Are Millennials the Key to the Future of Logistics Technology

Millennials can be change-makers in helping businesses transition from legacy software. Here's the how and why.

Millennials and Logistics Tech

Most of the media coverage on millennials has centered on what the generation is ruining. I’ve been bombarded by this content, and I’m sure you have, too. Authors have accused millennials of killing everything from casual dining to home ownership. These types of analysis are in fact so common that Buzzfeed made a compilation, rounding up all the things - even concepts! - that this generation is blamed for destroying.

Lost in this discussion is the positive impact of this generation. While millennials have indeed killed some consumer behaviors - just like every generation before - I believe that they are also just as much catalysts for new change. One such example is in the world of software.

When it comes to software, organizations tend to stick to what they already have. Such is understandable. As with any other process or solution, there is a ton of organizational inertia to use the same thing. Even if a business would prefer an alternative, they tend to think twice about changing because switch-over costs are high. It not only costs money to adopt a new solution, but also time and effort.

From what I have seen, logistics software is even harder to change. Because a logistics software may be integrated with multiple partners and touchpoints, switching over from one solution to another will be more operationally intensive. As a result, many organizations stick with their legacy logistics software, even when it doesn’t help them #GetShipDone.

Don’t underestimate the millennial

Millennials can be change-makers in this regard, making it easier for businesses to shift from a legacy logistics software that is no longer as efficient to one that is outfitted with all the features and modules that the business deserves. Millennials can help at every stage of the software adoption process.

Other generations in the workforce, such as baby boomers and generation X, who take this open-minded approach to millennials will benefit enormously. By tapping millennials to lead software adoption, the entire organization will have a highly skilled and motivated vanguard for digital transformation. In performing this role, millennials will be more fulfilled by work and more likely to be retained by their organizations.

This strategy of playing to the strength of millennials is much more fruitful than just bemoaning stereotypes of their generation (i.e. that they are a bunch of hard-to-manage kids). When done correctly, this can be a sight to behold and a force to be reckoned with: Millennials can lead the organization much faster into the future.

Millennials are wizards at anything with a screen

While the borders between generations can be hazy, most identify millennials as those born between 1981 and 1996. These millennials came of age during the heyday of computers and the internet. Compared to previous generations, who could recall the halcyon days before screens and gadgets, millennials are digital natives.

As a result, they are more at ease with digital technologies compared to their predecessors. The difference in digital-savvy would be akin to a person who natively learned a language as a child and one who tried to pick it up as an adult. Millennials are just fluent at all things tech.

This ability refers to not only their proficiency with familiar technologies, but their ability to learn new solutions. One study, for example, found that millennial-led businesses were more than twice as likely to use connected technologies such as wearables, drones, and sensors at 71% compared to just 32% among all businesses.

Because millennials are quick to adapt to new solutions, they can be the vanguard when moving to a new logistics software. They will not only efficiently learn the technology, but they can do so well enough to accelerate the learning curve of others in the business. Millennials, in short, can be a force multiplier in minimizing high switch-over costs. I have seen enterprises leverage this opportunity by making some of their millennial leaders as informal ambassadors and trainers of any new software.

Of course, this talent of millennials would be wasted if the software was itself unnecessarily complex and bloated, which no amount of techiness can overcome (I have unfortunately seen this in the industry, too). At Cargobase, we cater to the digital-savvy of this generation by providing a transportation management solution (TMS) that can be deployed in as little as a few weeks, compared to the industry standard of months or even years. The TMS offers easy-to-use features across the full shipment lifecycle - from spot buy procurement and freight management to auditing and settlement - so businesses can experience value much sooner than this guy:

Waiting for TMS

Millennials can help organizations soar - especially toward the cloud

Millennials also have a nose for the best technology. In the current environment, where remote and hybrid work are flourishing, the criteria on what makes a strong solution is no longer just a matter of opinion, whether mine or the next guy’s. First and foremost, any technology must be as flexible as the organization itself.

millennials tech adoption lifecycle

Such can be witnessed in the rise of cloud computing solutions, such as Amazon Web Services or Azure Cloud. The ascendance of these solutions is not just a shift to software from hardware, but it’s a change in philosophy. Hardware servers, whether hosted on-site or rented elsewhere, required a steep commitment in capital and other resources from businesses. Cloud computing solutions, on the other hand, are available on-demand: Businesses can scale as nimbly as they wish, consuming as much resources - or fewer on occasion - as the situation demands. Cloud computing has won because it enables agility.

Cloud is also the way to go for other areas of technology, such as logistics. Because workers are no longer confined on-site to a cubicle, but may be working from home, a coworking space, or even from a beach (work-from-anywhere can really mean anywhere), tools must be readily available wherever your workforce is. I myself enjoy the occasional change of pace in reporting from a coffee shop or cafe.

By giving millennials a voice in choosing possible solutions, they will ensure that this key attribute is present in the chosen software. At Cargobase, we understand this need for accessible technology, which is why our TMS has been designed from the ground up as a cloud-based solution. All features of the platform are available to your workforce immediately, and - as with cloud computing solutions - there are no upfront investments, so your business can scale use of the solution as it provides values. When cost and value rise in lock-step with one another, businesses can more easily grow. Wouldn’t the world be an amazing place if all vendors priced their products and services this way?

Millennials are obsessed with what the numbers say

Succeeding with a new software comes down to more than just picking a flexible solution and learning it well. In fact, I would argue that those two are the easier parts of the software adoption process. The more difficult part is ensuring that an organization hasn’t just switched over to a solution because the grass is greener on that side, but it is actually providing greater value than its predecessor.

Millennials can help here, too. As digital natives, millennials are not only accustomed to the digital technology, but the sea of data that comes with it. They are used to drawing insights from data and making decisions based on them. They are even considered by some to be the generation most comfortable with data. If the average organization is data-driven, I would say that most millennials are data-obsessed. Their comfort with data can help them monitor the metrics of a given solution, so that it can be further optimized.

Any software worth its salt will enable business leaders to initiate this positive feedback loop from the start. As soon as employees begin to train on a software, they should be able to track its performance with relevant data. From there, they should be able to make necessary adjustments, so that the organization maximizes the use and impact of the solution over time.

Our team at Cargobase understands the importance of these data-driven insights. To this end, our reporting and analytics module gives business leaders the ability to monitor performance in real-time and make higher quality decisions based on this data (to my pride, I have seen customers use our TMS as a springboard for growth, leveraging our data to capture value that had previously been overlooked).

This ability will ensure that organizations are drawing value from our TMS, which can be seen in some of our aggregate numbers. Through an average of 3.2 quotes, customers experience savings up to 25% and an average of 18%, communication with service providers is reduced by as much as 80%, and our net performance score in the top 5% of the industry. Businesses are not just choosing our TMS and training with it, but deriving real world business value.

Technology and talent are a flywheel

Now that most organizations have several generations of workers, it would be easy to focus on the weaknesses of each, so that teams can try to mitigate them. For example, since millennials can be free-spirited (including in the workplace), some organizations may mistakenly try to micro-manage them to get better results.

I have been there before, so I can empathize with organizations that fall into this trap. Rather than take this approach, organizations should instead play to each generation’s strengths. The advantages of doing so are evident when you look at millennials.

Millennials can be a change agent at their respective organizations by advocating for better technology. They can steer their companies toward cloud-based solutions that complement agile workforces, master chosen solutions to minimize the switch-over costs for themselves and their peers, and refer to data to ensure they are getting the most out of a given software. Baby boomer and generation X leaders who enable these abilities unlock a veritable superpower: The organization becomes far stronger than the sum of its individual parts.

Organizations that are forward-thinking enough to encourage millennial leaders to take on this role will create a virtuous cycle. They will not only get better technology, but they will also get better talent. These workers will find greater fulfillment in playing to their strengths, and the organization will more easily retain them for much longer tenures. As an organization becomes more efficient and innovative, even more workers will want to work for them. Millennials hold the key, in short, to not only accelerating the adoption of new solutions, but the leaders who will serve at their helm.

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