Not only is that the title of a popular Bare Naked Ladies song but it's also an excuse I've heard frequently by fleet owners when asked to invest in technology. This misinformed thinking is one of the reasons many are struggling to pull themselves out of this recession.
Three things are true in life: death, taxes and change! Rather than embracing new ways to manage their company KPI's, their fleet, their drivers and the managers of those drivers, they use the technology's capital cost as an excuse to not improve their organization's SOPs. This type of thinking would never have allowed the combustion engine to replace the horse and buggy. That's the comparison you can draw between a company that's embracing technology versus one that isn't when looking at skinny margins and profitability within our industry.
In most cases, that million dollars (or a relative amount of capital required) can be easily found by implementing best practices and reducing costs which in turn can be directed to the bottom line - but because of daily operational pressures and resource constraints, they just don't know where to look nor feel they have the manpower required to find it. As a result, these gains aren't realized. For the most part, companies that have chosen to invest in technology have a pretty good understanding of how to make that investment in their future work for them today. They all realize they can get better fuel economy by telling their drivers to slow down, idle less, etc...but what are they doing to manage and execute that message?
Technology on its own won't deliver bottom line results unless the processes are re-engineered. The entire "team” affected by the new technology needs to be trained on not only the new technology, but also any new processes and, more importantly, new expectations. Often, technology providers tend to “shoehorn” the carrier’s business model into their solution instead of collaborating with them to set new goals and company visions. Implementing a technology that is not part of a complete solution often results in an investment that brings limited benefits. This complete solution includes/requires buy-in from the senior executive team right down to the guy sweeping the warehouse floors. Setting realistic goals and targets throughout the process is key to achieving a successful implementation and the company achieving their expected ROI.
Let's imagine an organization that decided to fit their tractors with a "black box" that would provide them with key activity data: GPS position, idle times, hard braking incidents, etc. After the product is installed there's basic training given to all dispatchers, planners and perhaps maintenance on the benefits of the technology...how to pull data from it and how to view vehicle and driver performance. The "black box" technology was sold with the promise that it would improve fuel economy, make drivers more accountable and increase margins. What wasn't sold was the process of "how" this was going to be accomplished. Therefore, the technology was implemented without assessing the impact on the existing processes and as a result, the people tasked with implementing the new technology reverted back to the old way of doing things. Eventually, management comes to the conclusion they made a "bad" investment and decide to look for alternate technology or just "park it" to avoid the re-occurring fees.
What happened here is a classic example of the "how" not being properly implemented. The impact of the investment was not properly documented across the organization, new expectations and KPI's were not enforced and monitored, leaving gaps in the "new" process and allowing the "old" process to creep back in. Let's face it - most people are creatures of habit and don't like working outside their comfort zone. These 3 simple points could help avoid this situation in your company:
- Understand that a "black box" by itself will not solve all your problems. Make sure to do your due diligence in the vendor selection process.
- A potential technology provider/partner should realize that it must provide more value than just a "black box". There are dozens of those vendors out there. They must understand your current business process in order to recommend an end-to-end solution to be competitive and to ensure that their products are not commoditized.
- In economically challenging times like we've just seen, the ones who make it through the other side are those willing and eager to accept change. Technology can indeed be the "profitability answer" when it is structured alongside a well thought out implementation process and has complete buy-in and adoption throughout the entire organization.
Look for ways to institutionalize a solution - not just the technology - and identify a vendor that doesn't view their product as just another "black box" but rather a tool used as part of an all-encompassing solution. They should be willing to work with you in creating a long lasting relationship and ongoing delivery of the value proposition.