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Fleet managers will ‘cease to exist’ unless they embrace big data

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The worlds of fleet management and travel management are colliding at a rapid rate driven by technology and big data that will underpin Business Mobility-as-a-Service (BMaaS).

ICFM’s Big Data Masterclass analysed the changing landscape and how the unprecedented stream of information with the arrival of the connected car, the Internet of Things and the concept of BMaaS would help managers drive “unbelievable efficiencies” across their businesses.

The two-hour masterclass at the NEC, Birmingham, was held in association with trade publication Fleet News at its two-day Fleet Management Live event.

Justin Whitston, chief executive of Fleetondemand, one of Europe’s BMaaS leaders, told Masterclass delegates that a “paradigm shift” was taking place in fleet explaining: “Today managers are focussed on owned assets, but by using big data they could look at introducing alternative modes of transport and analyse employee movements.

“The company car is hyper convenient so it is only when BMaaS is as convenient as the company car can managers make the move from one to the other. They are complementary at the moment.”

However, he told the Masterclass, that change to a total cost of mobility solution was happening at a rapid pace and by mining big data for information the hyper convenience required by employees would bring the corporate costs of fleet and travel on to one platform giving managers a “single company view”.

Some employees with fleet management responsibility had an “inability to measure, manage and monitor vehicles and drivers” and that, said Martin Evans, managing director of Jaama, the UK’s leading fleet and asset management software company, and an ICFM director was “a recipe for disaster”.

However, he told delegates: “The benefit of big data would enable the management of an efficient and compliant fleet in a complex environment, while satisfying the demands of stakeholders including drivers.”

But, said Whitston, the volume of big data from multiple sources – notably relating to driver behaviour and vehicle performance – available to fleet and travel managers could be daunting. Therefore, he advised managers: “Understand and define your objectives and then look for the big data required.”

He continued: “It is not the amount of data that is important. It is what is done with the data that matters. Managers should be focused on small incremental pockets of mobility and using big data to make a start and step into BMaaS. Implement, evaluate, refine and implement again.

Employee engagement is at the “epicentre” of business mobility – not just drivers but all employees – and Paul Hollick, chairman of ICFM, said: “The fleet manager ecosystem is changing. Currently it is quite messy and not particularly streamlined. But that is changing with telematics becoming far more key and far more reliance on a communications platform. The business model is shifting to car services because of big data. The industry is moving from being asset – the vehicle – driven to be focused on employees and their movements.”

Hollick, who is managing director of global mileage audit and fuel expense management specialist TMC, said as a result of a range of factors including increasing urbanisation, pollution, congestion and the impact of the changing behaviour of generation Y – those born in the 1980s and 1990s – managers had to consider “the future shape of their fleets”.

Moving into what he called “the fourth industrial revolution” underpinned by the internet and the smartphone, he said: “Technology is ballooning out of control. It is evolving at an exponential rather than a linear pace and that is impacting on fleets and in particular what managers are doing with big data.

“Massive momentum is being built so fleet managers need to think about their operational model.”

Hollick believes that fleet managers will “cease to exist” unless they embrace big data to make better informed decisions enabling them to become “less doing and more strategic” in their roles.

He says that managing all employee journeys via a single access online platform will enable businesses to set a mobility budget for individual staff.

Business could already make ‘big data’ impactful by, for example, overlapping in-vehicle telematics derived data with fuel purchasing data, but by working with a wide range of suppliers, including vehicle manufacturers as well as leasing and rental companies and travel management suppliers, the volume of mobility management data would accelerate.

He outlined a vision in which all journey costs – private and public transport-related as well as related fines, road tolls, car parking and taxi fares – would be automatically collated on a per employee basis with an automatic ‘payroll feed’ to deduct costs from an employee’s mobility budget.

That strategy, said Hollick, would both “manage and steer employee behaviour” by influencing their salary and reducing the administration burden of “chasing” drivers to complete documents relating to, for example, driving licence validation checks. He pointed out: “If employees don’t comply then they won’t get paid.”

Hollick continued: “Setting a mobility budget for each employee will influence the mode of transport they take. Employees will be able to access travel options via their own portal, make bookings and keep a track of their budget. The journey to mobility on demand is occurring very quickly.”

Employee mobility objectives underpinned by big data

Companies must work with employees to understand their mobility objectives with “choice being key”, Justin Whitston, chief executive of Fleetondemand, told the Masterclass audience.

The company’s Mobilleo platform, claimed to be the first MaaS technology platform dedicated to business, offered organisations the ability to assess any corporate journey, compare the available modes of transport and allow the user to find, book and pay for most suitable whether preference-based, travel-policy based or on a cost reduction basis.

He described the “four pillars” of mobility as being: fleet and whole life costs, on-demand mobility, business travel and expense and the output of ‘big data’ and insight.

“By bringing those together we can drive ‘big data’ initiatives and empowerment. ‘Big data’ underpins the whole world of mobility,” said Whitston.

The benefits of ‘big data’ included, he said: increased employee engagement, smart decision-making, cost and time reduction, the introduction of new mobility services and greater corporate social responsibility.

He continued: “An essential part of recruitment is working with employees on their mobility objectives. Choice is key and they must feel empowered and trusted. The ability to converge all modes of transport – public and private – means better business journey management,”

Big data explosion puts corporate focus on tough new law compliance

Big data enables fleet managers to understand in real-time vehicle performance and driver behaviour, but the explosion in available information means employers must be vigilant in complying with tough new laws.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force on May 25, 2018 replacing the Data Protection Act and, reflecting the move to a digital age in which big data is powerful, it will have a significant impact across organisations, and particularly for fleet introduction of connected cars.

Martin Evans, managing director of Jaama and an ICFM director, said: “Much can be achieved with ‘big data’ to enable fleet managers to make informed decisions by understanding driver behaviour and vehicle performance and utilisation.

“But the flipside of that is fleet managers being mindful of businesses holding large volumes of data, which will contain information deemed personal under GDPR.”

GDPR builds on existing data protection legislation with a particular focus on digitalisation and technology. Core to the 1998 Data Protection Act are eight data protection “principles” and GDPR reforms those and introduces new “principles” of transparency and accountability with the ability to “prove consent” a significant pillar of the new regulations.

“Fleet managers are worried about data protection. In conversations with customers it is a real concern because legislation is tightening and the potential for fines is increasing,” said Evans. “Responsible companies should have systems and processes in place to keep data secure.

“Understanding and embracing big data is important, but it is also vital for businesses to protect themselves.”

Furthermore, Evans warned that fleet operators could find themselves capturing so much big data that a failure to act on the information obtained could prove to be a problem in terms of ensuring compliance with, for example, road traffic and health and safety legislation.

“It is therefore vital that businesses have in place good systems that will take vehicle and driver information and digest it. In turn that will enable fleet managers to make informed decisions as they will have a holistic picture,” said Evans.

Martin Evans, managing director of Jaama, Paul Hollick, ICFM chairman and MD of TMC, and Justin Whitston, chief executive of FleetondemandPicture caption: (from left to right) Martin Evans, managing director of Jaama, Paul Hollick, ICFM chairman and MD of TMC, and Justin Whitston, chief executive of Fleetondemand, at the ICFM masterclass held at Fleet Management Live.  

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