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Route Planning Software: Making the Choice Between One-stop-shop and Best-of-breed

When choosing software that will automate or streamline some aspect of your business operations, how do you decide whether to buy from a best-of-breed vendor or a one-stop-shop? Will you choose a company that specializes in only that specific aspect, or a software vendor that offers a broad range of functionalities, including the one you’re looking for?

The pros and cons might seem pretty well argued – you can Google them all day long. But, in the specific case of route planning software, there are business considerations that make a best-of-breed vendor the better choice.

You might be making the jump from manual route planning to automation, or from an existing software system that doesn’t meet your requirements. Either way, going best-of-breed or one-stop-shop is an important decision that will have plenty of impact on your business, both immediately and down the road.

Focus, focus, focus

One of the most important advantages of selecting a best-of-breed route planning software vendor is that route optimization is the only thing they’re focused on. At Paragon, we have a very strong development team that is constantly modeling the software and constantly improving it; as they have done for over 30 years! They don’t have to compete for development dollars from an HQ that’s preoccupied with other types of software. They’re not busy doing something else.

In route planning software, expertise is king

Delivery routing is one of the most complex parts of your business. It’s also increasingly vital to delivering great customer service, and can be a very costly part of your operation. You need as much expertise in this area as you can get a hold of.

A best-of-breed vendor has deep experience. Whatever route planning or optimization problem a transport office, planner or dispatcher is dealing with, the chances are a best-of-breed company like Paragon will have dealt with it before, and really understand the solution.

At Paragon we’ve got a range of experts — algorithm experts, coding experts, mapping experts, testers and a consulting team — all focused purely on routing and scheduling, and the problems our customers face every day. This means that, when you hit a problem, it’s highly likely we have already had to work out a solution for another user last month, or last year. We can help you solve your problem without causing any delay to your delivery schedule, or tempting your planners into reverting to the old ways because they’ve hit a snag.

Best-of-breed vendors stay up-to-date

Having a route planning software provider that is completely focused on staying up to date with routing issues means they will stay ahead of legislative issues such as the recent ELD mandate in the US, as well as other terms-of-service regulations.

It’s important that your route planning technology partner can enable you to be very nimble, and can plan for changes, as well as responding to them, whether adjustments are driven by your needs or by regulations.

Improvements are shared around

Often, with a best-of-breed vendor, you will benefit from improvements requested by other users. At Paragon, when we complete an enhancement it is made available for all of our clients. We release an average of two enhancements a month — some big, and some small.

One example of that is a quick-service restaurant distributor that we work with. They came up with a set of specific requirements which we realized would be good for everyone. They included the ability to “smooth” the volume of dispatches according to how fully staffed the warehouse is at any given time or shift. Another one was arrival-time “banding” that allows you to favor a consistent delivery time at any given delivery destination, staying within a predictable timeframe, thus allowing store managers to plan unloading staff using a consistent or repeatable pattern.

Quite often, a customer will ask for something and it’s already there. Our support team just needs to show the users how to access the functionality, and off they go.

Straightforward to integrate

If you’re thinking about adopting best-of-breed software for the first time, you may be concerned about the complexity of integrating route planning software with your existing Order Management System or other systems used in your distribution operation. Standard interfaces make the integration process straightforward and protect you from a large bill for integration, while easy-to-use Business Intelligence tools ensure you get the most out of your systems and the data collected.

The down-sides of one-stop-shop

Most one-stop-shop vendors who offer route planning software have taken over a stand-alone vendor and incorporated it into their bigger company. As a consequence, those modules became part of a much broader offering, and often get neglected.

Historically, many one-stop-shop packages that offer route planning software started life as excellent solutions. But, because the ownership structure has changed, it’s common to find that software is not being developed in line with current market trends and customer demands like it used to. It is neither an important profit center, nor an attractive place to feed with development money. What ends up happening, often, is that routing is just an “extra” on top of a broader transportation management system (TMS).

With a one-stop-shop solution, you may well have to install a whole range of other functionalities first. That means installing and testing an order management system, say, before you can get to routing, which could take years! Further, when an upgrade comes, it’s now part of a bigger upgrade and takes longer. Any time you update the route planning system with patches or minor upgrades, you have to make sure all the systems are talking to one another internally.

That, in turn, means that best-of-breed offers a shorter time to market. You can simply get it up and running faster.

Expertise and focus really do count

This, in the end, is the crucial point. Routing is incredibly complex, and the criteria for planning and executing routes with maximum efficiency change all the time. Partnering with a best-of-breed route planning software vendor who is absolutely focused solely on maintaining expertise and excellence in this area is the best way to go.

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