This editorial feature appears in the January 23, 2020, issue of Fleet News and is sponsored by Jaama.
Correctly selecting and installing fleet management software can have a marked effect on the operation of a fleet. Potential benefits include a reduction in costs and downtime, while it can also increase compliance and road safety.
“Implementing a digital fleet management system provides transport operators with a holistic view of their entire fleet,” says Keith Hawker, managing director of transport at Civica.
“Not only does digital fleet software provide access to real-time, purposeful data to make business-critical decisions, it also allows organisations to spot inefficiencies, reduce the administration burden of paper records and, crucially, ensure fleet compliance.”
Read the sponsor's comment by Martin Evans, managing director, Jaama
But the opposite is the case for fleets that get it wrong. We look at how decision-makers can maximise software potential and what to avoid.
Ways TO maximise the potential of management software...
Appoint a ‘tech champion’
First, fleets need to appoint a named individual who takes full responsibility for developing the relationship with the software company.
Nick Walls, managing director of R2C, says: “We recommend appointing one person to oversee the project who’ll become the main point of contact – a ‘super-user’, if you will.
“That way there’s no crossed communications and your software supplier knows exactly who to contact at any given time.”
It’s the tech champion’s role to work in conjunction with relevant departments – including HR and IT – to identify what the software needs to achieve
“It’s essential you identify your objectives at the start,” says Martin Evans, managing director of Jaama.
“Too often decision-makers are wowed by the bells and whistles offered by the technology without consideration as to whether key objectives are met.”
Peter Golding, managing director of FleetCheck, agrees, adding: “Decide first what you want the software to do.
“Fleet management software today is a highly capable tool that provides a whole range of options and many users will never need all that it offers, so it’s important that you don’t try to do everything.
“Initially, work with your provider to decide on your priorities and find out how to get the right output for you.
“Then allow your use of the different options to grow organically as you become more proficient and your managerial objectives develop.”
Work in partnership with your provider
According to Evans, one of the most important things a fleet can do is develop an effective partnership with its software company.
“Acquiring a fleet management software system is not like buying a tin of beans off a supermarket shelf,” he says.
“Fleet decision-makers and their colleagues must feel comfortable forming a long-term business partnership with their chosen supplier to maximise operating efficiencies and support.”
It is important to talk to several different providers to get a sense of what each can achieve on your behalf, says David Oliver, procurement manager at Red Bull.
“If you are not sure of all the functionality you need then ensure you get a few companies in to demonstrate their solution,” he says.
“It’s always possible there will be things you didn’t envisage needing that could be vital and become the number one priority – for example, legislative compliance linked to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) or HMRC.”
Once these objectives have been identified, it’s the tech champion’s responsibility to communicate them to the software provider along with the data the organisation requires.
Seek customer testimonials
Don’t overlook the value of learning from the experience of those fleets which have implemented similar systems: most software companies will be only too happy to point you in their direction.
Independent insight can prove invaluable and some companies are able to schedule a visit to their offices to see the system operating in a real-world environment.
“Don’t buy anything without seeing a demonstration and take up references so you can talk to other operators that have implemented the software,” says Martin Port, chief executive of BigChange.
“The supplier and support provided is as important as the software itself.”
Once the software has been installed, it should become the tech champion’s responsibility to organise a training programme to ensure it’s utilised fully and appropriately.
David Hemsley, UK and Ireland sales manager at Chevin, says: “Many companies under-use their chosen software and this is usually due to the fact that no single person in their organisation has had sufficient training.
“In a lot of cases, individuals don’t even know where to access training and other services that could be on offer from the software vendor.”
Futureproof your software
It’s essential fleet decision-makers consider how a system could best support future business growth and efficiency.
“The fleet industry is continually evolving and so should fleet software,” says Evans.
“A fleet’s chosen software provider must be able to deliver a highly sophisticated, modern, online system, and be fully focused on continuous product development and functionality improvements.
“In establishing your immediate business objectives, keep an open mind as to how additional modules in the system – and future developments – may further improve fleet operations and administration.
“Good examples of this are the ways that self-service driver and cost centre management might impact.”
Evans adds that bespoke software is not always the solution.
“Bespoking a system restricts future developments,” he says.
“Select a standard software system that can accommodate upgrades and new functionality from your chosen provider.
“If special fleet requirements must be met, your technology partner should be able to develop suitable modules to be added to the system.”
Mark Woodworth, head of logistics at tools and equipment hire services company Speedy Hire, oversaw the introduction of Jaama’s Key2 fleet management to his operation.
The software has enabled the company to integrate fleet information with its cross-company IT platform, allowing data – for example, an employee’s change of address details – to be updated in real-time with no requirement for input duplication.
“Cost management is crucial to Speedy Hire so being able to benefit from system enhancement inclusive in the annual fee is a major benefit given it helps with budgeting,” says Woodworth.
“Key2 has enabled the implementation of a single system to manage all fleet, driver and journey-related data, vital for ensuring compliance and efficient management of a fleet our size.
“The system enables bespoke reports to be scheduled so delivering huge time savings with no requirement to search for information.”
What to AVOID when introducing fleet management software...
Issuing irrelevant tender documents
Jaama’s Evans says the most common mistake occurs when fleets initially issue tenders to software providers.
“It’s critical to ensure the tender document is relevant,” he says. “Once fleet managers understand what they want to achieve then the questions should be written to ascertain whether the potential supplier is capable of providing a solution that will meet their aspirations.
“However, too often we see tenders that are not focused on the functionality of the technology.
“I would like to see organisations using internal fleet and software expertise or an external consultant to compile a ‘requirements list’ which forms the bulk of the tender document.
“The software obviously needs to meet fleet requirements, but, as importantly, fleet operators need to believe they can work with the supplier.”
Overlooking areas of the fleet that need changing
It’s important that fleet decision-makers identify any areas that they want to change – as well as the reasons for this – before contacting the software company.
Martin Port adds: “Operators are often stuck with systems that are not always adaptable and prove very costly to customise, so make sure the software is flexible and can do everything you need. More modern systems developed around the latest cloud technology and mobile apps win here.”
Overlooking importance of employee buy-in
If new fleet management software is to prove effective, then ensuring colleagues are on board is essential.
“It’s critical to obtain buy-in from the employees who are ultimately going to be using the system,” says Evans.
“This should be done from the start to utilise their knowledge and experience to ensure the chosen technology is fit for purpose and avoid them believing that the software change has been imposed on them, which could mean the expected benefits are not achieved.”
Overlooking the importance of data
FleetCheck’s Golding stresses the importance of “getting the data right” and then keeping it secure.
The amount of data provided to fleets has increased exponentially in recent years and is expected to continue to rise through developments such as connected car technology.
Consequently, it’s essential to identify where relevant data is held, what problems disparate data locations will have and how the new fleet system’s data will be initially loaded. You also need to be sure your systems are compliant with GDPR.
“Fleet management software is only as useful as the accuracy of the data it is given to process,” says Golding.
“Poor data inevitably means poor decisions and users who don’t spend time ensuring that the information being imported and inputted into their software is of a high quality will get compromised results.
“There is also a temptation to try to use it all, but doing so can leave you flailing in the face of a rising tide of information.”
Red Bull’s Oliver echoed this sentiment, adding: “Always ensure you know who owns the data.
“In the event you build up an impressive and useful database on your fleet, make sure you have the right to export it in the future should you wish to change provider.
“Who is hosting it and how good is the uptime? You need to know that when you log on, the chances of software maintenance or bug fixes are low or done in the dead of night.
“How safe is your data? Once you share potentially sensitive information it’s no longer in your control so make sure your IT team has a chance to approve this process.”
Overlooking the importance of compliance
Ensuring compliance is an essential challenge that all transport operators face – it is also one of the key criteria placed on fleet management systems.
“Fleet managers should be thinking about how quickly they would be able to respond to a request around what information they hold on an individual,” says Civica’s Hawker.
“Information must be easily accessible at any time, so implementing infrastructure to enable this is important.
“Managers also need to ensure they can quickly and easily remove or anonymise data if required and requested from any part of the business.
“There’s no denying that issues around data sensitivity are a common mistake to make. However, having the right procedures in place will bring many advantages in terms of data insight, which will allow fleet managers to provide a better service.”
This editorial feature appears in the January 23, 2020, issue of Fleet News and is sponsored by Jaama
Effectively collecting data from multiple sources enables fleet decision-makers to obtain a holistic view of all vehicles, drivers and journeys and ensure that they make informed strategic decisions. In addition, the development of smartphone apps - for example, Jaama’s ‘My Vehicle App’ with auto-triggering means, all information uploaded by drivers automatically updates their employer’s Key2 system - ensuring the latest data is always available.
Today best practice dictates a wholelife cost approach to vehicle decision-making, but the new technological age and the arrival of ‘big data’ will industrialise the amount of information available to fleet decision-makers resulting in a data lake.
That means significantly more data being fed into wholelife cost calculations and driver performance records enabling more accurate determination of optimal business mobility solutions. Against that background, fleet management software is an exceptionally fast-moving world.
Therefore, it is essential that providers have the long-term strategic approach to continually enhancing their systems with new functionality to meet new ways of fleet operator working.
Acquiring an outdated system that has no means of boosting functionality to meet new requirements and working practices is, therefore, a complete waste of money in the long term.
Attempting to make decisions without data, good systems and processes in place is, for fleet decision-makers, like playing roulette with their organisation’s money and legislative compliance!
The technology revolution we are witnessing enables fleet decision-makers to be more strategic than ever in their job and with less manual intervention.
The result is that industry-leading fleet management software underpins what should be unprecedented levels of operational efficiency.