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We talk to our very own Enterprise Solutions Manager – Laura Friebe, on our latest topic of “The Modern Fleet Manager,” how the role has evolved and the new challenges that come with mobility, sustainability, and technology. Laura has over 16+ years of experience in leasing and fleet management, with multiple industry awards attained for the ability to provide enterprise solutions and strategies that meet the ever-changing dynamic organisations face today. As part of our “Ask an Expert” sessions in the fleet and mobility industry, Laura has been kind enough to share her time and expertise and speak with us on this hot topic.

New technologies have been transforming fleet management in recent years. What is the impact to the fleet team, and how should they approach adopting new technology in such a rapidly changing environment?

There are so many great systems and companies that fleet management teams are honestly spoilt for choice. But that, unfortunately, is where the challenge comes in. Making the wrong choice could cost your company financially and cost the fleet team time in trying to remedy any potential applications that did not suit their needs.

Fleet teams need to find a partner that is in it for the long haul. A partner that is not afraid to ask the tough questions to ensure the correct solution for the need is adopted and implemented. The partner the fleet manager selects needs to be aligned to their overall company strategy and should have mechanisms in place to support them and their drivers if that is what they require. Do not go for a one size fits all offering.

The global pandemic has resulted in an accelerated shift towards reviewing the older policies and mindsets regarding fleet management. This crisis has, in some instances, forced innovation and more rapid development of technology-based solutions to assist in control and cost drivers for their fleets. This rapid and forced change has illuminated the need for a new vision of fleet management.

Alternative mobility options outside of the company benefit car are readily available today, although many companies are still finding it challenging to implement. How do you suggest they approach the introduction of alternative mobility for employees, and how does the fleet of company cars still play a role?

Effective change management! If you have employees accustomed to having a company car which in most cases is seen as a perk in terms of remuneration and benefits. Merely offering a mobility alternative will be perceived as a “downgrade” and will make the adoption of the new strategy exceedingly difficult. A widely accepted alternative is a “car + mobility” solution.

Company cars will always play a role within a company, at least for the foreseeable future. The challenge most corporates will face if they want to move to a mobility solution is the infrastructure and support in the various countries. There are many vendors available, but their main focus is on the consumer and not the corporate. This makes controlling the costs, billing, and taxation a cumbersome process unless you aligned with a partner that can consolidate all the elements and assist with the overall management of the solution.

Social responsibility weighs heavily on many organisations these days, with many committing to zero-emission targets. Developing a plan requires an entire re-think of how the fleet is currently run. What do you recommend as the best approach for EV adoption?

The current challenge most corporates are facing is that they don’t really have a choice as many governments are driving a zero-emissions landscape that will be frowned upon if not adopted and implemented. This position is not negative, as we should all be playing our part as socially responsible citizens.

First and foremost is it must be an agreed-upon policy change with all stakeholders. Without the required buy-in from all departments, the project to adopt EV will be hindered or delayed. If it’s your company’s strategic intent to change then, you need to ensure you have everyone on board, and this includes the drivers of the vehicles. A policy merely pushed down the line from management will not be easily adopted.

The next step will be to understand the staff’s requirements and each country’s capabilities represented in the global mix. In some areas, EV adoption may not be possible for some years to come because of infrastructure limitations, as an example. If you can demonstrate that you have considered the user’s needs and if applied fairly, the change will be easier. A mutually beneficial (win-win) mindset to demonstrate the benefits, including, but not limited to, the financial implications, will aid the process.

Know your fleet. You need to have the available pertinent data at your disposal to make informed decisions about what will work best. If you don’t fully understand your fleet’s actual utilisation and key cost drivers holistically, it will hinder your ability to make informed decisions. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Many consultants have the necessary industry knowledge and expertise to guide you through the process.

As a global player, the most appropriate approach would be by country or region, depending on its infrastructure and OEM support. There are too many variables in play for a company to do a total and immediate change over its entire fleet.

It is not uncommon for global fleet teams to have fleet data on multiple systems and multiple spreadsheets spread over numerous cost centres or countries. What are the benefits of consolidating global fleet data and moving to the cloud?

There is nothing worse than having hundreds of spreadsheets or reports from various sources, with missing and possibly conflicting data that you need to make an informed decision on. It’s incredibly frustrating and time-consuming for the fleet manager to try and consolidate and keep an accurate account. The need for a consolidated data set is increasing daily, and the benefits are multi-faceted. Improved data accuracy, improved fleet utilisation, and control. A central point with your data at your disposal to make informed decisions quickly. Standardisation across all countries and territories allowing for a global view. Cost containment and exception reporting. These are but a few examples of the major cost and time benefits from such consolidation.

What are the most common challenges you hear about when talking to fleet teams today, and how can technology help overcome these challenges?

Lack of control, lack of sight, and time. Each of these comes through in conversations. They are not the only challenges fleet teams are experiencing, but definitely the most common. By partnering with the right tech-savvy team, a fleet manager will have effective control over their fleet. It would ensure alignment to strategy, cost containment as exceptions would be highlighted and managed immediately. A tech solution would allow for the centralisation of all fleet reporting and enable local teams to manage their portfolios more effectively. It would save time and effort.

There are many new exciting trends and advancements in fleet management. However, there are still the fundamentals of reducing cost and efficiency for vehicles and drivers. Do you have any suggestions for building a roadmap or business plan for innovation that doesn’t disrupt the business but achieves the goals or mandates?

Fleet managers need to quickly get a hold of their data to make informed result-driven decisions. Know what you want to focus on and tackle the low-hanging fruit first. There is no point opening the fire hydrant and expecting all your vendors to supply you with all the data they have on your fleet and still expect to manage by exception. Work with an experienced team that can align your needs and wins into segmented achievable goals. Review and adapt smaller targets first for immediate and impactful results without significant disruptions to the overall business process. An accurate and consolidated view of data will allow for a shift from an operational focus to a more strategic perspective, which will provide a long-term growth benefit for the business.

With a consolidated view, fleet managers will have information such as total cost of ownership, who the vendors are, vehicle utilisation against contracts, and other market-related variables that will impact the fleet at their fingertips.

We would like to thank Laura for the time and effort she has taken in responding to our questions, and we hope readers gain as much value as we have! You can catch up on our other ‘Ask an Expert’ interviews on our blog. More talks will be coming up as part of our “Ask an Expert” series, discussing the rapidly evolving fleet and mobility market.

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