Avoiding the pitfalls with large-scale fleet technology deployments
Smartrak’s Marketing Communications Manager, Matthew Perkins, and Director of Customer Engagement, Miles Corbitt discuss the insights gained form a long history of large-scale deployments.
Matthew Perkins: Broadly speaking, what does a successful deployment look like?
Miles Corbitt: Well there are two elements that need to be considered: deployment and Implementation. The deployment of new technology is just one aspect of an interaction with the customer that touches on business and operational processes, work schedules, and even the culture of the organisation. Technology is important, but that’s never going to do the job on its own. What’s just as important is the implementation of the solution. This is about making sure that the technology you are providing is embedded in the customer’s daily business processes. Everyone that uses the solution has to feel from the very beginning that it’s a good idea. And that’s not always easy in geographically spread organisations where regional teams may resist change.
Making sure that everyone is onboard starts with having the right people in your own organisation. For Smartrak, that means having specialists in all the disciplines that will be needed. Our large deployment and implementation team includes a Project Manager who manages the overall process, an Onboarding specialist who oversees the detailed onboarding of new vehicles and services, and a Customer Success Manager who will be responsible for managing the ongoing relationship between the customer and Smartrak.
Also included in this team is the Customer Support Co-Ordinator. This is a vital role, involving the coordination of Smartrak’s nationwide network of Smartrak Authorised Installers. These installers are specially trained to be fully conversant with Smartrak’s technologies, so we can be sure that every install in every vehicle meets our rigorous quality control standards.
MP: In your experience, how quickly will a customer involved in large deployments start to see results?
MC: From Day One. Absolutely. Before a single piece of technology is installed in a vehicle our customer success personnel will have rigorously investigated the customer’s business operations. The opportunities to make big gains in productivity, safety, and fleet utilisation will have been identified and built into the solution.
Alongside this, we also identify the training requirements for different users of the system (managers, team leaders, drivers, dispatchers). All of these people will have differing requirements and appetites for training. Once the investigation process has been completed, we lead on-site training sessions, providing online resources, and test the growing capabilities of various members of the customer’s organisation.
Of course, this isn’t a process that ends with deployment, it’s a growth journey that enables new skills to be brought on as people get more-and-more comfortable with the solution’s features. But from day one, everyone has to be completely confident they can use the system. Making their workday easier, safer, and we hope more fulfilling.
MP: Tell me about some of the really big deployments you’ve been involved in.
MC: I managed probably one of the biggest vehicle technology deployments our industry has seen in New Zealand. This involved nearly 1,500 vehicles from two different government departments right across New Zealand.
MP: Tell me about the risks and issues you encountered with this deployment.
MC: With big deployments such as this, there is always going to be a requirement to liaise with regional centres, ensuring that managers and team leaders who are perhaps removed from the decisions made in head office are engaged in the process. Both of these government clients required this attention, but one of them also had the added challenge of vehicles operating in remote and rugged environments. In this scenario you really have to accept that you are working in with the operational requirements of teams in the field, teams who may be hours away from a site where the installation of equipment would normally take place. They may also be out on assignment for long periods of time.
In this case, we actually flew installers in to remote locations to get the job done without adversely impacting on the customer’s operations.
Driver apathy around bringing vehicles into installation venues is another issue that needs addressing, particularly where teams have been enjoying a high degree of independence.
MP: So, how do you get drivers on-board?
MC: Education about the benefits they are going to experience is part of it. But you also have to be rigorous in your communications process: enrol your audience with multiple confirmations and follow-ups to ensure there’s zero chance of a no-show and every chance for the driver to suggest alternative times if that makes things easier.
For this deployment, with vehicles based far from population centres, we arranged equipment installs far in advance, organising schedules for outlying vehicles to drive in to central sites at prearranged dates.
MP: It seems like there are a lot moving pieces.
MC: There are, but multiple layers of planning come into play to make sure everything happens when it should. From procuring the equipment you need ahead of time so it can be configured to the customer’s requirements, to fall-back plans should a team’s vehicles suddenly be pulled out of the schedule to meet an emerging operational requirement.
You also have to make sure you’re in the driving seat, across numerous third-parties. I’ve already mentioned the installer network, but there may be fleet vehicle suppliers who also need to be closely aligned to the deployment’s outcomes. Specialist vehicles will often need specialist technologies, beyond the standard configuration that’s installed with the majority of a fleet. The responsibility for making sure that everything fits and functions as we intended is ours. We may not have sourced the vehicles but it’s our solution that’s going into them.
The customer, particularly with a diverse, geographically spread deployment, wants clear lines of accountability. Smartrak provides this through a complete end-to-end deployment and implementation process. We’re in the wheelhouse for every part of the jigsaw, and it’s a commitment that extends beyond deployment. As the customer’s technology requirements evolve we’re building pathways that enable the seamless adoption of new capabilities. For a customer on a technology maturity curve, deployment is an open journey.