essential for facilitating smooth inventory and streamlining fleet operations.

So what are the key software products for logistics companies? How to start with technology product development? And why use Agile methodology for it? Read in our blog post.

What are the key technology products for logistics and supply chain?

Technology products for supply chain management are used for optimizing and enhancing delivery, decreasing expenses, and focusing on a business strategy. Logistics firms also implement such products for increasing profits, optimizing procurement management, enhancing process transparency, and saving time and resources. At the same time, another great advantage is the opportunity to integrate SCM software with cloud-based inventory tracking, real-time reporting dashboards, or other relevant third-party services.

Here we detail key technology solutions logistics and supply chain companies can implement:

Order management software. This technology product allows streamlining the entire order cycle and cutting down the time in all its stages. Clients use the system to consolidate all the information for seeing the available stock, finding trends among past orders, viewing shipping data, and updating product prices. Besides, order management software helps plan fulfillments and provides the supply of additional items, which makes the order cycle more efficient.

Procurement management systems. The particular system makes it possible to track suppliers, manage sales and logistics, or create and monitor the execution of tasks. Also, customers can integrate a reporting system, which enables its users to obtain different statistics regarding business processes and manage the internal documentation. That allows companies to reduce expenses on the entire chain and coordinate supply chain activities more efficiently.

Supply chain enterprise apps. A custom enterprise app ensures the ability to obtain greater visibility into supply chain operations, increase their speed and efficiency, and enhance customer satisfaction. Such mobile, desktop, or cloud solutions can be integrated with other critical business systems, such as ERP, CRM, or inventory management systems, and are suitable for companies of all sizes, including small and medium-sized businesses.

Delivery service platforms. The platforms for parcel delivery services are helpful for both the customer and its clients because they allow sending packages or parcels via couriers easily and safely. A relevant app enables admins to manage information regarding drivers in the system and provide both with order details. Clients use such apps for choosing the delivery’s start and end points, calculating its cost, filling out the required details, and making payments.

Field service apps. These highly productive and cost-effective technology products help service employees and managers save much time spent on organizing and preparing their tasks online and offline. That also leads to increased business transparency. The field service apps enable the visibility of workers who are completing tasks in the field and concentrate on strengthening communication between them and the administration.

Inventory management systems. The appropriate inventory management solutions provide companies with one place for managing all the finances, logistics operations, and inventory. Companies prefer the web, mobile, or cross-platform apps to track inventory, also using RFID and barcode or QR code scanning. Effective inventory management solutions help reduce stock-outs or overstocking-related risks, increase profitability, and improve sales cycles.  

Estimating & quoting tools. Such technology tools offer the ability to maintain an elaborate rate database and at the same time use it for generating freight quotes for clients easily and quickly. Thus, calculating routes, costs, and potential surcharges and generating quote documents are fully automated. But users will always have the option to make changes or updates to the outcomes of the particular processes.

API integration & EDI. The unified platforms that represent the combining power of EDI and API can eliminate complexity and provide the supply chain with sense. These technologies allow logistics companies to view all client, partner, and supplier transactions using a single dashboard. They can filter out different categories such as failed documents, analyze technical details, and get all required documents thanks to the additional natural language search. Lastly, all users can find the current status of transactions and respond to client inquiries fast.

How to start technology product development for logistics and supply chain?

As the final building block for the ways logistics and supply chain executives can use technology to gain a competitive advantage, let us turn our attention to the process. In other words, what you should expect in case of navigating technology product development for your company.

At a starting point, you should plan to participate in, and if you are the product owner, facilitate user interviews. Along with your outsourcing development partner, you need to:

  • Determine what is required;
  • Understand if there are existing SaaS (software as a service) and/or hardware products that satisfy the requirements or come close to that;
  • Figure out whether it makes sense to buy an existing SaaS and/or hardware product rather than build a custom technology product. Here we share the top 5 software products ‘better buy than build’ list.

These are core questions that you must repeatedly ask throughout the process. Our goal at this stage is to exhaust the maximum possible options. In AgileVision, we train all the team members to think this way.

For example, with one particular client, we looked at reducing the number of electronic boards in the design and evaluated which standard items we could purchase. When we discussed buying an existing solution, our client was concerned about outgrowing its capabilities. However, we decided such limitations were okay as a temporary solution during the proof-of-concept phase.

In similar client scenarios, we have also looked at whether we could build on top of existing software and potentially separate it from what we should develop.

Why use Agile methodology for software product development?

With traditional software development life cycle methodologies like Waterfall, disparate teams perform development phases independently in series. But with the Agile approach, these phases are conducted in short, iterative, incremental sprints by cross-functional teams with shared responsibilities in parallel. Thus, Agile encourages different personnel to cooperate for continuous development, testing, and further deployment activities. Also, shifting testing procedures allows identifying and fixing defects at the early stages.

Using Agile methodology for product development provides our clients with significant benefits. After all, continuous delivery of valuable products, daily meetings, and changing requirements at any stage are among the crucial things involved in the Agile space. That makes this approach more advantageous compared to Waterfall, which does not consider the evolution of requirements during development phases, as it depends heavily on the initial ones.

The key concept of Agile requires development teams to verify the primary idea and discover a sustainable, profitable, and successful technology product. Because the executives can initially have just an idea, we need to implement and evaluate many assumptions as soon as possible in the technology product development process.

How Agile methodology works

Agile appeared as a response to many disadvantages of the Waterfall methodology. While the development team in Waterfall delivers the product at the project’s final stage, the Agile approach allows customers to influence and monitor the product’s evolution.

Requirements analysis and planning are the first steps of the technology product development that result in creating a Product Backlog and a Roadmap. Once the particular work is complete, the development project is managed through a series of two-week self-contained iterations called Sprints. Besides, each iteration requires its own planning, analysis, designing, development, and testing activities.

All sprints start with defining the scope (a set of features that can be demonstrated and that provide actual value to the customer), and conclude with the demo of the results. That enables clients to make changes, propose new ideas, and control the product development process in full. Thus, during each sprint, the product improves, and more features are added as needed.

Once the product development is complete, the implementation transitions into a maintenance and support phase, which helps make sure that the product works and addresses any remaining questions and complaints from end-users.

The bottom line

The technology products in logistics and supply chain help improve the operational performance by making relevant processes handled automatically. At the same time, such products can depend on different transformative technologies, including cloud, IoT, AI, ML, or Big Data analytics. That sometimes can make optimizing the supply chain a demanding and time-consuming process, but using the Agile methodology promotes the efficiency and success of the technology product development. Ultimately, the ability to satisfy clients serves as a game-changing factor logistics and supply chain companies cannot ignore.  

Are you already outsourcing technology product development? What benefits do you find the most valuable for your business? And what methodology do you find the most suitable for developing your required technology product? Share with us in the comments below.

How AgileVision can help

Over the past several years, AgileVision has helped many businesses with their technology product development as an outsourcing partner and received excellent customer feedback. Are you considering building a custom technology product for logistics and supply chain, or need advice on the existing one?

Schedule your free logistics technology consultation

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