Cloud computing is an ideal way of bringing efficiencies and cost-savings to smaller companies, but specialist products are not always available for them. This was the case for the fleet management industry until very recently.
This realisation came a few years ago to Drive Software Solutions, which was already offering a fleet management system for managing large numbers of vehicles.
But while the sophisticated DRIVE software is ideal for large businesses, which can easily handle the configuration requirements for complex business processes and various SLAs, it lacked the ease of use to make it viable for the SMB market.
Drive Software Solutions commissioned market research to verify its hunch, and the results highlighted a large gap in the market. The firm embarked on a project to build a fleet management system named ODO, aimed at small business and the self-employed - the plumbers and decorators, the taxi firms and couriers.
Before ODO, there simply wasn’t a technology solution that an SMB could easily use to manage their vehicles. Smaller companies who have obviously got vehicles and drivers in significant numbers are currently almost entirely unserved by a technology solution through which they can properly manage their drivers and vehicles. We saw a large marketplace – 700,000 companies in the UK alone - who have vehicles but there wasn’t a solution for them and we thought we’d put that right.
The product is designed to cover the needs of two distinct groups of potential customers: the traditional SMB market, encompassing firms with up to 250 employees; and the micro businesses and self-employed sector, with just a handful of staff.
For those SMBs with maybe 100 vehicles, the challenge they have is they recognise they have a fleet, but because there hasn’t been a technology solution to help them manage the reminders and renewals of those vehicles, and who’s driving them, they’re muddling through with something that’s entirely inappropriate like an Excel spreadsheet.
They’re trying to keep tabs on all the vehicles, when a vehicle is due for a service or to go back to the leasing company. Those people are very conscious that what they’re muddling through with right now is unsatisfactory.
For the micro-businesses, they might be managing smaller numbers, whether delivery vans or service engineer vans, but these vehicles could still be driven by a multitude of people. Those people are in a whole world of risk. Because there isn’t an easy way of managing the vehicles and the drivers, there are all kinds of issues around compliance that those people fall foul of without even realising it. Do you know as the business owner if any of those people hold a valid driving licence right now? It’s just having a simple system to manage that.
If you put a list of your employees into an Excel spreadsheet, will it check they have driving licences or will they necessarily tell you they have somehow mislaid that licence thanks to the local magistrate court? It’s quite good to have a technology solution where every x number of months, it says it’s time to ask the van drivers to produce their driving licences again.
ODO is also vital for smaller companies dealing with the so-called grey fleet, the millions of personal vehicles being used for business purposes; the latest estimates put this as high as 11 million cars on our roads used for company journeys of some sort. If you’ve got people driving vehicles on your behalf, you need to know that vehicle is insured, it has a valid MOT and the driver has a valid licence. This is a simple way of doing it.
ODO is driven by the Oracle Cloud. Parent company Drive Software Solutions has been using Oracle products for over 20 years, and was keen to work with the firm again on this project thanks to the robust nature of the technology and the flexibility shown by the Oracle team.
Using cloud as the underlying architecture for ODO was imperative for its success. The old-school way of doing fleet management software would be to install a piece of software on a machine in your office. That’s great if you only ever work in your office, but we all want to work more flexibly these days. People running fleets in SMB businesses are also doing other jobs. They’re not generally a full-time fleet manager. They might be the company accountant or in HR or someone else within the business who has responsibility for the drivers and the vehicles. They need to be able to do that from anywhere.
And because there’s all sorts of sensitive information about the vehicles - and specifically sensitive information about who your drivers are - sitting in ODO, it’s really important to have that in a super secure environment.
Opting for a cloud system has the added bonus of a monthly subscription model, ideal for smaller firms unable to afford a large upfront cost but wanting to get access to the latest version and new features. To know that all of the updates that need to be made to a system are being done on the fly, so you as a user of ODO don’t need to worry about downloading the latest patch, that was the reason we decided we had to do this on the Oracle Cloud.