Fleet News

Face-to-face: Drive Software Solutions

THERE is a strong argument that the true acronym for IT is not Information Technology, as has long been assumed, but that it actually stands for Incredibly Tedious.

After the opening sales gambit of ‘saves you money’ and ‘saves you time’, most senior managers tend to switch off when talk turns to processors, gigabytes and workflow charts for software development.

Which is a shame, because that is exactly the point at which they should start listening, to ensure the whole project is a success by providing exact specifications and explaining the full requirements of the company.

Software can do great things and make life much easier if it works properly, but getting to that point means a mind-numbing amount of research, checking of processes and then re-checking what has already been done.

It is worth the effort, however, as the expense and disruption of a failed IT project can bring a company to its knees until the problem is sorted out.

Simon West-Oliver, the sales and marketing director of international software company Drive Software Solutions, warned: ‘Good practice is to clearly define your requirements, which people are not very good at as it is a specialist skill. People have different problems but, in coming up with a solution, there must be no ambiguity.

‘It is a time-consuming process and very expensive.

‘We have heard of a lot of projects that have failed because the software simply has not worked the way it should for the client.’

West-Oliver separates himself from this unhappy bunch of failed software implementations because, according to his records, the company has never been involved with one.

He believes a key factor is its insistence on a thorough and in-depth implementation process with a wide range of stakeholders.

And to encourage companies to ensure they are happy with software before they commit to buying it, Drive is introducing a ‘test drive’ service for its packages, so customers can effectively try before they buy.

Drive will run trial versions of system for customers and allow them to see if they like what it can do and, more importantly, if it can do what they need it to. Then, if successful, implementation discussions can begin.

Martin Drake, the firm’s managing director, added: ‘It is the same as buying a car. You wouldn’t buy a car without test driving it, so why would you sign up to a software system until you are sure it will work for your business?

‘We are trying to look at ways that we can reduce risk for customers and the test drive is one of those tools.’

Another source of the company’s confidence about its software is the foundation on which it is based – namely Oracle, the power behind most of the world’s top websites, including Yahoo and Google.

With an eye on minimising risk, West-Oliver believes a tried and tested system adapted to a business’s needs is a better solution than a bespoke system.

He said: ‘The process of creating software is complex, so to minimise risk you need software that is proven and not written for a specific project. We know that when we install our software it will work when it is delivered. If you have a bespoke system, it becomes a nightmare when it comes to upgrades, as each installation might be unique and take much longer.’

Pan-European software solutions the key to future growth

Drive software is a single fleet management and leasing software product, with services that can be electronically turned on and off, depending on what a customer wants.

Because of the nature of the product, the firm suggests that, unless there are around five to six people needed to run the fleet, then its solutions are not for that company.

Customers include Essex Police, HBOS and DaimlerChrysler.

The company, which employs 26 people in the UK and is based in Stevenage, already has contracts with firms throughout the globe and last year it had a turnover of £1.7 million, with growth expected to take it to £2.0 million for the year to September 2005.

Significant growth is expected to come from companies looking to implement pan-European software solutions.

West-Oliver said: ‘We have got quite a lot of people interested in looking at pan-European solutions. What is driving this change is that most companies have got to where they are today through acquisition and mergers.

‘As a result, they end up with an assembly of IT systems.

‘At the start, the cheapest way to go forward is to use a variety of IT solutions, but it becomes technically very complex, so you can bring them all together.

‘There is a lot of desire for this, but clearly there is a risk as well.

‘However, there is a growing view that IT is no longer a strategic advantage, but a lot of our clients are looking at IT for strategic change of the business.

‘It is a core solution and can have a dramatic impact on a business.’

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