The days when technology was a ‘nice to have’ are long gone. Tools such as mobile technology, GPS tracking and fleet management systems are essential for a modern and efficient fleet. E-commerce, customer expectations and artificial intelligence are rapidly changing all industries. So, it’s not surprising that a recent Teletrac Navman survey found 94 per cent of fleet operators and professionals plan to invest in their business, with new hardware and systems topping the list.
Implementing new technology can be daunting, particularly if it disrupts everyday practices or tools that your staff are comfortable with. Yet when effectively managed as a project itself, this change pays off in massive efficiency and cost-saving benefits so you can get return on investment from day one. More than 50 per cent of CEO's say digital improvements in their business boosted profits.
Here are four steps to help you manage the implementation of new technology.
Assign a project lead
Nominating one key project manager to oversee the rollout of technology is important to keep everything under control. This person should be responsible for confirming scope of works, understanding and executing the implementation plan, managing timeline and tracking budget, along with being the primary contact within the business. The project lead should also build a team of key stakeholders to delegate tasks and represent different areas of the business. For example, a fleet coordinator can make vehicles available for installation, while a driver trainer and allocator takes charge of staffing requirements, and a health and safety officer keeps an eye on compliance. This makes lines of communication clear and ensures everyone’s kept updated. A well-defined communication plan and team work is the key to successful implementation.
Bring employees on-board
Research shows company-wide change is 12 times more likely to succeed if senior managers communicate regularly, while success is improved 71 per cent if frontline employees drive the change. A telematics solution not only impacts drivers, but everyone else in the process, from operations managers and supervisors to back-office staff, despatchers and compliance managers. Identify some key employee advocates who understand the benefits for both themselves and the business, to help promote the technology internally. With a shared purpose and input, it’s more likely staff will be happy to use the tech when the go-live date arrives.
Provide extensive training
For implementation to succeed, employees need to understand not only why the solution is required, but what it will do, how it works, and the everyday impact on their job. Employee resistance to change is the most common factor in failed business transformations. Avoid this conflict by embracing transparency and an ‘open-door’ policy. Hold training sessions and encourage questions, so you can respond to any concerns immediately. Every relevant staff member should be included in the training so they can all learn to use the technology – whether it’s for driving, daily tasks, reporting or planning. Focus should be on educating staff rather than providing information only. With more people trained on the tools, it also means you’re not overly reliant on IT to troubleshoot every issue you run into. The last step is to ensure everyone understands the new company practices and policies around the technology.
Implementing an automated solution to overhaul every business process from day one isn’t only risky, but likely to impact how effectively the new processes are received. A negative first impression of a system or an “it’s too hard” approach from employees can derail the whole project. With a ‘staged Implementation’ approach, you can divide the whole implementation into small stages, with well-defined controls (time/target/responsibilities) and set short-term goals. This will allow everyone to get comfortable with the idea, the interface and new procedures. For example, spend the first week with a new telematics system asking drivers to simply log in and send a status to the back-office. Once they’re used to that, you can launch electronic work diaries and allow drivers to get in the habit of pressing ‘start work’ and ‘start rest’ when they get in and out of the cab. This also lets you bring employee advocates on-board early so they can start reaping the initial benefits and share these with the wider team of drivers.
Technology plays a more important role in successful fleets than ever. Almost 90 per cent of organisations believe transforming their business with technology has benefits for employees and makes them more competitive. Yet implementing new processes and tools is no small task. A structured change management program is required to train employees, re-design procedures, predict the likely learning curve and reduce disruption.