Taking things a step further, you could run an RFP, hold presentations, trials, and select the vendor that demonstrates the best solution (and price). However, this approach of choosing the vendor that ticks the most boxes could omit helpful insights, and leave holes the solution that's provided.
The reasons both approaches above can leave you with a provider that isn’t ideally suited to your organisation are twofold.
- You are investing in a technology solution. The world is littered with organisations choosing a technology provider because they ticked all the boxes, only to find the reality under the hood wasn’t what was expected. Holes are exposed in their ability to implement, in how data is stored, and how they will maintain the solution ongoing.
- What you select today may be the right option now, but possibly won't be the best fit in 3-5 years. Typically, a telematics contract is 36-60 months with rights of renewal after that. Picking a vendor now with no idea of their technology roadmap could leave you with a big gap between what to have today and what you should have in 5-7 years.
Below are the five factors to consider when choosing a telematics partner. The challenge is how to rate or score multiple providers against each of these. One way to do that is to leave any values-based assessments until you have two or three providers to choose from, and then use them as a differentiator to get closer to a decision.
1. The longevity of the provider
Telematics providers are regularly joining the market, and just as quickly leaving it. It is easy to put a simple solution together, it is however much harder to build something that is robust and will stand the test of time. When evaluating it is important to know how long the vendor has been in business and how they have grown over time.
2. Ability to enhance the solution after implementation
Some vendors will provide an all you can consume model – where you get any solution available at no extra cost, others provide a modularised solution where you buy part of the solution and then add on items that are required. Finally, some will only offer what they believe you require and nothing more. None of these approaches are wrong, but whichever you choose should align with your aspirations. Are you happy to pay more upfront to lock in a price, or would you prefer to pick and choose what is needed at any point in time?
Another consideration is the ability to have the system configured for your specific requirements. Is the provider open to improving the system with you (this is usually in the form of paid professional services), or are they focused on their own development path? Ensuring you can maximise the solution in a way that will add value is important.
3. Hardware update intentions
Hardware and its capabilities are critical parts of the solution. Some vendors provide a reliable, long term unit, while others will expect regular upgrades to newer hardware. Neither is necessarily right or wrong, but there needs to be alignment with your requirements. And if the hardware upgrade option is taken then it should add to the existing features, rather than remove them. Another consideration is the cost of removal and replacement – not only the swap cost but also in terms of productivity and staff availability. A good compromise is to have the hardware capability guaranteed for the life of the contract. I.e. if you have a 5-year agreement then the hardware should be compatible for that period. In the end, if you don’t want to take up the new version or replace with new units of your existing installation it’s easier to go to market for a new provider.
4. Customer base alignment with your organisation
While it is easy to get caught up in what is new and untested, it is important to align yourself with a partner that is invested in the same or similar customers as yourself. This can be seen through customer lists, testimonials, or development intent (see below). A technology company that is excelling in a particular market segment and is committed to doing its best for that segment means you will reap rewards long into the relationship. They will build products and solutions that have a good fit with the pain points you are experiencing. Some good vendors will invite you to participate in forums, user groups and development workshops to ensure that what they are doing is aligned with the industry's priorities.
5. Alignment of Values
It is important that the vendor shares similar values to your organisation. If there is a misalignment of values it can lead to a poor outcome as both companies expect to engage with each other in different ways.
The values don’t need to be exactly the same. It is possible and possibly useful for them to be varied in some way. For example, the vendor might value reliability in their promises, while yours is delivering to customers’ needs. While different, there is an opportunity for synergy when you ask for assistance from the vendor and they give you honest and reliable advice.
Considering the functional requirements of your intended solution is important. But you should also think about the less tangible requirements, which may not seem important to begin with, but will assume more importance over time. You will be signing up to a long-term partnership and the partner you chose needs to be committed to making sure you get the most throughout that partnership.