While no one wants to spend extra energy or time on a solution that’s already successfully in place, changes in technology, compliance regulations, and a fleet operation itself are just a few reasons it’s essential to revisit adopted technology solutions regularly.
Revisiting Tech Solutions
There is a resounding agreement with the tech industry: regularly revisiting tech solutions is very important.
And, the good news — some fleets are already taking the time to review and revisit their solutions.
“We see fleet managers revisiting their tech often! We have a customer success team for this reason — to make sure companies are making the most of their fleet tracking investment and give them tips on how to better use both the platform and alerts to improve safety, accountability, and profitability,” said Steve Wells, co-founder of ClearPath GPS.
With new technology emerging at a more rapid pace, many fleet managers should be assessing their solutions to determine if their current provider is keeping up with their needs.
“Fleet managers are developing an interest in dashcams, fuel usage, artificial intelligence for live scene analysis and object detection, and the increased benefit from insights delivered at the right time from fleet data that can help fleet managers prevent accidents and coach them to better driving behaviors,” said Ananth Rani, CEO of Azuga.
However, not enough fleets are revisiting their solutions with any regularity.
“We would like to see fleets revisit their tech more often. When it comes to fleet management software specifically, best-in-class solutions are often adding to and iterating on their feature set regularly to provide more and more value to fleets and accommodate changing market conditions. Staying in the loop on these types of new features and improvements can help you stretch your investment further and adopt more efficient fleet management processes,” said Greg Mattes, director of product strategy for Fleetio.
But, if it’s such an essential item to pay attention to, why aren’t all fleet managers doing so?
“Running a business is hard, and some of our most effective customers find the time to revisit their technology often. That said, technology isn’t at the forefront of all customer operations, and some customers struggle, given it’s not their priority,” said Mathew Long, product success at Verizon Connect.
Currently, most fleets need a trigger to check out their current solutions, such as compliance needs.
“Usually, fleet managers revisit technology due to compliance and pressure from other fleets. If they are not revisiting their technology, it may be because they are not well-informed. It’s easy to think purely about procurement, but the other opportunities for efficiency and cost savings are not always well understood,” said Jordan Guter, associate vice president, Solutions Engineering for Geotab.
Additionally, smaller fleets are generally less likely to reevaluate their solution and investigate how well it is being utilized, compared to larger fleets that have a higher level of scrutiny both in terms of their technology expenditures and attainment of specific ROIs, according to Reza Hemmati, VP of product management for Spireon.
“At times, fleets don’t have full visibility into their inefficiencies and problem areas and may not understand how technology can help them improve their operations. This is more of a problem with smaller fleets with lack of well-defined processes or the workforce to monitor daily operations,” Hemmati added. “Further evaluation and eventual switching of technology solutions could be painful for fleets regardless of their size. Onboarding and training back-office staff and a mobile workforce with a new solution could prove costly and time-consuming.”
The general agreement from subject-matter experts in the field: not enough fleets are revisiting their technology investments to see if they are utilizing them to the fullest.
“Right now, obviously, the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate is a huge transition for fleets. We work with fleets continuously to make sure they are getting the most out of their ELD investments and achieving that return on investment,” said Brian McCoy, vice president of MiX Telematics. “But we see many fleets choosing bare-bones, compliance-only ELD tools. These fleets are missing an opportunity to leverage ELD data for safety and efficiency gains.”
McCoy added most fleets don’t go back and revisit the technology because they only care about bare-minimum compliance.
“Those who do go back and revisit often decide they want more features than before. Then, they have to ‘rip and replace’ because those low-end tools are not upgradeable,” McCoy said.
Additionally, fleets who invested in full-featured ELDs are found to be more likely to revisit and evaluate their program’s return on investment (ROI).
“Sometimes a fleet may find a solution is not working well for their fleet, maybe because the solution isn’t adept at rulesets in their vertical, or the technology never quite worked the way it should, and the vendor’s support was subpar,” McCoy said.
Couple these issues with the fact that many fleet managers do not know the full extent of capabilities offered by most technologies they use.
“It is important that fleet managers work with partners who are truly consultative and fully understand their business. They should be performing, at a minimum, annual reviews as well as sharing trends they are analyzing from the data. It is important that all businesses have a technology road map and are constantly evolving with the technology and the analytics provided,” said Sherry Calkins, VP, Strategic Partners for Geotab.
It’s also understood those fleet managers who don’t revisit their solutions often aren’t doing so intentionally.
“A regular day for a fleet manager is busy if not chaotic, ‘putting out fires’ and tending to the immediate needs of vehicles and operators,” Mattes said.
Additionally, those who revisit their technology solutions more regularly do so in varying degrees.
“But, most often, the time investment is based on addressing a pain point in their fleet operations. We’d consider this time well spent. Finding that your existing software can now help you address a sticky point in your day-to-day (no matter how large or small) is downright delightful,” Mattes added.
And while many fleets do revisit their tech, it’s not happening often enough.
“We don’t see fleet managers revisiting their technology solutions as often as they should, but this exercise is certainly something we consider a best practice,” said Marco Encinas, product manager of global platforms for Teletrac Navman.
Another reason fleet managers revisit tech is when contracts are set to expire.
“Many of our users wear many hats for their organization and rarely get the chance to fully assess current tech to ensure it is meeting their needs before that contract is up for renewal. Unless there are some glaring issues or pain points with a vendor, reassessing or revisiting tech can be rare. We have seen some instances where someone new comes into a position managing the team using our solutions, and they do some digging to understand how their team is using it now and how they could be getting more from the solutions than they currently are,” said Ryan Driscoll, VP of marketing for GPS Insight.
There is no question – implementing a new technology solution is time-intensive, between training staff and figuring out what optimal adoption and ROI looks like for every organization, since it’s not one-size-fits-all.
“It’s understandable that taking the time to revisit and assess tech usage on top of the investment you’ve already made can seem like a tall order given the day-to-day demands of the fleet manager role, but it’s time well spent. A fully adopted telematics solution should collect actionable data and drive business results. Working with the solution provider makes it easier to evaluate the solution’s effectiveness and identify areas of improvement. Trying new capabilities or features can help a fleet improve efficiencies and save time and money to impact the bottom line directly,” Encinas added.
Fleet operators themselves vary significantly in their ability to leverage and utilize technology to improve their business.
“Effectively utilizing technology is about an organization’s ability to manage change as much as it is about the technology itself. Companies should continually review how effectively they are using their technology investments, and what can be done to improve their ROI,” said Christopher Plaat, SVP and GM for BlackBerry Radar.
And a one-size-fits-all approach rarely works, as fleets rarely stay one size.
“As organizations grow and evolve, it’s important to keep tabs on all of the technology and services they’re using to ensure each is still driving business goals and is being used to its full potential. Clients should also know that hardware is always changing, and with that new hardware comes new capabilities,” said David Riordan, Lytx’s chief client officer.
Overall, whether fleets revisit their tech is dependent on several factors, including the fleet itself.
“Revisiting tech is dependent on the fleet manager, company, and industry in question. In the trucking space, we have seen this become more common lately due to increased compliance requirements. As such, much of the technology used is scrutinized,” said Guter of Geotab.
How Often to Reevaluate Tech
It’s clear now that not enough fleets are revisiting their technology nearly often enough. But what is the right timeline to shoot for? Monthly, quarterly, annually, or on some different schedule?
Every organization is different and evolves at a different rate and therefore has different needs when it comes to revisiting its technology solutions.
“A good rule of thumb is to set up a cadence by building that reevaluation into your regular planning cycle,” said Riordan of Lytx. “Whether your leadership team meets once a year or once every few years to plan for growth and change, use that as an opportunity to reevaluate your existing technology or think about whether it’s time to take another look at the market.”
Many factors can contribute to how often companies evaluate their tech solutions.
“A few of these factors include the solution cost, fleet size, existence of visible risks and inefficiencies (such as safety risks and maintenance costs), and the introduction of new regulations such as HOS/ELD,” said Hemmati of Spireon.
The end-of-contract term is a natural time to revisit the solution previously deployed.
“But we have seen the most success with customers who have a quarterly business review to evaluate the solution ROI and problem areas and look to optimize the solution for their specific needs at a higher cadence,” Hemmati added.
Quarterly reviews are one of the top recommended time frames.
“Typically, we recommend a fleet revisit program design quarterly to ensure that performance metrics are met. We also recommend making adjustments on an annual basis as new member benefits, bonus programs, and other metrics are put in place to ensure the program continues to meet the fleet’s needs. Accessories are usually added every two to three years as they come to market, while technology platforms are usually evaluated every five to 10 years,” said Jason Palmer, COO for SmartDrive.
There are no rules set in stone.
“With the pace of technological innovation, we recommend annual reviews of your technology and solutions providers. With product development cycles accelerating, most providers of technology and services deliver a significant improvement over 12 months through continuous agile development. Each year it would be beneficial for leaders to assess the developments to see if a change is warranted and should be considered,” said Rani of Azuga.
A review schedule every few years for certain items may help see developing trends.
“Fleets are continually looking at technology and how they leverage it throughout their fleet. As technology evolves, so do fleets and their safety programs. It’s important that technology evolves to support a fleet as it changes to meet customer and market demands while continuing to achieve business objectives,” Palmer added.
But, a more frequent quarterly review can help make sure the tech aligns with the company’s goals.
“Though realistically, with the number of hats our users and main points of contact have, biannually makes the most sense. At a minimum, it should be yearly, and certainly not only when contracts are due to be renewed,” said Driscoll of GPS Insight.
Additionally, how often fleets revisit their technology can depend on the solution.
“For telematics, now is a great time to evaluate their current provider with the upcoming final ELD deadline. While it’s coming soon, we see fleets use this window of opportunity to their advantage. Ahead of the initial ELD deadline in 2017, many fleets installed basic e-log solutions to comply with the legislation, but those companies may have lost out on additional efficiencies and benefits that come with a more robust ELD solution,” said Encinas of Teletrac Navman.
It’s important for fleets to continually stay aware of how their technology stacks up against other services in the market, noted Plaat of BlackBerry Radar.
“The key is to fully understand how easy or complicated it is to implement a new solution,” Plaat said.
“It depends on the business. There can be tremendous costs if you have to replace the hardware to change solutions. In the case of telematics, it is often not the solution that fails, but the connectivity that needs to be updated (2G to 3G and 3G to LTE as an example). However, it is important for fleet managers to talk with their peers to know the latest and greatest trends and solutions on the market. As technology advances, it often becomes less costly, data transmits at a faster rate, and so forth, so it is important to stay up on the latest trends and solutions that are available,” Calkins said.
Mattes of Fleetio puts it another way: “If you’re regularly using your technology solution, it shouldn’t be a matter of revisiting but refreshing. Time is of the essence. If your current technology is not providing the necessary solutions for your fleet, you should act quickly. As a rule of thumb, you should explore options every quarter to ensure you’re not missing out on any cutting-edge opportunity,” he said.
Additionally, don’t just focus on technology during your reviews.
“Rather than revisiting the tech itself, be sure to keep on top of integrations. Most tech companies frequently bring new integrations to the market. There’s a good chance you could tie two of your existing systems together and eliminate time-consuming manual tasks,” said Wells of ClearPath GPS.
Tips for Reviewing Tech
The importance of regularly reviewing tech and solutions is evident. But how do you perform a successful review?
1. Focus on a problem.
Make sure to identify which initial problem you want to solve.
“Telematics can do so much and offer so much data if you know what you are wanting to achieve, finding the right solution from the start is key. You also want to look at solutions that you can grow and evolve with, as well as be able to add on solutions as your needs change or the focus of what you are trying to achieve changes,” said Calkins of Geotab.
Driscoll of GPS Insight believes the theme of revisiting tech should be around solving challenges and making the lives of you and your team easier.
“I suggest four easy steps: First, review the challenges your organization is facing today. Second, connect with the provider and discover why your organization is using the current tech and the challenges it solved when you originally implemented it. Third, analyze how your current tech stack solves the challenges you face today. Fourth, decide whether your current tech provider(s) can help with today’s challenges or if you need to look elsewhere,” Driscoll said.
2. Communicate with everyone.
Overall, clear and concise communication is incredibly important.
“Recognize the strongest advice comes from those in the same position as you: the owners and managers of work truck fleets. By opening a dialogue with your peers, you gain insight into how different technologies are working for others or hear about how a new add-on or upgrade is benefiting them. There are plenty of conferences broken out by your fleet’s industry, your role, and the platforms you use, so take advantage of the chance to network and gain a new perspective your technology use,” said Riordan of Lytx.
Staying connected to the industry is essential.
“Companies should stay connected to the technology providers in their industry and be attuned to the innovations being rolled out by other providers. Staying aware of changes taking place in the market and new services becoming available helps companies stay competitive and avoid missing opportunities for improvement,” said Plaat of BlackBerry Radar.
Stay engaged with the software companies providing the fleet solutions they use.
“There are many options available, but some allow you to trial the technology or software before committing to initial purchase or an upgrade (if required). This is a great way to test drive the technology and ask questions to see how your fleet can benefit,” said Mattes of Fleetio.
Encinas of Teletrac Navman agreed as to the importance of direct communication with your providers.
“Reach out to the solution provider directly. The customer service team or point of contact at the organization can help evaluate how the fleet is utilizing technology and identify new features or integrations that would be helpful. A company using telematics to track and monitor fuel spend, for example, may not realize the platform could also help improve driver behavior and increase safety,” Encinas said.
Some tech companies offer a customer success department to offer elevated assistance or consultative services to help customers meet specific, customized needs.
“A customer success department can look at your usage patterns and highlight best practices that other customers with accounts like yours are using to maximize their success that you aren’t using yet,” said Wells of ClearPath GPS.
As customers develop a strong connection with their customer success manager, they can schedule regular business reviews.
“During these reviews, fleets evaluate their performance, risk capture, root causes, and more to determine defensive driving skills most needed to avoid collisions, etc. They then work together to adjust safety scores, coaching rules, and other adjustments to ensure sustained safety improvement,” said Palmer of SmartDrive.
3. Start with the big costs.
By reviewing the most significant costs incurred at their company, a fleet manager can target solutions that tackle those specific areas.
“For example, some of the highest impact areas that Spireon helps lower costs and optimize business operations for our customers are across vehicle maintenance, safety, and fuel efficiency,” said Hemmati of Spireon.
Determine current costs and look to the current technology to see if it can help.
“Often, fleets focus on one or two focus areas when beginning to utilize telematics, which is generally beneficial enough to merit the use of telematics. Once usage has become a staple for the fleet, it’s necessary to branch out and continue to find efficiencies and cost savings,” said Guter of Geotab.
4. Check out in-vehicle video.
One growing piece of tech on the market today is in-vehicle video.
“Implementing video telematics technology is a strong step towards meeting safety, efficiency, and workplace compliance goals, but it’s rarely enough to ‘set it and forget it.’ Technology providers are often updating and expanding their solutions to provide more benefits to fleets, and you’ll be well served by staying up to date on new trends and capabilities for trucking technology,” said Riordan of Lytx.
5. Stay educated.
There are many resources available to help fleet managers stay up-to-date and educated.
“Another good tactic is to subscribe to industry publications and provider newsletters; this keeps you up-to-date on the latest trends and capabilities in trucking technology,” said Riordan of Lytx.
6. What gets measured gets managed.
The age-old adage goes: What gets measured gets managed. This adage is especially true regarding technology.
“It’s crucial to set measurable goals upfront — not just compliance, which is obvious, but also safety and efficiency goals. Any technology a fleet invests in is going to impact at least one of those three areas. Have goals, deadlines, and then most importantly, have a process in place to periodically measure progress against those goals. In my experience, fewer than half of fleets do this. The larger fleets are more likely to have this approach in place,” said McCoy of MiX Telematics.
Fleet managers need to understand the output they are looking for and work backward, according to Will Wycks, global marketing director for Chevin Fleet Solutions.
“Data can support the objectives here. For example, when the objective is to reduce vehicle and/or asset downtime, you can learn a lot from historical data trends and live data feeds. In this example, preventive maintenance is key,” Wycks added.
Safety and tech solutions providers are continually updating their systems.
“We recommend that fleet managers revisit their solution to review the latest updates every month. At the very least, perform a formal technology assessment annually,” said Long of Verizon Connect.
7. Look at your past before heading into the future.
Revisit any plans or strategies put in place before implementation and the onboarding process.
“Share your goals and pain points with your provider, too, as many providers work with fleets to create a custom plan based on their unique challenges. Fleet managers should revisit this plan, revaluate pain points or challenges and identify new areas of concern regularly,” said Encinas of Teletrac Navman.