Big Data, big fleet challenge

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There is a lot of talk about "Big Data" in business at the moment, it’s a buzz word concerned with the explosion in information technology, Web, mobile and cloud computing that sees almost every aspect of our lives recorded as a digital data trail. Businesses, especially automotive businesses, know that if they can make sense of all this data, they have a chance to sell us more of what we want, when and where we want it.

According to IBM, every day, we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data, meaning that 90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years. Think about it: in your fleet, just exactly how many pieces of information are being created by and on behalf of your vehicles and drivers every minute of every day? You may have delivery drivers or engineers needlessly doubling up on trips, but unless you can see their vehicle details, schedules, routes and job lists in one place, you’ll never know. The data a fleet manager needs to cut the fleet’s wasted mileage is right there.

The trouble is, there is too much of it, it’s in separate places, in different formats and your fleet manager has no way of bringing it all together.

The recent BVRLA Fleet Technology Congress in the UK highlighted that for the big fleet suppliers like the leasing and fleet management companies, an ability to mine the Big Data being generated by their customer’s fleets could literally transform the value of the customer relationship, particularly in relation to growing demand for mobility solutions, the business of getting people from A to B, via C and back to A again.

The challenge for the big fleet management and leasing suppliers is just the same as it is for the corporate fleet manager, compounded by having thousands of different customers all with different priorities and needs. The leasing companies know that if they can make sense of the information in their systems, they’ll be able to create the raft of new mobility services that businesses running vehicles will pay a premium for.

The real problem that most of the leasing and fleet management companies have when it comes to leveraging Big Data, the dirty little secret that they don’t want their fleet customers to know about, is their IT systems could have come off Noah’s Ark.

Most of the big players in the space have grown by acquisition over the past 15 years. You try running a business while merging a few small independents, maybe a non-core bank-owned operation and a dealer group leasing company or three when none of the original owners ever had an IT strategy for their leasing and fleet management operation.

In truth, if you could scratch behind the smoked glass facade of 95% of leasing suppliers you would almost certainly find legacy systems built out of 30 or more different pieces of outdated overlapping software, with the whole thing sitting on multiple platforms being held together by a team of IT contractors whose job is simply to keep the lights on.

The good news for fleet operators is that things are set to change and one or two of the big players are already in a position to take advantage of the opportunities presented by Big Data and the rapidly appearing IOT (Internet of Things). Driven by forward-thinking top management teams who have taken a long-term view, they have replaced legacy systems with robust databases sitting on single platforms, with normalised, properly coded data. As KPMG put it very succinctly in its Future State 2030 report: 'Use big data to extract value out of existing data assets, to better inform and target decision-making.'

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