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Megan UithovenMegan UithovenSenior Director, Community & Product Operations, FourKites

Since 2017, FourKites has convened a panel of the most involved companies within our global customer base for our Customer Advisory Board (CAB). We leverage these panel discussions to validate product ideas and guide our product roadmap, create champions and buy-in for our brand, and gather intelligence about the state of the industry. We also structure the conversations in such a way to maximize peer-to-peer collaboration between executive sponsors at our customers in order to reinforce the power of the FourKites network.

Our initial CAB, held in conjunction with our first-ever user conference in 2017, included 15 customers gathered around a conference table to exchange best practices and suggestions for the direction of FourKites’ continued product roadmap. That group has since grown to 105 eligible companies in multiple industries – and we’re looking forward to the continued growth of this group in the coming years.

I was thrilled to have the opportunity to help lead this year’s Customer Advisory Board and work with these outstanding customers and companies firsthand. Here are a few of the things that were top of mind for me during this exciting event.

Breaking Out and Coming Together

Since FourKites has seen such tremendous growth within the retail industry this year, many of our customers present at the CAB had OTIF and retailer program compliance at the top of their list. In fact, out of the 18 topics that the Community proposed, this was far and away the most sought-after among our customer advisors.

The other three topics of our breakout sessions were establishing carrier management and scorecards, making better use of FourKites data, and achieving a higher level of collaboration among suppliers and customers.Through it all, I started to notice another key theme coming into play as well: So many of our customers’ discussions centered around the importance of collaboration and transparency, not just within one’s own supply chain, but within the greater supply chain network as a whole.

I was particularly fascinated to see the amount of discussion around tools like Network Visibility and Lane Connect, and the opportunity for lane sharing tools like these to improve sustainability, efficiency and transparency throughout the global supply chain. An increasing number of our customers are actively sharing loads with these tools, indicating a growing interest in collaboration and network enablement across the board.

I saw this, as well, in the discussions around carrier partnerships, where so many companies emphasized that they weren’t looking for a Big Brother relationship when they chose to deploy visibility, nor were they looking for a way to scold carriers or force them into an unwinnable situation. That’s not what visibility is about. It’s about setting a bar for the partnership as a whole to improve and, by extension, for driving improvement across the network and the entire logistics industry. Shippers want their carriers to succeed, so that they all succeed. It really is as simple as that.

From Platform to Partnership

If this year’s CAB illustrated one thing, it’s that this commitment to excellence occurs at every level of the organization – from the bottom all the way to the top. To have so many top leaders and executives from some of the world’s biggest companies take time out of their day to just pause and reflect on the role visibility is playing in their organizations is something that doesn’t happen all that often. It may seem counterintuitive, but sometimes taking that short break is what’s really needed to jumpstart a new level of productivity.

Right after the CAB, we got a call from a Director of Logistics at one of our advisory companies. He wanted to keep the discussion going, and talk about some new priorities for his team and our platform in the coming months. It was an incredible discussion, and I don’t think it would have occurred without the impetus of having so much raw energy and experience in one (virtual) room.

More than Just an Advisory Board

FourKites has always prided itself on being a company that makes a strong commitment to incorporating customer and user feedback into the ongoing design and development of our software. The Customer Advisory Board is one very high-profile example of that commitment, but it’s far from the only one.

One of the other initiatives that I have the privilege of heading up here at FourKites is the growth of our Customer and Carrier Communities — online forums designed to bring together our customers and carrier partners and allow them to share best practices, discuss mutual challenges and suggest improvements to the FourKites platform. As the CAB has grown over the past few years, so too have these communities, and this year I was excited to witness a greater level of interplay among these various groups than ever before.

For instance, this year we introduced our new Product Panels, groups within the FourKites Community where members of the FourKites team can receive feedback from engaged customers and brainstorm new additions and improvements with these customers in real time. Any member of the FourKites Community can participate in the groups alongside members of the FourKites Product team, who leverage the gatherings for discovery and validation, showing early-stage design concepts, asking questions, and providing demo videos and tips after features are released. While the CAB’s focus is on capturing feedback from executive sponsors, these Product Panels serve as a forum for capturing valuable feedback from FourKites champions and end-users.

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FourKites is more than just a platform for the world’s largest shippers – it’s a partnership. No matter how early you signed on for visibility, or how much value you’ve managed to drive with it, there’s always a next step to take, a next process to improve. And the true beauty of having both the CAB and the FourKites Community is that no matter what level you are within your organization, we’ll be there to help you reach your goals every step of the way.

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