You Named the Project “The GPS Program” or “The Black Box Project”
What’s in a name? Maybe everything, if from the name, employees decide what a project is and how it will affect them. Every project that a company invests time and resources into gets broad organizational exposure. You hear the hallway grumbling about “this or that project” that the company has underway. The name of the project can have serious impacts on what the organization thinks the project is and how it will affect employees (and management) personally. Let’s be clear – GPS stands for Global Positioning System and is a technology component that is becoming a standard in everything from vehicles to mobile devices. Like a clock on a microwave, or on a coffee maker or DVD player – GPS is simply an input into adding location information to the things that we value. Imagine if your company embarked on an extensive upgrade to your information technology infrastructure to benefit employees and customers – and named the project “The CPU” project. Pick a project name that creates excitement for your company and meaningfully represents the results that you are seeking everyone to participate in achieving. The “Driving Excellence Project”, “Driving Performance and Safety Program” or the “Drive Green Initiative” – for example.
Ambiguous Project Requirements and Goals
Take control of the project. Assign a project manager who collaborates directly with key departmental stakeholders from Risk & Safety, Operations, Human Resources, Fleet Management, and Finance to define specific detailed project requirements that have tangible, measurable, ROI. While this seems obvious, many companies will skip this stage and go right to applying a solution to jump start a project. In-vehicle technology solution providers are constantly soliciting their services to companies with fleet vehicles. This is not a commodity market and not all solutions are equal. The impacts to your employees, culture, and financial return vary significantly from supplier to supplier. Don’t assume requirements (such as project controls, management dashboards, application functionality, data, enterprise integration, measurements, policy, and workflow) are met. ‘Telematics’ and other similar projects tend to fail and the companies usually encounter over spending, project restarts, rework, and/or unmet expectations. Many of you reading this – have a “trash heap” of in-vehicle technology past projects.
The Project Starts with “A Couple Free Devices”
Frequently the technology vendor will show up and say “how about we set you up with a few free boxes?” Sounds great, right? Maybe not. While it may be attractive from a project start-up cost standpoint – it’s potentially the start of a project that goes nowhere. Right from the start this approach focuses on “the device” not on the people, process, and measurable results. If the goal of the initiative is to improve the driving culture – how are we going to do that on a couple drivers with a couple free boxes? What will these drivers think of their supervisors? Why were they singled out? How is does this initiative support the organizational goals for the fiscal year? Generally, this approach is more about the supplier getting in your door, then it is about your likelihood of sustainable organizational and financial results from an initiative.
Lack of Executive Support
Organizations focus, and apply resources, to approved projects that are based on solving defined problems and providing measurable results. Executive sponsors champion, and key stakeholders rally behind, initiatives that have broad organizational visibility and resourcing approvals. Your “Driving Performance and Safety” initiative should have a highly visible executive sponsor, the goals/results of the initiative should foot to a fiscal year corporate objective (like “saving 10% of our fuel expenditure, reducing the frequency and severity of crashes and risk by 40%, and eliminating CO2 emissions for a greener planet”). Your executive sponsor and stakeholders can add weight and momentum to a project that is tied to corporate goals.
Large Changes to Project Requirements and Scope
Beware of the “Driver Performance” initiative that turns into the “Vehicle Maintenance” project. The reward of having a robust requirements list and involvement of stakeholders comes at the risk of your project core ROI being hijacked. It also runs the risk of requirements becoming so large and broad that the technology is unavailable to satisfy – so the project goes nowhere waiting endlessly for the all inclusive technology that may someday become available. Meanwhile, real value – the largest ROI, potentially – is left languishing in hope of future technical advances. The most prevalent of this example is projects that start from the premise of providing ROI based on fuel and risk savings through driver feedback and coaching that turn into initiatives that require predictive maintenance based on diagnostic fault code data. There are many initiatives that have been derailed as the issues of vehicle data standards across year/makes/models, integration of diagnostic data with in-sourced (or outsourced) maintenance services, and OEM warranty impacts – confuse the initiative and grind otherwise successful projects to a halt. Years of lost savings from fuel and risk reductions alone are wasted at the expense of solving the complexities of the motor company products and data.
Failure to Establish Employee Expectations and Benefits
WIFM – “What’s In It For Me?” All participants in the initiative need to have the WIFM question answered. It’s unfair to ask employees to participate in a work changing process with no clear understanding of the benefit. “GPS projects” that are seen as data collection initiatives to track employees – communicates that the organization thinks their employees are stealing (time) from them and that they are lazy and should be working harder. It may also communicate that supervisors are inefficient in how they schedule and manage resources. “Video camera projects” that are seen as demeaning/spying technology is not going to be widely received with approval by the employee base. The extra burden on supervisors who will have to police these videos may not be received well. What is the message you are trying to communicate to the employees and supervisors? What does the initiative (and technology) say about the employee/employer relationship? If you have a corporate goal to “be the best place to work” how is the initiative supporting that goal? What are impacts to hiring and retention? How is the initiative supporting the employee goals for each fiscal year? Answer WIFM for each participant in the initiative and you will be much more likely to achieve success, and organizational support.
You Did Not Lead With a Positive Launch
This will come as no surprise – people are resistant to change. Change, regardless of the end-result, goes through the SARA process (Shock, Anger, Resistance, and Acceptance). Any change in corporate process or policy will be subject to the SARA rule. Why would this initiative be different? Can you imagine that sticking a GPS/Black Box/Video camera into the employee’s “office” (the vehicle) is going to be seen in anyway positive – if the imitative does not clearly have a benefit to them and isn’t attached to a positive consequence from the beginning? There are several ways that this can be accomplished. Starting with integration to existing employee benefit programs, the construct of new incentive programs, individual and team competitions. What is clear is that employees want the autonomy to do their jobs well. They want tools that they can use to measure themselves against the corporate policies and goals BEFORE supervisor intervention. The best employees will compete to continue to be the best. Lesser employees want the chance to be the best. Self-direction and autonomy are the keys to support both of these employee types. How is your in-vehicle project providing the employee tools and technology to achieve self-direction and autonomy, before supervisor intervention?
Measurement and Metrics
Beware the project that introduces financial or reporting metrics that are not leveraging/interfacing/enhancing as much as possible existing financial/budget reporting. For example if the fleet fuel budget is currently reported to the CFO, and the project expects to demonstrate fuel savings, the existing measurement/reporting process that finance uses needs to show demonstrable positive change. Introducing a new measurement, disconnected from how fleet expenditures are captured and report today, will be difficult for finance to support as demonstrable change. Fuel consumption data and existing MPG reporting show be examined and subsequently integrated with and enhanced to drive accuracy – as opposed to creating a new MPG or consumption reporting system. This holds for risk management, crash management, and fleet management (vehicle lifecycle costs).
Unrealistic Timelines and Deadlines
When considering the project goals, metrics and measurements – make sure the business cycle supports the expected change. For example if through high performance driving we expect to replace fewer tires and have fewer brake maintenance transactions (or other routine or catastrophic transactions) a complete maintenance lifecycle against control data needs to be evaluated – and this particular metric may take a year, or longer, depending on year make an model. Installation of technology needs to be considered in the project timeline. The upfront design of the program needs sufficient time before the installation project begins.
And finally, given steps 1-9, it should be apparent that adequate resources from all participants need to be planned for. The one resource that is critical and is sometimes not included is the drivers. A representative driver, a driver committee, the driver union, needs to be a critical participant in the process. Driver buy-in to the program, the benefits, will be a critical success factor.
Price vs. Value Choice
Chances are that you looked at several Telematics companies when considering choosing a solution. Many of the companies had solutions that when properly implemented, you saw the value that they could bring to your company. The main problem was that your company chose a solution based on PRICE and not COST, from a non-local company that offered cheaper monitoring or slightly cheaper hardware. In telematics and the companies that represent solutions, you definitely get what you pay for. If your goal as a company is to gain long term benefit from your investment into the technology, when possible, choose a local company that can work closely with you to help you grow and learn how to gain the most profitable ROI from your telematics project. It’s one thing to invest into the technology; it’s another to understand how to really benefit from it.
For more information, contact Vincent Rush of Lynx Telematics at (866) 314-0461
For more information on how Lynx Telematics, an OEM located in Cincinnati, Ohio can help your fleet become more operationally efficient or custom design a solution to meet your fleet management needs, contact Vincent Rush at (866) 314-0461
LynxTelematics is an OEM that controls design, engineering, firmware, software development, IT support and manufacturing processes of our product, allowing us to produce the highest quality product in our industry, while offering our customers competitive pricing.
As your partner, we provide ongoing training and support to insure that the product is properly sold to the end user, maximizing the re-sellers profitability.
As one of the pioneers in telematics technologies, Lynx Telematics provides our clients with powerful end-to-end vehicle telematics tools. Our technology offers a real solution that delivers safety, saves money and provides an unprecedented level of peace of mind to our customers.
Our product, LynxSafe, is the newest and most advanced in-vehicle communication system currently on the market. It combines GPS/satellite and GSM cellular technology to provide users and family members with immediate access to real-time information delivered directly via any internet enabled device including I Phone and Android smart phones.
All of our devices benefit from the innovation of U-Blox technology and a 3D Accelerometer, providing the industry’s most accurate pin point locating technology to within a 3 ft. radius.
Steps 1-10 originally written and posted by David Coleman, Senior Vice President of Global Business Development for Green Road Tech.