So many factors go into a successful TMS project. And by “project,” we mean what happens after the implementation and after the vendor and partners go away.

While good project teams and software can get nearly any TMS project live, there’s one huge factor that often gets overlooked in TMS projects: The super user. It’s the quality and skills of the super user that determines the project’s long-term success.

Who is a super user?

A super user (or users) is a generic term vendors give to a specific class of user (a “power user” is another common name). It’s an individual who is internal and who becomes the most familiar with the TMS and how it specifically addresses the organization’s needs.

Long after the consultants have gone away and the project team has shut down, it’s the super user who lives on. A large portion of their day includes using the TMS software, as well as being the internal go-to resource for issues. We’ve seen some great super users bring on-line complex pool distribution with limited budget, or other less-successful stories in which the TMS “faded” after the multi-million dollar project team left and the super users couldn’t maintain basic rate data. (TMS “fade” happens when a system can’t keep up with changing business needs and delivers substandard results; and while a modern TMS and new design significantly help, a lot of the success is still in the hands of your super user.)

What makes a good super user?

A good super user can come in any shape, size, or education level; they are white collar or blue collar; and their age can vary. Having an understanding of IT is important and they need to have a familiarity with using software in general. But with today’s more intuitive and flexible TMS software, typical logistics folks can be the super user and take on tasks that could only be done by engineers in the past. 

One common attribute of a good super user is a really keen understanding of transportation as it relates to the company. Understanding how the company moves freight and the details of why it does what it does is important. For example, why do shipments have to ship the way they do, and when can they change?

A super user has knowledge that can’t be put in a book or easily defined in a best practice. They are skillful at taking that internal knowledge and finding a way to get it into the TMS, and make that TMS sing. Then, as the business changes, they are able to change the TMS to reflect new needs.

How do I know if I have a good super user?

The project team that installed your TMS generally knows how good your super users are and, if asked, will tell you the needed skill sets for your particular business. Also, if you think your TMS is starting to experience fade, then talk to your TMS vendor and find out if what you are doing is uncommon or unrealistic for your TMS. If it is, then get a new TMS. But if not, look at changing roles and get a better super user in place.

There is a skill and an art form that a good super brings to the process of transportation execution. Your TMS is a tool, but that tool needs users – and together they determine the overall results. While the typical factors of quality, fit, environment, etc. play important roles in the success of your TMS, the quality of your super user is often overlooked as a key part of the equation.