Expert Insight: Guest Contribution
By Art Mesher,
CEO, Descartes Systems Group
Date: September 10, 2009

SaaS 2.0: How the Logistics Industry is Driving an Evolution in Software-as-a-Service


Social Networking for the Supply Chain

The software as a service (SaaS) model has been widely embraced thanks to the numerous advantages that on-demand solutions deliver to multiple industries. Logistics-intensive organizations were among the first to turn to SaaS to reduce costs, increase operational performance and improve customer satisfaction. As the need for connectivity, collaboration and compliance grows, SaaS in the logistics market can now offer more than “rented” software applications when connected to a “federated” network comprised of several communities (such as airlines, government agencies, logistics providers, etc.), all with a common interest.


Consider the next evolution of SaaS as social networking for the supply chain – SaaS 2.0, if you will. Leveraging a federated network, SaaS 2.0 extends the value that traditional on-demand solutions offer by not only providing pay-per-use “renting” access to applications that businesses need to manage their supply chains, but by also bringing together and enabling business collaboration between logistics service providers, supply chain partners and customers from around the globe.


The Descartes Global Logistics Network (GLN) for example, is a federated global network that offers value-added, on-demand applications that enable organizations to manage critical business processes and logistics needs across the various modes of transportation. SaaS logistics applications and a federated network combine to support multiple business processes and services and multiple connections within a single environment on a global scale. This multi-dimensional approach helps participants build communities, readily connect with trading partners, and transition beyond the simple interchange of information.

The Logistics Network


A logistics network is a highly complex “organic” group of trading partners. Many industry players have become seasoned users of SaaS applications that pertain to specific functions.

As supply chain processes become more complex, the need for partners to work together, be more efficient, and keep pace with the latest legislative requirements for advance information, and accountability continues to grow. SaaS 2.0 becomes the only avenue to enable multi-party, workflow-based applications that need to be shared by thousands of companies on a daily basis.

In the past, SaaS applications tended to serve a specific business function or vertical. A federated SaaS 2.0 platform serves as “all things to all people” by connecting the entire community of logistics service providers and trading partners through a single multi-party business process network capable of acting on behalf of multiple organizations simultaneously.

This concept promises to take the industry well beyond its reliance on rented SaaS 1.0 or on premise standalone solutions and individual transactions. Rather, it delivers a wealth of advantages, including standardization of documents and data, increased automation of routine functions, and easy accessibility to real-time information for all partners. By bringing applications and the trading community together, there are no longer any communication barriers between manufacturers, retailers, transportation providers, government agencies and other stakeholders.


Driving the Evolution of SaaS 2.0


SaaS 2.0 represents a pivotal shift in global logistics practices, as it takes the logistics industry from a cost-savings oriented mentality that focuses on functionality, integration and risk reduction, to a compliance-oriented one that drives innovation and productivity through automation and real-time access to information.

As we look ahead, SaaS 2.0 is a cornerstone component for delivering the next big thing in logistics – the ability to track and manage all elements of the global supply chain through a single resource, while collaborating seamlessly with supply chain partners.  Undoubtedly, the impact of this evolution will be felt by carriers, logistics service providers, customs filing agencies, as well as manufacturers, distributors and retailers. Members of the global supply chain must prepare for what lies ahead by embracing SaaS 2.0 today. 

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About the Author


As Chief Executive Officer of Descartes, Art Mesher oversees the company's marketing and sales, product development, network operations, and customer and corporate services, with direct responsibility for the executive management team.  As a thought-leader, innovator and business developer in the supply chain field, Mr. Mesher is a frequent keynote speaker at industry events and at academic institutions such as MIT, Penn State and Northwestern, and the author of numerous articles and white papers.

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Mesher Says:

As we look ahead, SaaS 2.0 is a cornerstone component for delivering the next big thing in logistics – the ability to track and manage all elements of the global supply chain through a single resource, while collaborating seamlessly with supply chain partners.

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