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By https://www.freightwaves.com/n | January 15, 2024 | top
FreightTech experts: 2024 is the year for laggards to catch up
Failure to adopt a technology culture will slow future implementation
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As the FreightTech industry continued its rapid evolution, 2023 presented unique challenges and valuable lessons for organizations adopting new technologies. 

From the impact of strategic investments to the hurdles faced in technology implementation, experts from all corners of the supply chain discussed with FreightWaves the current FreightTech landscape and shed light on the trends that will shape its future in 2024.

Lessons learned in 2023

2023 seemed to be the year that freight technology overinvestment caught up with the down freight market, experts said. Many companies invested in freight technology when freight demand was booming in the past few years, yet many of those purchases were executed based on full pockets, not well-thought-out goals.

Related: In 2024 FreightTech 25, top companies survive year of struggles

“The last two years were such a boom that folks spent a lot of money on technology without a plan. In 2023 when budgets were tight, they wanted to blame tech vendors for the software they bought, or their tech organizations for the product underperforming or not producing ROI,” said Ryan Schreiber, chief growth officer at technology consultancy Metafora.

Industry technology adviser Tommy Barnes backed Schreiber’s concern about user adoption over the past few years, and about FreightTech’s inability to capture a user’s intentions for the systems and ability to help with change management.

“The adoption of supply chain technologies is as much about change management as the technology itself. Many organizations underestimate this when developing products for the supply chain space,” said Barnes. “There must be an ongoing customer feedback loop. … This leads to a more robust go-to-market process and a delighted customer network that creates an ongoing network of referrals for your business.”

 

If your solution came with a higher level of change management, failure to hand-hold your customer and grow the solution’s value based on customer needs led to a tough 2023.

However, if your technology offered a phenomenal user experience and focused on that experience throughout 2022, your 2023 likely came with growth.

Related: BCB Transport gains revenue per truck through Optimal Dynamics partnership

“Last year everybody cut back on technology because spending less demonstrated a faster payback. We have eight portfolio companies in supply chain and technology. The ones that performed best could demonstrate instant impact,” said Ben Gordon, managing partner and CEO of Cambridge Capital. 

Gordon described the growth of solutions like Greenscreens AI, ReverseLogix and Parcel Perform because of implementation that often took less than a month and turned loss centers of businesses, like returns, into profit centers.

Yet, with the amount of marketing being carried out by FreightTech companies to acquire new customers, Schreiber warned that for those who preach their product to be an easy button to solving a problem, change management must be addressed at the end of the day.

“Like Belle and Prince Adam [or The Beast to those who are not Disney adults], this is a tale as old as time. It is nothing new. The biggest hurdle is adoption. Adoption is about change management,” he explained. “They’ll say, ‘Well these are our employees we can make them do it’ and then say, ‘Well no one is doing it the way we tell them.’ It all comes down to why are you applying software to this problem? What are the reasons your user will push back on adopting this software?”

Ironically, Schreiber pointed to an age-old FreightTech statement to showcase implementation failure: “Think about how ‘this is a relationship business’ mentality affects software adoption negatively.” he said.

Related: Where does FreightTech go from here?

Maybe it is that antiquated thinking that has finally caught up to the FreightTech industry in 2023. For Adam Wingfield, trucking expert and owner of Innovative Logistics Group, this might mean hiring out of the ordinary to transform this industry from a “relationship business” to a technology-driven field.

“Let’s not forget, finding folks who know their way around these fancy new tools isn’t always easy in our business at the operational level as well as adaptation. So, what’s the fix? … Either bringing in some tech-savvy people or training up your current team. Going step by step and having everyone together really back the change makes a world of difference,” he said.

The year of data and automation

Anticipating developments in FreightTech for 2024, logistics providers and shippers are concentrating on enhancing their teams’ strength through technology that solves problems quickly with partners that understand the change management involved. 

Most experts FreightWaves spoke to agreed that this will come in the form of two major areas of investment — automation and data analytics.

Notice how we didn’t say AI? That was purposeful.

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