100 and Counting!

100 weeks ago, we started publishing our weekly email newsletter. At that time, there we just under 100 recipients on our distribution list. Today, there are close to 3200 people that receive the inGauge Data + Action newsletter each Sunday. I’m well aware that this level of growth wouldn’t get too many professional marketers excited, but frankly I don’t care. It’s been entirely organic, and I can see first-hand that people are reading it (and hopefully getting value our of it). Our focus is to improve 1% each and every day.

When you start something, it’s easy to get caught up in the hype of trying to make something ‘viral’, instead of staying committed to consistency and the core purpose of whatever you are bringing to the table. Preaching the value of benchmarking and sharing ideas hasn’t been easy. In fact, four years ago (yesterday), we had our first development planning session to discuss the core features of inGauge – essentially trying to predict what our future clients would value.  Today, we are proud of the fact that 158 companies and their subsidiaries are actively using inGauge to move their businesses forward, and modify the ‘status quo’. With that being said, we are not even close to reaching our goal as a service, an Association, and as a group of forward-thinking Trucking organizations committed to continuous improvement. This last sentence captures what inGauge and TPP is all about – working as a group to advance the status, profitability and sophistication of the North American Trucking Industry. In today’s post, in light of the above milestone, I thought I would share a snapshot of both our short and long-term vision of inGauge for the TCA Profitability Program.

Short-Term Vision and Strategy

I’ve always been my biggest critic. I think this trait has been helpful in building a service that provides real value. Odds are that when a member communicates a ‘missing piece’ or any other type of service ‘deficit’, I’ve already identified it, and perhaps ruminated (and lost sleep) over it. The biggest problem in building a valuable benchmarking or comparison tool is ensuring that participants are speaking a common language. Language has nuance. If you’ve used Google Translate, you have seen this first-hand. Each trucking operation has slight difference in ‘dialect’. Although many of the variables are the same, you all address those variables in slightly different ways. Conversely, these slight differences affect how, and what you account for with respect to your financial and operational data internally. The biggest obstacle to continued growth of benchmarking in Trucking is the creation of a common language that removes (to the greatest extent possible) that nuance, which can obviously pollute the comparative data. I’m pleased that we have made significant progress on this specific topic. Recently, with the help of Best Practice Group members and valued partners, we published the first TPP Chart of Accounts. The TPP Chart of Accounts, available to every company free of charge, by clicking here, is result of sixteen years of contemplation, discussion, and iteration from Best Practice Group members. The TPP Chart of Accounts, fill a massive void (based on my first-hand daily experience) in the trucking industry. We haven’t necessarily created a new language, we’ve improved an existing one – and removed much of the nuance.

It would be foolish to think that companies will simply do a complete (and quick) ‘renovation’ of their internal reporting processes and models. As such, having an easy to use interim step is (and will always be) important. This missing link needs to be able to translate existing data, that may not be in the form that is required (has that nuance). In July of 2017, we started building a data mapping tool to address this critical requirement. Prior to that, we expected inGauge and BPG members to perform that interim step themselves. Many have, and continue to do a great job in this regard, but it has been a big barrier to entry for companies looking to get started. We are now (as of late Friday evening), on our 79th version of this data mapping tool. This tool allows companies to swiftly categorize, allocate (in six different ways) and report their financial and operational data in a standardized fashion. This tool, I am proud to say, is saving members a significant amount of time each month, and providing inGauge with better data – which as a by-product, improves the credibility of the results and the elevates the status of our platform in the industry.

However, we’re not done (not even close). The current version of our mapping tool is simply a ‘proof of concept’. We have already started building what we are now calling the inGauge Data Engine (please send me your feedback for a better name). This cloud-based tool will not only provide the critical mapping functions, it will also provide an enhanced developer environment, to allow you to more rapidly connect your databases (securely) to inGauge. Further, using machine learning, it will perform the initial steps in the data mapping process for you, automatically. Finally, and most-importantly, it will allow you to connect data, build dashboards, KPIs and visualizations for your own internal purposes, as opposed to external benchmarking.

In short, our short-term vision and strategy is making it increasingly easier for existing and new members to extract the most value out of the exercise of benchmarking, while at the same time reduce the resources required to transform the data into that common language required.

Long-Term Visions and Strategy

The biggest value of the Best Practice Groups is that the program provides companies with the ‘How’ (simply stated). Each group is comprised of people that want to get better, and desire external feedback on their strategies and activities. No one leaves a group meeting without at least one actionable task, project or thought to take back, and implement within their respective organizations. However, the onus is on that individual attendee to ensure that they deliver that idea, next step or strategic change when they arrive back to their business. Understandably, people can get caught in the whirlwind as soon as they arrive back at their facilities. Although it’s understandable, it still represents a massive gap – one that needs to be filled.

In early 2017, we introduced inGauge Actions, a simple project management tool to help capture and translate some of those great ideas that flow out of group discussions and presentations. We are pleased that some companies have used this tool, but we also understand that this feature is simply (again) a proof of concept. On that note, part of our long-term vision for inGauge is three-fold:

  • Increase the number of inGauge users, within each participating company with access to inGauge. Additional ‘subusers’ are free – and very strongly encouraged.
  • Automatically capture, and assemble pre-built projects within inGauge Actions that companies can utilize to move their businesses forward. These projects will be both group-specific.
  • Provide a auto-suggestion feature, to scan the library of good ideas (based on the group-specific presentations and discussions) and automatically recommend, based on performance on one or multiple KPIs. For example, if your Driver Turnover results are subpar, inGauge will automatically scan the pre-built projects that can help you to improve your results, and link those team members (based on their defined roles) to the project.

The above is an ambitious pursuit. Any time you attempt to link the qualitative with the quantitative, you will encounter many obstacles on the path. However, once we have our short-term vision and strategy completed, it will clear the deck to allow us to attempt this ambitious strategy. Stay tuned and feedback welcomed!

Onward and upward!

Thanks to all the BPG and inGauge members who have made all of the above possible. Your support is greatly (and graciously) appreciated!