Creating Carrier Partnerships is Key to Procurement Success

Tim Dalton

Tim Dalton, Senior Manager, Procurement

It’s been a busy year for procurement events. A lot of shippers are realigning their rates and commitments with their carriers in what has been a “soft” market. This has proved cost effective with shippers reducing their rates between 5 and 15 percent. But as we all know, the market is ever changing and the favor will swing the other way eventually, so it’s important not to place all of the focus on cost savings. A better long-term strategy is to focus on building strong partnerships with carriers to maintain stability through the years.

Talk is Cheap

When the market was tight in 2014, a lot of carriers felt they were taken advantage of during procurement events and discovered “talk is cheap” when certain loyalties were put to the test. Always remember these two truths: the market will change and carriers will remember how they were treated.

Focus Internally First

It’s better to start your procurement process by looking internally. Seek out opportunities in your own operations (wait times, terms, and flexibility) to give you the shipper of choice advantage. Determine which carriers you work with well and dig deeper to understand their markets and needs. Communication is key when building relationships. When developing your request for proposal ensure you are accurately depicting your business and expectations. The more details the better so the carrier fully understands the requirements. This will increase the percentage of your primary carriers picking up loads on a consistent basis.

Five Tips for Successfully Going to Market

  1. Be consistent. If you bid on an annual basis, conduct your event at the same time each year vs. trying to time the market.
  2. Don’t be concerned with adding new carriers, but be mindful not to create too much disruption within your current base.
  3. Go into your event with your eyes wide open. Understand market conditions and benchmark your rates ahead of time to limit any possible surprises.
  4. If you have limited experience with managing an RFP (or if you do not have time to do it right), get help.
  5. Collaborate with your operations team during the set-up phase of the RFP and during the awards process. By doing so, you will be able to ensure that any lane nuances are captured and that they feel as if they were part of the process which will assist with the implementation of the awards (operational ownership).

Reduced Truck

Keep Building the Carrier Partnerships

Once shippers finalize and implement their RFP results, the work is not yet done. Post-event management is an important step in any procurement event and it is critical to realize expected savings, service, and capacity.  A lot of time and thought go into the awards process and the following can assist with maximizing the expected results:

  • Provide your operation teams with “paper” routing guides so they can confirm that if tendering systems are being used, that rates and routing guide sequences are being pulled correctly.
  • Establish a process with your operations team so they know who to contact if a carrier isn’t honoring their commitment and when an issue should be escalated.
  • Schedule touch-point calls with your Core Carriers to review metrics, opportunities, etc.
  • Implement/Review the following reports or tools to proactively understand whether awards are being honored:
    • Carrier Scorecard – provide feedback to partners – review opportunities and celebrate successes
    • Routing Guide Compliance reporting – understand where primary carriers are not accepting awarded lanes
    • Financial reporting – for the lanes that were awarded, are you seeing the results that were expected

Maintaining Commitments

A successful procurement event can have lasting implications on your fiscal year (and beyond based on your carrier relationship/management process) and it is important to proactively understand where commitments are not being honored so they can be addressed timely.  When working with your partners, take the time to listen to their processes and experiences to ensure you understand why loads are not being taken and work to rectify the issue if there are hold-ups on your end.

Being a true partner is really is the key to building a better supply chain…and remember what it means to be a partner when the market makes it easy for you to forget.

Want to learn more? Contact us at

The Best Ways to Share Inspiration


Tristan Sweat, Content Manager

Great speakers are memorable because they find ways to drive home key messages through stories that resonate with us all. Hopefully, you’ve attended a conference with speakers who motivated, encouraged, and inspired you either personally or professionally. But what do you do after the event? How can you share that excitement and implement the challenges set forth when you return to work?

This week, LeanLogistics hosted ClientConnect ‘16 at the Loews Hotel in downtown Chicago. The two-day seminar provided motivational speakers, discussions with supply chain experts, technology work sessions, and good ole’ fashion networking with shippers, carriers, software users, and analysts.

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What the Speakers Shared

Josh Linkner: Josh Linkner, a very successful entrepreneur and the founder of e-Prize, shared five tips to innovative thinking. He encouraged attendees to think about ways to defy tradition. Forward thinking involves evaluating status quo and seeking out new ways to accomplish the same task…faster, smarter, and with greater results.

Dr. Larry Burns: Larry Burns advises organizations on the future of mobility, logistics, manufacturing, energy, and innovation. He is currently assisting engineers at Google as they work through the challenges of a driverless car. One of his key takeaways was to dedicate a lot of time to deeply understand a problem before you try to find the solution.

Seth Mattison: When it comes to predicting workforce trends Seth Mattison is the expert. He helps executives understand communication barriers that can develop between generations—and how to overcome them. He believes flexibility is the key to bridging the communication gap, and he encouraged everyone to follow the three Cs: courage to embrace change, curiosity about what’s new, and commitment to building a better workforce.

All three speakers made a significant impact on attendees at ClientConnect ’16. We’ve already received fantastic feedback from clients including this response: “This was my 1st conference and I learned so much from these 2 days. I can’t wait to go back to my office and share this information.”

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The Best Ways to Share Inspiration at Work

So what are the best ways to keep the momentum from a great conference moving forward when you return to work? Here are a few tips to share inspiration with coworkers.

  1.  Write a company blog post — Share your experience by writing a fun blog post about it on your company’s intranet. Be sure to include tips, pictures, and if possible, the speaker’s slide deck.
  2. Host a Lunch and Learn — Schedule a room around the lunch hour to share a short presentation about what you learned. Save time for a Q and A session.
  3. Set up an Inspiration Wall — Find a centrally located wall in the office where everyone can share their favorite inspirational quotes.
  4. Company Challenge — Host a company-wide challenge. Pick one challenge from a seminar speaker you heard from and share it with the whole company. Set a deadline for everyone to report back on their progress or success.

We hope everyone who attended ClientConnect ‘16 left inspired, full of new knowledge, and ready to tackle all of their transportation hurdles with vigor. Thank you to everyone who attended. We look forward to igniting inspiration again next year.

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Fleet Whiteboards, Spreadsheets, and Paper…Oh My!

Jeff Wood Product Launch Manager LeanLogistics

Jeff Wood
Product Launch Manager

When visiting the LeanLogistics headquarters you’ll see whiteboards everywhere—we use them for brainstorming, strategy sessions, and project updates. Whiteboards are  useful for a variety of purposes, but not an effective tool for managing a fleet. One of our goals during the development of LeanFleet was to give transportation managers the opportunity to replace their whiteboards with consoles.

Managing the planning and execution of a private fleet at a high level requires access to near real-time data regarding the positioning of assets and the availability of resources. During the development phase of LeanFleet, we made several on-site customer visits to observe their daily workflow. We noticed manual processes causing limited visibility to the supply chain.

Whiteboards —Some transportation teams used whiteboards to assist in tracking driver and asset locations for pick up, delivery, and backhaul.

Spreadsheets — Manual processes were in place to keep track of driver assignments, days off, and driver and asset availability.

Paper Information — Drivers were handed paper information with their load and stop details.

Manual entry accounts for an immense amount of time and labor and enhances the opportunity for human error. LeanFleet erases the need for a whiteboard by providing real-time information about fleet assets electronically, including a function that automates the selection of drivers based on a variety of factors including proximity, hours of service, and calendar events. Once the information is in LeanTMS, it can be retrieved at any time from any location providing visibility outside of the office.  We also saw an opportunity to allow companies to leverage their telematics investment to send dispatch information directly to the driver’s truck.

One Platform, Single Workflow

Some of our customers were experiencing a different set of obstacles as they tried to maintain a blended transportation strategy. Shippers using fleet assets as well as common carriers had to navigate through several different systems for everything from planning to settlement. Now, they can handle all planning and execution on one platform in a single workflow.

We have stayed in close contact with our customers who allowed us to observe their workflows as we developed LeanFleet. They were involved in reviewing prototypes and beta testing that provided valuable feedback that we incorporated into the product along the way.

Planners are excited about the visibility that will allow for better management of their fleet resources. Dispatchers enjoy the opportunity to eliminate spreadsheets and communicate directly with drivers via messaging. Drivers have responded well to having their assignment information relayed directly to the telematics system in their truck. Managers have experienced the value of having one system when reviewing reports and analytics to find ways to save money in their supply chain.

What’s your workflow say about your transportation strategy? Do you have a bottleneck we can help straighten out? Our developers love a challenge. Let us know how we can partner with you to build a better supply chain together.

In Sales You Love to Hear Feedback…

Mike Joseph Director of Business Development LeanLogistics

Mike Joseph
Director of Business Development

When you work in sales you always ask for feedback from clients. You want to know what customers are thinking and challenged with, and then make adjustments to meet their needs. Thirteen years ago, I started working at LeanLogistics as an implementation manager. I was impressed the company offered a free networking event for all clients called ClientConnect. I invited all of my customers to my first ClientConnect at the Haworth Center in Holland, Michigan. When the night was over, I felt it was a huge success. Later that month, I reached out to my clients to see what they thought. They all agreed the event was extremely valuable and they appreciated the opportunities it provided. But there was a running theme to their feedback for future ClientConnects: Don’t ever hold it in the middle of January in Holland, Michigan, again. (I guess not everyone appreciates a beautiful Michigan winter.)

True to form we listened to that feedback and adjusted our timing of ClientConnect. And over the years, we have moved it to different cities ranging from Chicago, Illinois, to Atlanta, Georgia. What’s been exciting to watch is how ClientConnect has grown through the years. The venue spaces are larger and larger as the number of clients taking part continues to expand. This evolution hit me a few years ago when I realized I no longer knew everyone in the room.  The days of ClientConnect serving as an opportunity for me to catch up with clients had changed. Now it was a chance to meet new customers brought in by different sales managers, to talk to them about LeanLogistics, and to find how our software solutions are working in their favor.

When new clients ask about ClientConnect I always tell them it’s a wonderful opportunity to get to know people who are in the supply chain industry, regardless of what vertical they work in. A logistics coordinator in retail could strike up a conversation with a food & beverage executive, or a transportation manager in a Fortune 500 company could break bread with an analyst from a family-owned business. We encourage everyone to let their guard down, enjoy the discussion, the networking, and learn something new.

All of the feedback I’ve heard through the years is that everyone loves ClientConnect. We value our customers. The customer comes first and ClientConnect is one way we give back. We want each customer to know we are dedicated to building better supply chains together.

Mike Collage ClientConnect

Maximize your TMS Investment with Excellent Customer Support

Deciding to buy a transportation management system (TMS) is a big decision and there are a lot of factors to consider. One area of consideration that, at times, can be overlooked is the type of customer support the company will provide after implementation. This is an important question because it can impact the ability to maximize a TMS investment.

At LeanLogistics, our customer’s satisfaction is a top priority. We are committed to ensuring all customers receive outstanding support from the moment they decide to purchase our software solution. LeanLogistics wins Stevie Award for Customer Service. Not every TMS provider has a customer support team, so make sure you ask a lot of direct questions about the company’s support program.

Building the Partnership

As a customer begins the initial process of utilizing new software, there is a period of time spent ramping up on system knowledge and working through day-to-day operations. But the real value of a software partner can be found in the days and weeks after the learning phase. Whether that hits two months or 12 months after you go-live, your software partner should be ready to start exposing other areas of value to increase your ROI.

When it comes to driving value out of the partnership there are two types of support: tactical and strategic. The combination will ensure you are covering basic blocking and tackling while also establishing a vision for the future.

Here are Some Common Tactical Support Questions

  • What new functionality do I need assistance setting up?
  • What problems arise in the daily process that could be avoided by implementing a new piece of the technology or modifying my current setup?
  • Why isn’t my current setup working the way I expected?

These questions are addressed by the tactical relationship the provider has with their customer and drives the business forward daily. Troubleshooting and problem solving is the responsibility of the customer support team. When evaluating a company’s customer support program ask about these common standards of support.

  1. Ease of requesting help
  2. Team members professionalism
  3. Seamless escalation of incidents
  4. Single point of contact through resolution
  5. Self-service materials for basic functions

In addition to the five standards listed above, our team also feeds key data back to the organization to allow for a more robust customer engagement strategy.

Strategic Questions to Consider

  • What business changes are coming up in the organization that could be addressed by the partner’s technology or services?
  • What are we not taking advantage of today that would be of interest?
  • How could we change business process to better align?
  • How are my other customers handling similar issues?

Relationships managers are key to the ongoing and long-term vision of the partnership. They open the conversation to understand your current and future business needs. As your advocate, the relationship manager will act as your voice internally to give your perspective on future development. This person should also act as a “priority manager”, someone who ensures you are implementing and seeing results from your recent projects.

What’s Your Communication Rhythm?

Remember, this is a partnership and you want to have a communication rhythm to keep everyone on the same page. Set a frequency of contact with your software partner. Tactical contact engages almost daily, but could also benefit from a monthly review of outstanding items. From the strategic perspective, some companies want to meet quarterly, while others only need to set a vision twice a year.  Establishing those communication guidelines will lead to continued success to maximize your investment.

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Our Roadmap to Creating Supply Chain Solutions

Anthony Kaly Product Launch Manager LeanLogistics

Anthony Kaly
Product Launch Manager

If the start and end point of a company’s supply chain followed a straight and narrow path, software solutions would be simple to create. In reality, the supply chain looks more like a freeway interchange filled with twist, turns, and crossing lanes. At LeanLogistics, we put our customers in the driver seat steering us toward a software solution to address their logistical speed bumps.

Our latest product addressed the red light issues impacting shippers moving containers over water. LeanGlobal® is designed to streamline global logistics by offering a single platform and workflow. To reach that end goal, we had to begin with a roadmap.

The first step to building a roadmap is to identify an industry problem. We tapped into the LeanLogistics transportation network to talk to existing customers, industry analysts, managed transportation services professionals, and partner organizations to identify barriers slowing down global shipments.

Global Shipping Issues Identified:

1) Inefficient Processes: A lot of shippers resort to manual processes to procure capacity and communicate shipment details with the many parties involved in ocean movements.

2) Access to Information: To plan and execute an international shipment, shippers need to access many different sources for information including trade compliance, sailing schedules, requesting bookings, import and export filing, and tracking.

3) Drayage Management: Inability to synchronize ocean booking with drayage loads for seamless movement between land and sea.

4)Visibility: A lot of shippers are in the dark when trying to track containers.

5) Freight Audit and Settlement: Manual processing of ocean invoices leads to inaccuracies and delays.

After validating the industry problems and creating a business case, the product management team went to work creating a vision for technology that could address these specific problems. From the vision, we created a functionality footprint—an inventory of all the moving parts needed to make up the engine of LeanGlobal.

A key part of the roadmap is identifying the functionality our development team should begin writing code for first. The primary driver for prioritization is always the value the item will bring to our customers. There is no shortage of ideas we want to deliver, so we look to maximize each release with quality, and fully functional modules that bring immediate value to the market.

In the case of LeanGlobal, we added functionality to address the barriers and streamline the entire process. Shippers can plan and book full container load ocean moves directly with the vessel carrier or freight forwarder, maintain full visibility of each container from pickup to delivery, and ensure compliance with international trade laws—all on one platform and in one workflow. This not only saves money and internal resources, but also reduces the opportunity for human error.

The product management team is proud of LeanGlobal, and looking forward to watching its functionality help shippers improve productivity and reduce the bottom line. Our roadmaps never reach the finish line. They continue to evolve as new issues impact the market. Each successful solution keeps the LeanLogistics team revved up for the next mile in our journey to build better supply chains together.

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Scalability? It doesn’t happen overnight

Wherever you look today, you see overnight successes.  The latest app becomes all the rage on Android and IPhone’s. A video goes viral and creates a cult following.  A little known startup suddenly gets acquired by Microsoft for a sum three times your company’s size.  All of those can happen in the blink of an eye.  In today’s hyper connected world, it’s amazing how quickly fame and glory arrive, yet can so quickly fade.

Fortunately, that’s not how the supply chain works.  There aren’t too many supply chain professionals who watch their network undergo extreme changes in a matter of moments (with the exception of natural disasters of course).  Having a single truck delayed does not tank a business plan; neither does a single delighted customer bullet proof a company’s logistical success.  Supply chains are extremely resilient, but are often asked to shoulder major changes.  And when it comes to scaling that supply chain, it definitely does not happen overnight.

Scalability in the supply chain requires expertise and direction.  Not all supply chains need to scale in terms of size, but maybe it’s a matter of scaling back certain elements and scaling up others.  Mode shifts are a perfect example of this.  As intermodal continues to gain traction and unseasonably low capacity remains, being able to scale in different ways gives the supply chain options to retain its original purpose and goals.

Goals.  Sometimes that’s all practictioners have to go on, relying on their partners and suppliers to deliver the results.  Some will trust in the process, waving contracts and service expectations in front of their constituents.  Others, like CHEP, take a proactive approach to managing partners with technology.  In this way, positive results are scaled and negative outcomes are reduced.

Although it’s clear you can’t scale a supply chain overnight, there are some ways to help it along.  In previous blog posts, we’ve discussed getting your RFP in better shape or planning for seasonal shifts as ways to scale your supply chain, but there is another element to consider. If we go back to our first three examples in this post, they have a common theme: technology.  In today’s world, always-on SAAS infrastructure is table stakes for scaling for long term success.  Startups don’t buy servers anymore, they buy server space and time.  Storage of secure documents is often housed thousands of miles away to a data center able to take an 8.9 on the Richter scale.  It’s scalable and configurable.  Whether you need a lot or a little today and need the exact opposite tomorrow, a SAAS model delivers.  If you’re not there, it’s okay.  Chiquita had to take a journey, too.  Now, SAAS is part of their world.  Your supply chain might not be as complex as dealing with highly perishable food, but if a 115 year old company can adopt a scalable SAAS solution. so can your company.

Who knows what tomorrow will bring?  For those looking to scale their supply chain (up, down, or sideways), challenges lie ahead.  Those challenges are just that, a challenge.  With a combination of technology and expertise, plus a little bit of time, those supply chains will scale with sustainable growth.  When those goals are met and the company lauds it as an overnight success, the supply chain folks will know how it really happened.

Is Outsourcing Transportation The Right Decision?

In today’s constantly changing market, managing transportation is a key factor for a more efficient and cohesive supply chain. Many companies still use manual methods to manage freight, relying on their internal expertise to execute their supply chain. With faxes, spreadsheets and phones, transportation departments are prone to duplicated efforts, human error, loss and most importantly, lack of visibility in transportation processes. Then there are companies leveraging transportation technology, but require expertise and special skills to minimize costs of shipments while maximizing service. With changes in business models through acquisitions/mergers, fluctuating fuel costs, and a fast-growing marketplace, supply chain teams need to focus on their strategic operations and determine if outsourcing the transportation function can actually increase efficiencies. Although that decision can be difficult, the company must still move products, be cost-effective, meet service levels and satisfy customers.

Management of a company’s supply chain is an important aspect of a corporate strategy. Without the specific knowledge, resources and bandwidth, transportation is an area that can drastically affect a company’s bottom line and increase customer satisfaction. For many companies, outsourcing the transportation process to supply chain experts who are highly skilled and proficient with technology gives companies the ability to focus on their core competency, which is not always transportation. Instead of spending hours and budget on reoccurring training to drive the department to become tech savvy, by streamlining transportation management, companies gain more efficient processes while lowering costs. The winning combination of professional logisticians, proven supply chain processes, and industry-leading SaaS software enables companies to improve transportation without jeopardizing the core business offering.

Managed Transportation Services from LeanLogistics utilizes LeanTMS, a SaaS software application, combined with a team of experienced logistics professionals to create the optimal solution for companies seeking to future-proof transportation functions. Unlike other outsourced transportation services, LeanLogistics offers both the expertise and industry-leading software to support processes in a flexible and affordable fashion. Managed Transportation Services is nimble enough to support companies that move the transportation department inside and/or outside of the corporate umbrella, as needed to cover employee and marketplace changes.

What is your Personal Brand?

Sam Safin Marketing Systems and Data Analyst

Sam Safin
Marketing Systems and Data Analyst

Who are you?

Chances are you’ve heard the question before, or some version of it. And you probably offered your name, followed by some extra information about yourself, explaining your reason for being there with the person posing the question.

Generally speaking, the situation guides the response:

“Who are you?”

“I’m Jane Doe, here for my appointment.”

“Who are you?”

“I’m John Smith; we spoke on the phone.”

“Who are you?”

“I’m Jake, from State Farm.”

These are simple answers, easily defined because they are specific by necessity. But how do you answer that question free of context? That answer is your brand.

We all know that branding is important for companies. We talk about trustworthy brands, good brands, well-made brands, brand loyalty, and on and on. A company with a well-established brand is one that we recognize; we can sing the jingles and know the slogans.

Like a company, you have a professional brand. And like a company, your brand might be made up of the high quality work you’ve done in the past; maybe it’s your social awareness or charm and wit. And just like you might want to work for a company because of their employment brand, companies should seek you out because of your brand.

Clearly articulating who you are as a teammate makes it easier for the companies you want to work for to find you. You can highlight your past accomplishments while also aiming for the next step in your career. It ensures that in your professional community, you’re thought of highly, seen as a competent and valuable addition to a team, if not an outright expert. A personal brand isn’t boasting; it’s a strategic demonstration of what you bring to the table.

We’re not suggesting you write your own jingle (although top marks for originality if you have one). As individuals, we’re not afforded commercial spots at prime time to share who we are. But we have ways of getting our brands out there.


LinkedIn isn’t Facebook – this isn’t where you post pictures of your weekend barbeque or funny cat gifs. This is where you present the history of your brand. It’s where you demonstrate the quality of work you provide, the consistency of your work ethic, and even give out free samples, depending on what you do. You can do a little piggy-backing on the corporate brand(s) that you’ve been associated with, and if your brand is strong, your company will be more than happy to have its brand bolstered by yours.


Twitter isn’t quite as professionally-driven as LinkedIn, but if you want to be a player, you’ve got to learn the game. What better way to learn the rules than in spurts of 140 characters or less? Many professional communities have active presences on Twitter, where you can follow industry leaders and gain some knowledge and insights about the latest and greatest in your world. It’s easy to expand your network with Twitter, as well.

User Groups

User groups are generally organized by technology companies to bolster their own brand. They are also great ways to network, to learn more, and to spread the word about you. These types of meet-and-greets are generally safe spaces to perfect your answer to “who are you.” They might provide common, industry-specific branding terms that you can use when in doubt. You can also increase your knowledge and skills, your audience, and subsequently your personal brand awareness.

Professional Certifications

There’s something about having a piece of paper with your name on it that just feels great, maybe empowering. It’s also a fantastic way to strengthen your brand. Companies do it, too – Energy Star Certified, anyone? Generally backed by a third party, a certification is just a way of telling your own company, as well as prospective employers, that you have demonstrated the quality of your brand.

Your Employer

It’s important for your employer to support your personal brand. If you look good, they will look good, so it’s in their best interest to help you be the best. That might be in the form of tuition reimbursement or training. It might be inviting teammates to share their ideas outside of the four walls of their institution. At the very least, being associated with an employer’s strong corporate brand can lend credit to your own.

The other benefit of all of these outlets is that, if you’re unsure how to answer the question, you can see how the leaders in your industry answer it. Emulate what they’ve done before you and alter it when you’re ready, make it your own, and interact with the professional community with that brand ever in mind.

Your brand may change over time, and that’s ok. It happens. But if you build a strong brand out of the gate, it will be easier to shift with the currents of life that may take you to different shores. Regardless of those changes, own it; own your brand.

I’m a self-styled commercial system polymath; I’m a Salesforce #AwesomeAdmin and #GirlyGeek, marketing ops connoisseur, and occasional blogger. English major, converted and data analyst (archaeologist?).

And you are?


in•no•va•tion noun ˌi-nə-ˈvā-shən
1. the introduction of something new
2. a new idea, method, or device : novelty

Everyone has ideas. Not everyone has the chance to explore them. A few forward thinking companies are changing that. They’re taking an innovative approach to innovation by giving employees time to play with their own ideas, all on company time.

This approach has several names: 20% Time, FedEx days, Hack days, Hackathons, Intrapreneurship, among others. The effect is usually the same: ideas are expressed and new pathways to success emerge. In many cases new features or fixes for functionality are created for existing applications. In some cases prototypes go on to become an official product offering. The results don’t just apply to product creation or improvement; these events foster camaraderie, creativity, and communication as well as create a workplace that is fun and engaging.

At LeanLogistics, we hold one 24-hour hacking event per release, what we call “hackation”. The projects involve everything from improving our existing infrastructure to streamlining the user-experience of our applications. There is only one requirement: the project must be mildly related to what we do.

Before we even get to the hacking, we convene for a short period of time to pitch ideas. This serves to provide project sponsors with the ability to recruit fellow developers to larger projects, with the additional benefit of generating even more ideas and starting more discussions.

The event itself kicks off in the afternoon with a brief run-down of who is working on which projects. Then the teams, or lone developers, flee to the comfort of their computers to prove out their ideas. The hacking goes on for as long as the developers can stay awake, and continues in the morning until we’ve exhausted our 24 hours. Then we present.

It’s one thing to hear someone describe an idea, it’s another thing to see it in action. Every event, there’s at least one presentation that wows the entire audience to the point that someone shouts “I’m not following that one!” This is a clear indication that you did something awesome; the other developers don’t want to present anymore. The presentations still go on. It’s the most important part of the whole process. Not only are we showing what we’ve made, we’re discussing what we’ve learned, and where the idea could go afterwards. Once everyone has had a chance to present, we hold a vote to see which project “won”, which typically results in development time allocated to the project throughout the next release cycle.

The benefits don’t just stop at new functionality in the next release. As a result of participating, our developers have become more collaborative, more confident, more creative, and are discussing new ideas and new approaches to problem solving on a continuing basis. Throughout the release cycle, developers are keeping an eye out for improvements they can make during the next hackation. So much so, that it’s become common to hear the statement “that would make a good hackation project”.

With this new found freedom, we’ve come to enjoy increased productivity for our software, our people, and our customers. Take a look at a handful of actual hackation projects and the value they’ve provided:

Auto Load Build
One of our developers noticed that our customers were using our optimization capability to create loads out of single orders. Customers are now able set up the LeanTMS to automatically create a load when an order matches a specific set of criteria. You can even have it apply a routing guide, so that the load is tendered automatically, completely removing the need for a transportation coordinator to plan anything.

At LeanLogistics, we have many virtual machines that make up our various deployed environments. One System Administrator was particularly tired of having to log into each one to figure out what was happening with our applications. Thanks to a little bit of tinkering, we’re now able to use ElasticSearch to view all of our logs for all of our deployed environments from a single web application. We can see, in real-time, the details for any issues that arise, and what a user was doing prior to encountering an issue.

OSX / Linux Developer Machine
Some of our developers feel more comfortable coding on their favorite operating systems. In order to boost their own day-to-day productivity, they took the time to create automated scripts that set up a “non-standard” developer workstation and tie into every piece of technology we employ, ensuring their productivity and ability to perform every function the position requires.

Your Turn
Now that you have an idea about one of our approaches to innovation, as well as the benefit we’ve received from it, it’s your turn! Within the following sections, you’ll find pre-packaged research and other resources to help you establish a culture of innovation within your own organization. At the very least, you’ll be able to start a conversation and influence the people around you to think differently about how to improve your culture, your people, and ultimately, your market standing.

Intrinsic Motivation
In the tech sector we often hear of some nerd/geek accomplishing some task with the sole reason being “because I could”. This is the basis for intrinsic motivation; performing the act is the reward. Intrinsic motivation is the very reason that companies, like Google, who encourage people to pursue personal interests on company time, capture the hearts and minds of its’ engineers. And they get some awesome products and improvements out of it too.

The idea started with Harlow, a psychology professor, who conducted studies on primate behavior in the 1950s. He presented monkeys with a puzzle to solve and they played with it quite happily. As soon as he introduced rewards for solving the puzzle the monkeys’ performance decreased.

Later, Deci performed similar experiments with humans to determine behavioral motivation. He presented subjects with a puzzle that could be arranged in various configurations and compared their performance with and without monetary rewards. Those offered the reward performed below their counterparts.

What these experiments pointed to, was another unnamed motivation mechanism, what we now know as Intrinsic Motivation. In a later work, Deci said that humans have an “inherent tendency to seek out novelty and challenges, to extend and exercise their capacities, to explore, and to learn.” It’s this nature of human beings that some companies are embracing in order to create real partnerships and drive innovation.

More information on intrinsic motivation can be found in Drive, and The Flip Manifesto both by Daniel Pink. Pink’s work contains references to the effort of Harlow and Deci, as well as information on other studies that have come to similar conclusions concerning motivation.

Innovative Time Off (20%, 15%, 10% Time), Tinker Time
Innovative Time Off is an ongoing setting-aside of employee time so that they can pursue their own interests either within the existing bounds of company interests or completely outside organizational goals and objectives.

Marissa Mayer discusses the culture of innovation at Google. 50% of Google’s product launches in the second half of 2005 started as 20% time projects.

3M provides employees 15% of their time to work on their own projects.

3M’s most famous side project: Post-It Notes

Geim and Novoselov win the Nobel Prize for the discovery of graphene. The discovery was unrelated to their “sanctioned” projects and was done during “Friday night experiment” time.

Atlassian has embraced 20% time as a way to foster creativity and improve product offerings.

Some teachers are embracing 20% time in the classroom.

FedEx Days, Hack Days, Hack Weeks, Hackathons
While referred to by many names, these “hack days” are days set aside for the sole purpose of allowing employees the freedom to pursue their own ideas. At the end of most of these events the participants are encouraged to present their prototypes to the rest of the group.

Symantec holds FedEx days for their employees.

LinkedIn’s “InDay”: A FedEx day without the massive trademark violation.

Twitter hack week, a whole week set aside for tinkering on ideas.

Twitter was even founded by a daydreaming session.

Facebook holds hackathons.

Non-corporate hackathons
Hackathons aren’t held just for internal corporate innovation. There are many events organized just for the fun of it, or even to further social causes.

New York Times hosts open hack days where anyone can register to participate.

NASA participates in “Science Hack Days” where developers and scientists collaborate on, and hack together prototypes because they can.

Random Hacks of Kindness hosts hackathons where volunteers gather to solve real world problems.

History Hack Days – events held to aid historians by providing technical solutions to history problems.

The “Hack day” or other bottom-up projects that gather enough company support to be folded into the company’s offerings are sometimes referred to as intrapreneurships, a “startup” within an established organization.

Case studies (Under Resources menu) covering: Sony’s PlayStation, Google, 3M, Virgin, and others: