The fact that a small box of tricks can provoke such extreme emotions shows just how reliant many companies now are on electronics. Ensuring the right system is chosen in the first place will keep blood pressure levels steady.
For many fleet departments, the technology they use will have been obtained ad hoc as demands increased and equipment became more affordable so a thorough review is vital.
Chevin Computer Systems has drawn up a 10-point checklist to ensure fleet managers choose a system that makes them more efficient (see panel below).
Ashley Sowerby, Chevin manaing director, said: 'With the right software and hardware, computers are a real boon – because they can quite literally do much of your work for you, allowing you to get on with actually managing your fleet. On the other hand, the 'wrong' system can either be a burden or a curse.
'The answer is to choose your system carefully, giving plenty of thought to your current and future needs.'
Before you do anything ask yourself it what you have already does the job. If it does not, make a 'wish list' of what you would like it to do, Sowerby says. Even if you don't know such a perfect system exists – and it might not until you ask for it – make a note of what you would like.
He added: 'Also consider what might suit your colleagues and staff, or other divisions. Are they technically minded or do they, for the most part, need something that's very simple to operate and perhaps customise to suit their preferred way of working?'
Once fleet managers have examined their needs then they can start tendering for a new system following the 10 steps below.
Sowerby said: 'Get a full cost breakdown for the system so you'll know the real cost and won't get any nasty surprises. Always consider every element of total expenditure. Also, bear in mind the software may cost less than items such as training when it comes to setting your new system up.'
10 steps to the right system
1. Do your homework and make up a list of potential providers. Review the fleet press and search the internet to see what's available.
2. Ring each company on the list and get some idea of how 'on the ball' they are.
3. Have a proper demonstration with a representative of the company standing by to answer your questions.
4. Grill the salesperson. Don't accept yes as an answer to all your questions. Get them to prove what they're claiming. 5. Speak to existing users. If you can't find any, ask for a list of current users of the software from the supplier – not just one or two who may be tipped off you will be calling.
6. Get a full cost breakdown for the system so you'll know the real cost and won't get any nasty surprises. This should include installation, configuration, data conversion, where necessary, training and support. Always consider every element of total expenditure. 7. Bear in mind that the software itself may actually cost less than items such as training when it comes to setting your system up.
8. Think about the future. Make sure the system will be able to grow with you.
9. Demand flexibility. Ensure your chosen system is flexible enough to cater for any eventuality without having to pay thousands in development costs.
10. Reporting. Fleet management systems are in effect glorified filing cabinets. If you can't get the analysis reports you require from them, you may as well not bother.
Source: Chevin Computer Systems.