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Fleet Management Series – Choosing a Supplier

If you’ve made it here, then congrats! You’ve made it to the end of our mini-series all about fleet management software. We’re assuming by now, you’ve read what Fleet Management software is and how it can benefit your business, so now we’re getting down to the nitty gritty – choosing a supplier.

Before you do this however, you should determine what you’re hoping to get from the software. Are you looking to improve the safety of your large fleet? Are you planning on growing your fleet and need help keeping it organised? Do you need to keep track all the different costs?

Here are 4 starter questions that you should ask yourself during the research stage of choosing your supplier:

  1. What data do I want to collect?
  2. To what level will it all be analysed?
  3. Which features need to be included?
  4. Will I be adding to my fleet in the future?

While these questions are quite vague and you might not know all the answers straight away, the more you do know, the more it will help you find a supplier that will provide the scale of the system you need and will benefit most from.

When it comes to actually picking your supplier, there are a few key things to keep in mind.

  1. Partnership

Don’t look at your supplier as a one off transaction. You will develop a long term partnership with the company and they will ultimately act as a support team. A good provider should continually and actively assess your requirements, to keep the system up-to-date so you can get the most value possible from it.

  1. Technology in Action

It is one thing being told what a software can deliver, and another thing to see what it can deliver. For this reason, it is always wise to see the system in action and a good supplier will understand this. Whether it is through a live demo or trial version of the full software, make sure you are able to view the system functionalities and talk to the people who actually use it.

  1. Know the People

Make a point of meeting and getting to know everyone that will be working on the system for you. Given the long-term partnership that should develop post-purchase, it is important that the team is one you can get on with. At the end of the day, your supplier should be treated as an extension of your department and should feel as valued as you’d wish to feel as a customer.

So we come to the end of our fleet management journey. The main thing to remember, is to do your research.

Any software is a big investment, but when it is something as vital as fleet management where the safety of your employees is involved, it is even more important to make sure you know how the software will work and that it is implemented and used properly. A good supplier *hint hint* will help with all of this and make the process a whole lot smoother.

Fleet Management Series – 5 Benefits of Fleet Management software

If you missed the introductory blog for this series, then make sure to catch up here before diving into this one. There, we summarized fleet management and some of the most common features of the software.

This time, we will be giving you 5 reasons your business could benefit from implementing fleet management software into your business. So if you don’t currently make use of one, consider these points and the benefits you could reap by investing.

  1. Improved Safety

One of the main uses of fleet management software, for larger organisations especially, is to track and keep logs of all the vehicles in the fleet. By having the ability to record daily checks and maintenance, and MOTs or annual services for individual vehicles, fleet managers are able to track patterns about driver habits and make informed decisions based on this.

  1. Reduced Admin

The accessibility of Fleet Management software makes it easier to automate most elements of a business, such as clocking in and out, logging vehicle problems, updating jobs in real time and maintenance schedules. BONUS: It also reduces the amount of paper, helping work towards that dream of a paperless office!

  1. Time-Saving

Fleet management software helps increase productivity through the use of GPS. By allowing drivers to plan routes more effectively, it saves time for not only the drivers, but also mechanics administrators and managers. GPS tracking allows real-time traffic updates and can help drivers and despatchers alter their work schedule according to driving conditions.

  1. Cost-Effective

There are several ways fleet management software can help save costs. With GPS tracking, any extra unnecessary travel can be avoided and in turn can help save money on overpaid wages. These real-time updates also allow drivers to cut any excess travel and subsequently save on fuel costs. Using the software to schedule regular vehicle maintenance.

  1. Customer Retention

In the digital age where everything is available at the click of a button, it is not surprising that customers are becoming more and more demanding especially when it comes to their purchases. This real-time tracking that we keep mentioning helps to make delivery more efficient and effective. Not only that, but the customer is able to view exactly where their delivery is, giving them the transparency that they want.

So now that you know how Fleet Management software works and what it can offer your business, you’ll want to start looking into suppliers. Next time, we’ll be running through some key things to think about when choosing your supplier to make sure you are well equipped to manage your fleet more effectively.

Fleet Management Series: What is Fleet Management Software?

Welcome to the first in a mini-series of blogs all about Fleet Management software. Over the course of the next few weeks, I’ll be breaking down what fleet management is, why it’s important and how implementing a software to manage it, can benefit your business.

The first thing I think we’d better tackle is explaining what exactly, fleet management is…

To put it simply, if your business has any number of vehicles to its name, some form of fleet management will be carried out. Fleet Management software comes into play, simply to make the process easier. While the specifics of the system can be tailored to different fleet types and sizes, and the needs of each individual business, the general objective of a Fleet Management system is to make the overall running of fleets smoother and safer, both on and off the road.

Some of the most common features of Fleet Management include tracking and routing, vehicle maintenance and driver management. So, let’s start by diving into each one a little bit more.

Tracking and Routing

By integrating GPS and geolocation, fleet management software gives companies the ability to track vehicles in transit. Tracking works to make fleets more efficient and productive while on the move. By doing this, we are able to collect real-time data about a vehicle such as top speeds, gear and clutch usage, the number of revs and even seatbelt usage. This information allows managers to react to certain conditions to eliminate any issues or misuse.

Maintenance

In the same way that tracking can allow managers to track data about the vehicle, it can also allow them to monitor performance parameters such as engine temperature, tyre pressure and fuel consumption. By doing this, managers can make necessary adjustments and schedule any maintenance jobs that it may require. With a large fleet, this can come in particularly useful because it can aid in the development of a regular maintenance schedule including vital checks such as MOT and services.

Driver Management

It is not just the vehicles that need to be tracked to make your fleet as efficient as possible. Driver management is essential for fleets of any size. In a way, Fleet Management can act as an electronic logbook, containing information about drivers licenses and expiry dates, hours of service and any outstanding fines. Driver management also allows managers to identify driver behaviours and non-compliance such as speeding or hard-braking. This information makes it easier for managers to assign additional training or corrective measures if patterns start to form.

 

As I mentioned before, this is by no means a comprehensive list of features of Fleet management software. The right developer *wink wink* will tailor the features to the needs of your business and the size of your fleet.

No matter what type of business you run, if vehicles are used as part of your daily operations, a fleet management software could be a great way to improve their safety and efficiency.

Next time, we’ll be running down some of the ways you can benefit from adopting a Fleet Management system into your business.

4 Reasons your Business needs a Project Management Software

No matter the size or scale of your company, it is likely that you will have numerous projects in the pipeline. It often involves teams of people working simultaneously on tasks that are difficult to keep track of without proper organisation. In this case, Project Management software can be crucial in helping a company improve organisation, coherence and reduce waste.

Below, we discuss some of the main ways that your business will benefit from implementing a Project Management Software.

Improved organisation. Project Management software creates a filing system, which offers a comprehensive view of a project and any details about it. Although project planning is quite straightforward, the challenges arise when it comes to managing several projects at once. Rather than wasting time searching through files for notes, documentation and deadlines, everything can be kept in project management software.

Cost-effective. Time is money in the world of business, but the nature of a project management software and its features can help cut down costs on things such as training and employee wages. The self-contained nature of a project management software can serve as a training tool for a business. Because of this simple integrated feature, it saves on the costs of hiring a trainer for new employees. It can also help cut down on the number of mistakes being made, which will in turn save money.

Team Workflow. Collaboration is at the heart of project management software. While it may be more difficult to regulate on a larger scale project, coherence of and interdependence between team members is always necessary in projects of any size. A project management software allows the team leader to keep track of which tasks are being completed, and by who. This seamless workflow improves efficiency in both the short term and the long term, by creating cohesion between teams and team members.

Forecasting and Budgeting. While these are both fundamental skills expected of every team leader or project manager, a project management system is equipped to allow for more effective cost forecasting and budgeting. At the same time as keeping track of current costs and budgets, it will be full of data from past projects which will help to set more accurate budgets and forecast more effectively.

The Robots are Coming…but are they after our jobs?

Despite the field of artificial intelligence not yet having provided us with essential tea-making robots or machines to make our beds, it is undoubtedly becoming a bigger part of our lives. The rise in its’ capabilities puts it on a level of sophistication that now makes it essential to the running of many businesses.

Although true AI has not yet arrived, automation represents the human/machine clash and employment debate that genuine AI will inevitably bring. In recent years, AI/automation has taken center stage in discussions surrounding the evolution of the workplace, namely the question of job security and human obsolescence.

Research states that, as a result of the effect AI has had on the labour market, over 30% of all UK jobs could be in jeopardy by the early 2030’s.

However, this debate is far from new, with employment worries being at the forefront of past technological revolutions. Through each one, it was found that more jobs were created than destroyed. The hope is, that the same can be said for automation.

Here, I run down two of the opposing views about AI’s impact on the workplace.

As a general consensus, robots that think in the same way as humans are far from being a reality, which seemingly gives humans the upper hand. However, with many industries which require a generally lower skill level, such as sale, wholesale, manufacturing and HR, it becomes more likely that AI will simply replace workers in these jobs.

Another issue presented here is that the jobs at stake tend to be those of a lower wage. With these at risk of becoming automated, it could boost the pay gap between less educated and more educated workers, leading to a period of economic inequality.

The worst part is, it’s already happening. We have already seen instances where jobs have been automated in order to increase efficiency and cut costs, with, it has to be said, varying degrees of success. Hasn’t it become obvious that machines are just far superior to humans at checking if an item is correctly placed in the bagging area…

However, if we are to rely on the patterns that have emerged from past technological changes, it is fair to say that we aren’t in for an employment apocalypse, just a shift in the nature of work that is on offer.

This mindset offers the possibility that AI will actually augment or create more jobs in industries including Communications and IT, Professional Services and Media & Entertainment.

Typically, these industries require more creative or ‘human’ skills, such as computing, architecture and engineering, which are harder for AI to replace. With AI developing cognitive processes, allowing them to complete routine tasks, workers will be free to focus on the more rewarding and interesting parts of their jobs, helping them to become more efficient and productive.

If this positive outlook about AI is right in the long run, it may lead to a total re-evaluation of schools’ teaching methods. Children just starting school may eventually move into jobs which don’t even exist yet, which, to appease the pessimists, will possibly offset the loss of jobs in other sectors

Whichever side of the fence you sit on, until we have more knowledge about the future of AI, it is difficult to predict the extent to which it will redefine the workplace. Similar to past revolutions, the rise of AI is merely a generational hurdle that we need to overcome. It is a multi-faceted issue in terms of changing the way we live and work, to accommodate a world in which, AI and automation plays a huge role.

Although both sides of this debate are backed up by facts, figures and technical experts, only time will answer the burning question: Is AI here to work with us, or against us?

What does software look like & how does it work?

We often get asked what software looks like and how it works. I must have tried to explain it one hundred different ways but I often feel like I leave the person who asked feeling more confused than when they asked me. The below is my latest attempt!

Here I have tried to break up the 3 main layers that go into making a piece of software, these elements are all present in some form in any piece of software.  I’ve also tried to link it with a simplistic example, note the typical languages/ frameworks that are used in each stage and attempted to describe how software works with integration.

The below is a very basic overview; I hope any of this helps and that’s its understandable. Remember if you have a software project you would like to discuss please get in touch.

Document mgmt. series: The dream of a paperless office

Personally I hate clutter and mess – I am a bit of a neat freak as my friends will attest. I especially can’t stand clutter on desks, I think that the in/out paper trays that frequent so many office desks are just a huge waste of money and space – I’ve never seen a document that is put into one of those trays ever be taken out of it and used or filed anywhere else.

One of my colleagues is legendary for the state of her desk – There is piles of paper, files, letters and notes everywhere to the point where you cannot actually see any desk. She once went on holiday so a colleague and I took the opportunity to empty all the rubbish off her desk – we kept anything that was 2 years old or less and we still filled 3 bin bags! Most companies dream of the paperless office but situations like this make it seem like it is impossible to achieve. So why do people still cling onto paper? there are lots of reasons: –

  • Old processes/ ways of doing things – Processes are less resistant to change than people are, as such the “this is the way we’ve always done it” mentality still exists even when the processes and technology have moved beyond that old way. Historically everything was done on paper and neatly filed away, the issue regarding change means that some won’t move beyond this.
  • Fear of losing an important document – Tangibly having a document on your desk or in your office somewhere can be a tremendous security blanket to some, some documents are obviously really important and the fear of losing it could have real consequences. Obviously such documents should be kept securely in, for example a safe but that still doesn’t mean you can’t have a digital copy for day to day use. This in fact means the original document is actually safer.
  • Historically some processes would only deal with paper copies – This has now been largely phased out as technology has improved but previously a lot of processes simply couldn’t be performed digitally. This meant you had no choice but to use paper copies. A company I used to work for got randomly inspected by HMRC a fair few years ago, at the time we stored all of our invoices digitally on our accounts system which was neatly split by customers/ suppliers and into relevant months and years – the auditor simply refused to engage with the system and insisted we printed out all the invoices, a waste of our time and money, thankfully digital copies are now (largely) accepted for scenarios such as this.
  • Some people are just like keeping stuff and don’t like to throw things away – Just like my colleague above. They know where everything is within the organised chaos and they have a system for finding and dealing with the important documents. The problem is that only they know what this system is and it’s only in their heads, so anyone else hasn’t got a chance of finding that important document.

So how can you combat this?

  • Use Online drives – such as OneDrive or Google Drive. These allow you share documents with colleagues.
  • Digital signatures – use software that allows documents to be signed digitally, Adobe Reader has this function built into it using the excellent Fill & Sign feature. This means documents do not have to be printed out, signed and sent back, cutting down on time, printing costs and the mundanity of rescanning documents so they can be emailed back to the sender.
  • Buy a document management system – A fully functional document management system will allow you to fully control your business documentation with your colleagues and your clients. It allows you to store documents centrally, you can grant permissions to the correct audience and you can use permissions to prevent the editing and printing of documents.
  • Online banking – Many are moving to online banking for the ease of access and convenience. Going Online also gives you the option of requesting paperless statements. With many you can also set up alerts to notify you when a new document is available
  • Phase out old tech that relies on paper – I’m looking at you, people who still have fax machines!

Document mgmt. series: Why use a document management system instead of emails

Why use a document management system instead of emails? This is the biggest rebuttal we hear when we tell people about document management systems. Emails are amazing; one of the greatest innovations in communication, providing a versatile system that allows you to have virtual conversations and ensures you have a written record of what has been said, they are simple and easy to use and very accessible. So why you should use a document management system and not email to send documents? There are several reasons, here are some of them: –

  • A document management system will centralise your data – This means that the document is located on a system where multiple people can access it, if you use emails for this then if the people who sent and received the document are not available you have to wait for them to become available if you want to view this document.
  • The document can get “lost” in the email trail – We use email as a communication tool, to provide updates to each other and send message updates, if we also push a document into the middle of this we run the risk of either to document or the message losing some of its gravitas. Using different systems for messaging and document management ensures we maintain focus.
  • Version control issues – Emailing a document means that you have to have to specify who your audience is going to be and sending a document over email to multiple people can lead to version control issues, especially if you have asked for comments or updates because as soon as all of the people you have emailed the document to open it, there will essentially be multiple versions of the document. Using a document management system eliminates this and ensures that documents to be collaborated on are centralised and version controlled.
  • Duplication – A big issue is resistance to change, people are simply used to using email. So even if you have a system in place some people will still use emails to send documents. This means that you are effectively using multiple systems to deal with one issue and is likely to mean that duplicated documents are in use, this can then cause issues relating to version control as described above.
  • Compliance – We will cover this in greater depth in a future post but with GDPR utilising a document management system over emails for sending documents will help you with compliance.
  • The biggest reason to not use emails for document management is that it’s not what emails should be used for! Emails are there to give and receive direct, timely, detailed information that ensures there is a record of the communication. However the average employer still receives 6 attachments per day.

We use emails a lot in our working lives with a 2015 study showing the average employee receives 122 emails per day and sends out 40. It’s estimated that we spend 30% of working week dealing with emails that equates to around 2.5 hours per day. We need to find effective ways of dealing with the information we receive and send and using a document management system is a way of achieving this. If your sole reason for composing an email is attach a document to it, then you would be much better served using a document management system.

Room Booking

When it comes to booking a room I know a lot of people will be like me and assume it’s got something to do with a holiday or an event…No just me? I don’t know if it’s just good marketing from Roombooking.com or Trivago but my mind just immediately thinks of them two. But of course in true BBC fashion other hotel booking provides are available.

Anyway, let’s put our working or business hat on. Booking a room is usually done for a meeting or an event, right? And this is more often than not done by contacting the receptionist (if you’re lucky enough to work with a receptionist) and asking them to check if said room is available. To which they will need to check their diary and relay the information back to you, who will then need to see if the time and date available is suitable for you and the person your meeting with. To then find out it isn’t and the process starts again taking up precious time we could be spending doing other important tasks like….making….doing….erm…..you get what I mean. Surely there’s a better way?

Yes, of course there is. Just wing it and walk into your own meeting room and hope that no one comes in whist you’re meeting with your very important client. And if someone does walk in simply say, “Oh I thought I’d booked it?” or the classic “It must have been double booked.” I’m sure that will look professional in front of Jeff Bezos when he comes to chat about your company. Imagine not doing business with Bezos because someone walked in half way through your meeting asking you to get out, all because the room wasn’t correctly booked.

Ok, maybe Jeff Bezos was a little optimistic. But I’m sure you’re getting the picture now. The reason we’ve chosen to highlight Room Booking in this blog is because we (Red Robot) use to be like many others and wing it! And it got to the point that all the companies in our business hub were getting frustrated and in fact losing business. So being the cool guys that we are, we decided to create a solution. Thus our Room Booking Software was born. I know…catchy name right!

We developed this software with the purpose to help ourselves run that bit smoother and save time. We have since decided that because it’s worked so well for us that we would like to help other business centres and offices run as smooth as we do. Also, after receiving feedback from business centres who are already implementing it, we are currently working on adapting the software to be a marketing tool for external bookings for those of you who hire out your lovely rooms. Pretty cool right!

If you would like to find out more information on our Room Booking Software then don’t be shy. Get in touch…

Document mgmt. series: why should I have one in my business?

This is the first article we are writing in a mini-series all about document management, how it can help your business and the tips you can use to help you integrate this system into your business. First up is the biggest question of all – why do I need a document management system?

Right out of the gate; we have developed a document management system that we are looking to sell (why else do you think we’re writing these articles? J) The reason I mention this is because when I am visiting a current or potential client and I tell them about our document management solution I often get a response like “Why do I need one of those? – we just email and that works fine” in response to using emails to manage and send documents – we have a whole article on that coming soon. The reasons you would have a document management system are plentiful, including: –

Improved collaboration – A document management system enables multiple people to view the same document at the same time, features such as comments and workflow enable groups to do things with the document quickly, efficiently and concurrently. This means that the process for approval / authorisation of documents is expedited.

Better security – Document management systems offer added layers of security; in the first place only registered users can access the system. You can also go one step further by configuring your document management system so that access requests need to be approved by an administrator and you can also set the parameters for passwords. Secondly, keeping documents on a document management system makes it a lot more difficult for documents to be read/ used/ amended or deleted by users who are not authorised to do so as permissions can be set on an individual level so each user will only be able to view and perform actions on documents that they have been authorised to do so.  

Improved version control – Using a document management systems ensures that you are working on the most up to date version of a document. Many document management systems have a versioning process built into them and some even allow you to view and (if necessary) access previous versions of that document. If you rely on emails or paper copies then you are always running the risk that you are not using the most current version of the document. Also as there is only one document on the system you can be sure that everyone is working on the same document.

Easier to search through data – Most document management systems will have an integrated search facility built into them enabling you to enter key words. You can also run searches based on defined parameters or filters such as a “From” and “To” date allowing you to hone in on the documents you want to find. With paper based storage, searching for documents is extremely tricky, even if you have labelled storage boxes/ files correctly you still have a lot of searching to do and you always run the risk of someone filing something in the wrong place meaning a document is not where it’s supposed to be. Having a document management system eliminates this and means searching for documents is a quick and painless process.

Saving space and money – Physical storage costs can be extremely high, when you consider the associated costs for paper, a storage box/ file of some sort, folders and inserts and of course the cost of physically storing documents. If you use space on your business premises, it means you have less office space limiting your aspirations for growth. If you store your files off site there are warehousing costs to pay for and of course if you need to retrieve any documents you have to travel to go and get them. In comparison storing documents digitally takes up very little physical storage space and you of course eliminate the costs associated with physically storing documents. There is of course a cost associated to storing documents digitally but this should be much less than the costs for storing the same data physically.

These are just some of the primary reasons that you should consider a document management system, please let us know if you want more advice on a document management system and the type of solutions we could provide.