You’ve heard management extol the value of collaboration among colleagues and departments. But what about fleet technologies?
The same principle applies. “There is incredible power in combining them,” said David Riordan, Lytx’s chief client officer.
David Riordan, Lytx’s EVP and chief client officer, advises clients to combine best-of-breed fleet technologies that have open APIs for easier integration. Credit: Alex Jensen
Riordan, who spends his days helping transportation companies combine their technology tools with the Lytx Driver Safety Program, has seen numerous types of integrations. The vast majority of these integrations are aimed at the same thing: integrating and analyzing data from multiple devices and equipment to create a more holistic view of what’s happening with the vehicle, the driver, and the entire fleet.
“For example, if you compare data about driving behavior with compliance data and driver tenure, you can see which combinations are having the greatest impact on collision rates and regulatory scores,” Riordan said. “Add location data or information from route performance, and you get yet another aspect of intelligence, such as which groups or drivers perform best across multiple dimensions.”
You can also layer on employee data to build a holistic view of both individual drivers and groups of drivers, so you can see which groups are performing and which need help, he said.
Several of our clients have promoted the concept “The Total Service Professional” or “The Total Transportation Professional,” where employees are evaluated not only by their safety records, but also their customer service, productivity, and compliance records. By integrating safety, operations and human resources systems, companies can create a more meaningful profile of their drivers, one that takes into account such factors as how long the driver has been with the company, whether the driver consistently comes to work on time, has safe driving habits, takes well to coaching, has a good service record, completes their routes on time, and so on.
Fleets have plenty of options in this brave new world of connectivity, where everything can be connected to everything else. The challenge is in figuring out which systems to connect.
“Integrations can be simple to crazy complex,” Riordan said.
Each organization typically has two or three technologies on its vehicles, plus three to four systems in the back office used for performance management, tracking, or insights. Multiply these systems by the types of data each collects and the resulting options can be dizzying.
IN THE VEHICLE*
IN THE BACK OFFICE*
*Some vehicle technologies work in tandem with back-office technologies, though not always.
With so many possible combinations, it helps to think of the strategic purpose first, Riordan said, then select which systems are capable of providing the intelligence you need to accomplish your goal. A goal to reduce cargo theft would involve integrating a different set of technologies than a goal to reduce preventable collisions, for instance.
“Integrations have to be purpose driven,” Riordan advised. “In the world of big data, trying to find correlations in unrelated things can be interesting, but not necessarily meaningful. It’s about solving a problem or having a particular purpose in mind before you dive into the plumbing.”
As someone who has supervised dozens of client integrations, Riordan shares three additional pieces of advice on rolling out integrations. First, when selecting technologies, pick best-of-class technologies and make sure each has an open application programming interface (or API) that makes it easy for you to connect them to other technologies that you currently have or may get in the future.
Second, before acquiring new technologies, ask what data you can extract from that system to combine with your other data sources. Some vendors allow clients full access to the data they collect, while other vendors hold back some information for proprietary reasons. Ask about a partner’s capabilities and experience in working within an ecosystem.
Third, always remember to “Keep It Simple” in the field. The larger and more decentralized the organization, the greater the value in keeping the output and workflow simple, and make sure your partners can provide you with implementation support and best practice guidance. The technology and insights they can provide are great, but they are meaningless without a simple, consistent way to execute and generate a cohesive look at the data.
Finally, expect to put in a little elbow grease to get your integrations functioning properly. In nearly all instances, installing the plumbing is just the start of a process to work out the kinks once systems start interacting with each other. That process can take a few weeks to a couple of months for more complex, large-scale integrations. Among the many challenges common to integrations is the need to cleanse and map data for use in its new purpose, which can be time consuming
“More often, you turn it on, see what does not come across cleanly, then fix it until everything is good,” Riordan said. “But if you take the time to design integrations around a purpose, you can create value.”
Are you considering integrating technologies at your organization? Learn more about all the fleet management technologies Lytx® offers.