Even the best ideas may not be adopted if not properly researched and presented, but there are steps you can take to enhance their chances of success. Andrew Ryan reports
Gaining boardroom buy-in is essential to the success of any new fleet initiative: if it isn’t backed by directors, then even a ground-breaking idea will not be introduced.
In addition, differing company cultures and management structures mean there is no guaranteed way to achieve approval. For example, some fleet managers may report directly to the board or a board member.
A growing number of companies take a different approach. They have introduced fleet steering committees, which comprise board members and other key stakeholders.
These board members are given a remit by the executive management board when empower them to make decisions on behalf of the company.
Siemens has adopted this approach. Paul Tate, commodity manager at Siemens says: “That allows us to streamline a lot of decisions in relation to fleet, so it makes sure that there is not a lot of debating over the same subject.
“You usually find that having a smaller audience allows discussion to take place with the result that we get to the right decisions sooner rather than later.”
However, while management structures may vary, there are key lessons which can be applied to the vast majority of businesses.
1. Understand your audience
Simon Boggis, chief procurement officer for Ceva Logistics, believes it is vital for fleet decision-makers to know their audience. “Know what is driving your company and what your CEO is looking for,” he says.
“Many of those areas will be shared by different companies such as the cost of investment, the return on investment and what the risks are, but each individual business will have different priorities.
“For example, my company is owned by private equity. Cash is absolutely king for us, but a blue-chip, cash-rich pharmaceutical company may have a different driver.
“When you are developing proposals and you want to influence change, it’s about understanding what your employer’s goals and objectives are.”
Members of Siemens’s fleet steering committee have access to a locked social network where they can see proposals before the date of a board meeting, as well as provide feedback and ask questions.
“We can use this feedback to gain an insight into what they’re looking for, so we can understand what makes them tick and play to those strengths,” says Tate.
He adds that, while cost is obviously is an important consideration for a business, it is not the only factor a board looks at.
“The subject of the proposal determines where the board’s focus is,” says Tate.
“It could be cost, driver welfare or driver pain in relation to ‘is that not putting complexity in? Will the driver like that?’
“Some parts of our fleet policy are an employee benefit and if we put forward a proposal affecting something we use as an incentive for employee retention, the board may ask if we are diluting that benefit.”
2. Consult with other departments
The views of all key stakeholders should be obtained prior to the presentation of any proposal, says Geoffrey Bray, chairman of the Fleet Industry Advisory Group.
“Ultimately, their views will become the cornerstone of the subsequent tendering process and any contract that will define the long-term efficiency and effectiveness of the fleet operation,” he says.
“Depending on the size of the organisation, this could include input from departments such as procurement, finance, HR, legal, health and safety and environment.
“Such an approach ensures the proposal process is both well run and has a clearly defined and auditable objective.”
Siemens uses its locked social network to allow its fleet steering committee to access information about a proposal.
“We found that giving the steering group access to what we are going to present allows its members to look at it, digest it and raise questions, so when we go into the meeting it is down to business; it is slick and keeps the conversation flowing,” says Tate.
Boggis says fleet managers need to take a holistic view when putting together a proposal.
“In procurement, you can’t say ‘I can’t get on with finance’ – you need to get on with finance, it is the key to everything in a company,” he says.
“You need to demonstrate that you don’t want to, for example, run finance or IT – but you all bring different skills to the table.
“You also need to remember that your priorities may not always be your colleagues’ priorities.
“The guy running the operations delivering the service to the customer may be looking at customer satisfaction, while we in procurement are looking at cost efficiency and the supply chain.
“This means that at you need to understand at the very start of it what you are trying to achieve, what the board’s goals and objectives are, and align your thinking as to how you can help deliver on those company goals. Then you can become an influencer: you are part of the solution, not part of the problem.”