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Using the Old Ways of Working With New Technology

Don’t Fall into the E-mail Trap when Managing Alerts

There is more and more focus among logistics providers on managing the overall transportation process and not just documenting what has happened. The focus is shifting to outlining what needs to happen as a sequence of events (Event Management). And, then alerting users so that they can step in and address the issue before the small issue becomes a big problem. This is called Management by Exception and it is a critical part of accelerating the supply chain movement.

Event Management is critical, and alerts are the goal, so that the user’s attention can be drawn and focused on resolving whatever hasn’t been done or where there is a problem. At the same time, we are seeing a lot of calls to generate email alerts to create Management by Exception.

Be careful here. Email is a wonderful communications tool, but it is not a good organizational tool. Users can rapidly become so overwhelmed by the volume of email hitting them that they can’t differentiate between the alerts that apply to them from the blizzard of messages generated that include them in the distribution but don’t apply to them.

The first step in avoiding the Email Trap is to change the users work focus away from email and to the Event Management system. Collaboration and Electronic Carrier Integrations, such as Carrier e-Bookings and Cargo Tracking, mean that changes are happening to the shipment data from outside the user’s desk. Those changes are happening more frequently and more rapidly. The focus needs to shift to the Event Management system and away from email in order for users to respond more quickly to others working in the system or tied to the system.

The next step is to take advantage of the Event Management system’s design to organize and report on exceptions. Modern Transportation Management Systems are organized around event management and exception reporting. This has become a primary focus of the system and the key to on-line collaboration and carrier system-to-system integration. So, focusing on the Event Management system is critical to responding quickly.

Good systems will involve workflow so that just the responsible users have immediate visibility to the shipments they are in charge of. And, the user will only see the shipment when there is something that needs to happen or be monitored. Shipments at sea for the next 10 – 20 days don’t need to be watched daily, nor should they be clogging up a user’s main work list. That main work list needs to remain uncluttered so that it is easy to identify what needs to be worked on today and which problems need to be resolved today.

Supervisors and managers can oversee their teams’ work at a higher level if they, too, are in the system monitoring outstanding exceptions and task-based work. These higher-level views of work being done allows supervisors and managers to themselves focus on problems and reach out to the desk level user to ask if they need help.

Interestingly, this can be done remotely. Good Event Management systems combined with Workflow and Exception Management means that people are “together” when they are in the system in just the same way that a customer and an operations user are together when they are collaborating back and forth online. Physical presence is not as big a factor when these Event Management systems are in action.

There are cases where collaborating parties need to be able to trigger a secondary alert and / or communicate back and forth about issues. These can be done with notes and alerts, but these should be the exception and not the main way of doing business.

Event Management, Collaboration, and Workflow are the tools coming online in the digital world of global transportation and we need to evolve our work processes to embrace these new tools if we are going to get the full efficiency that these tools promise to yield. So, don’t fall in the trap of using the old ways of working when you have new technology.

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