When it comes to purchasing fleet management software (FMS), many fleets run up against the issue of cost restriction; however if you start your FMS search based on price, you may be missing out on key features and functions crucial to your operation.
Why Considering Cost Second Couldn’t Hurt
Often, it’s hard not to consider cost first when buying… well, anything. Whether we’re adhering to a personal budget or a department budget, the question of cost tends to come first when making most purchases—and for fleets, the purse strings can be tight. Tom Rowlings, Assistant Fleet Manager, City of Cambridge explains: "Something many fleet managers know is that in companies—whether public, private or municipalities—a fleet is oftentimes overlooked. We’re a cost center; we cost the organization a lot of money. Therefore, when you need something as a support mechanism like software, a lot of times, it’s hard to get the funding for it because you’re already spending millions of dollars in repairs to vehicles, and on parts and service and things like that."
With cost at top-of-mind, it only makes sense that when shopping around for FMS or other fleet solutions, the lowest bidder appears the most appealing. But if you search by cost alone, you may miss out on getting a solution that:
- Tracks key metrics
- Meets reporting needs
- Has a user-friendly interface
- Has features appropriate to your fleet
- Can scale as needed with your fleet
When it comes to choosing FMS, a product’s features and functionality are pivotal in the success of its implementation and proper, consistent use. FMS that doesn’t meet your fleet’s needs, or that’s too difficult to use, ends up being a waste of time and money—no matter what the original cost.
Features, Functionality and Fleet
Let’s dive a little deeper into FMS features and functionality and why they’re so important when choosing a software. The features FMS offers tells you what all you can do with the software, whether that’s maintenance, fuel, equipment or parts inventory management, electronic vehicle inspections, remote vehicle tracking, etc. So, determining what you need FMS to do should be one of the first steps in the research process. When Tom was researching FMS, he focused on two features he knew would benefit his fleet the most: integrations and a mobile app.
But let’s not forget the role of functionality. Say you find a few FMS options with all the features you need, and you also need the following functionality: fully customizable inspections, automated workflows and configurable dashboards. It’s likely that not all the FMS options with your needed features will also have your needed level of functionality; for instance, they may only have two of the three functions, or they may offer all three, but only offer partial customization capabilities. Determining what all functions you need from FMS can help you pick the right software to maximize your efficiency and return on investment (ROI).
For Tom, the basic functionalities he needed from FMS included a user-friendly interface, easy set-up and something that could scale with the company. Tom had experience on his side, having gone through both successful and not-so-great FMS implementations. "I was familiar with some of the softwares that I — or friends in the industry — utilized. I sort of used that as my starting point and, believe it or not, cost was not anywhere in my research equation," says Tom. "Cost came at the end of my research, after I found a couple of softwares that would function the way I wanted them to."
Justifying the Cost
Well, we’ve come full circle; it’s time to talk about cost. Chances are, the FMS that best meets your needs won’t be the cheapest — but also it might! Regardless, you’ll likely have to justify its cost. Having worked in both public and private fleet sectors, Tom is no stranger when it comes to budgetary constraints. In a previous role, Tom had to justify increased cost over the FMS the company was using at the time. "It came to justifying what you get for the money you’re paying—that was key. I was able to convince my finance team that this was the right move. It met everything that I needed and provided all of the reporting that they needed, so it was justifiable to have that increased cost."
In his current position, Tom unexpectedly found buy-in to help his case right in the neighborhood. "I found out that in Cambridge, the police and fire departments had been utilizing Fleetio separately. That helped convince my leadership that this was the way to go," explains Tom. "Fleetio is also on one of the state government sourcing contracts, so we didn’t have to go through a bid procurement. I did still have to convince a lot of people, but it really came down to selling them on the functionality of the program."
While cost is one of the most influential factors when adopting FMS and other fleet solutions, you can improve your chances of successful implementation, fleet-wide use and overall ROI by finding FMS with features and functionality that best meet the needs of your operation.