Remember the days of fax machines, typewriters and word processors, when data analysis relied on brainpower? Fleet managers today rely more on byte-generated intelligence.

Today's software offers organisations benefits stretching far beyond the limitations of packages that arrived with the inception of the digital age.

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Do you remember your first "real" job? With only a few days warning, and less than two weeks of training, I went from the receptionist to the fleet administrator for a 1,000+ truck fleet. And this began my adventure into the fleet world.

Mounds of paper
When I entered the fleet industry, paper was the norm at my company. Although society had begun the shift to digital, it was still slowly making its way into fleet. It seemed like everything was done the old-fashioned way and required lots of manual review time.

We received multiple monthly invoices that had to be checked for accuracy – a task that was incredibly time-consuming with no guarantee that items weren't overlooked. And we managed our inventory with seemingly endless stack of papers.

While the shift from paper to digital had already begun, our system of hard copies remained at the forefront. Going completely digital – aka getting rid of paper – was still a scary thought for most people.

Welcome to the digital world
Over the years, we gradually shifted to digital systems. Invoices began to come electronically, which was nice since no one enjoyed flipping through a 100-page invoice to check each line item. Records were kept for new-vehicle orders in an electronic format, further simplifying the process.

Fleet management companies also made big changes, adding features like vehicle pick-up requests and note keeping to individual vehicle records that could be done with a few simple clicks of a mouse.

After seven years in the fleet industry, I made the switch to work at one of the fleet companies I engaged with during my time as a fleet manager – LeasePlan USA. Here, I have had the opportunity to see these advancements on an even higher level.

Welcome to the mobility world
With the rise of technological advancements in fleet such as connected vehicles, the rollout of even bigger and better online reporting began to emerge, and solutions like electronic tolls and violations management became possible. And with the introduction and adoption of mobile technology, the fleet management industry began to actively participate in the digital transformation the rest of the world was already experiencing.

Now, more than a decade since my start in fleet management, digital transformation has continued to advance at an ever-increasing rate. We are seeing the rise of autonomous vehicles, bigger and better analytics (more on this later) and mobility services are transforming fleet operations.

Those who are in the industry, both on the provider and the customer side, are going to have to expand their definitions of what makes up a "fleet" in this new world of mobility. Fleet companies will continue to innovate. And fleet managers will continue to explore new ways of keeping their fleet mobile, while focusing on the safety of their drivers and the impact on their budgets. And this probably means looking at the bigger picture to include total cost of mobility instead of just total cost of ownership.

Mobile technology: a game changer
Ten years ago, the smart phone was in its infancy. Now, it seems to be the driving force behind most of our lives, managing everything from our bank accounts, to our calendars, to our order at Starbucks.

With the advancement of mobile technology, applications that free fleet managers from their desks have emerged. Fleet managers can now monitor their fleet activities from a mobile app – something that barely seemed feasible just a decade ago.

Perhaps more importantly, this development has given drivers the ability to remain focused on their jobs by integrating tasks directly into their mobile phone. Things like getting their license and registration data submitted, reporting personal mileage and even getting vehicle order updates can be done from a mobile device through an app like MyLeasePlan.

This digital transformation has made it possible for fleet managers and fleet drivers to accomplish more in less time. In turn, it has helped companies find ways to reduce the cost of managing a fleet in an environment where the cost of running a fleet vehicle will most likely increase. For example, with our new interactive dashboards, you can see all your fleet data in one place to help you make decisions about your future, based on your past and present. If only I'd had that data at my fingertips to help me understand performance instead of paper and spreadsheets when I was starting my career!

In a nutshell
Digital tools are transforming our lives, both personally and professionally. I have been privileged to witness the changes first hand. I can only hope others are as excited as I am by what's happening in the fleet industry and what's next.

Are you ready for the transformation? Contact us today if you need some help navigating this new and exciting fleet world we live in.

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Data is king.* These three words are often repeated across many industries, but there is truth to the statement. As consumers and businesses progress into a more connected ecosystem, it's crucial to optimize and maximize efficiencyand to do that, utilization of data in the proper way means the world.

Data makes the world go 'round

Today, in the palms of our hands, we have access to nearly all the knowledge in the world. Our mobile phones can do things we would never have dreamt of just 50 years ago. We're able to consume information at an astonishing rate, and it has created a visible shift in how we communicate.

As technology rapidly improved, our methods of communication shifted: from written letters, to fax, to email, to real-time communication in text messaging and chat programs. And this shift has made information available for us on demand. Companies spend a lot of money to ensure what shows up in social feeds or ad-based marketing are targeted to the desired audience and they do so using data science – because it works.

Introducing the connected vehicle

It's no wonder that in the time we moved from the wired telephone to being able to group video chat on our phones that another consumer item also became increasingly connected. And it's not one that you might think of first: your car.

Cars, and subsequently drivers, hold a breadth of dataand in a world where data is king, not utilizing it is a travesty in and of itself. Our vehicles hold a wealth of information that, to most, is hidden under a sheen of mystery. We know it's there, but we don't quite understand how it works.

When our check engine light comes on, we panic. Our tire pressure notification light highlights and we feel inconvenienced. And we, as drivers, occasionally find ourselves going a bit faster than we should and then we're angry when we get a speeding ticket. Perhaps, you sit in your car to finish a call, letting it idle so you don't need to deal with the inconvenience of your Bluetooth disconnecting.

Data is vital for fleets

Currently, utilization of data is crucial for proper vehicle performance and driver efficiency and it holds even truer for businesses with fleets. If you've ever tuned into performance racing, you see people in pit crews holding a tablet with charts, graphs and figures moving about. Gone are the days where this is specific to just that demographic. As vehicles become more connected, understanding what data points are meaningful is as important as the data itself.

It's important to monitor peak engine performance at all times for a race car to ensure the vehicle can continue driving safely at upwards of 100 MPH. However, you probably don't want your drivers trying to go that quickly in your fleet vehicle. But if they do, it's important to know that it occurred. And that's where data collection from the vehicle comes into play.

Not all kings are created equal

If data is king, understanding and ingesting the data is queen. With tens of thousands of data points available, wading through the noise and excess to extract important and actionable insights is proven as a valuable service – perhaps from your fleet provider.

But the value in understanding data metrics extends beyond simple revenue generation. It's understanding key performance indicators (KPIs) that measure how impactful certain datasets are. However, in a world where data is king, not all kings are equal. For instance, by understanding your specific behavior patterns, targeted ad campaigns can leverage KPIs to highlight the items most important for you.

Targeted ads show relevant products or services based on your prior search behavior and browsing patterns. Utilizing a vast pool of data across a large population, these advertising campaigns utilize machine learning and neural networks to target the people who are most likely to click the ad. All this data is accrued just by using your search engine or online shopping.

Much like search engines, vehicles provide data in spadesengine hours, engine temperature, diagnostic trouble codes, speed, acceleration, braking, location, fuel economy, distance traveledand that's just to name a few. The deluge of information can easily be overwhelming, and the vast amount of data must be corralled and normalized to be useful.

Data normalization, in essence, takes those tens of thousands of data points and derives the data into separate events. Events can be meaningful or meaninglessand the meaning is dependent on your fleet's goals. For example, if increasing safety is your goal, the data will enable you to see how each driver performing. Then, you can target specific situations as necessary to reduce risky behavior such as, speeding, aggressive acceleration or harsh braking, which can lead to preventable incidents such as rear-ending.

Unfortunately, there's no cookie cutter solution that fulfills a one-size-fits-all approach. And determining the right event data to optimize your fleet requires a thorough understanding of both the fleet and the data.

Not all data is created equal

Another point of distinction is that not all data is created equal, and should not be treated as such. Different OEMs provide different data points. And all of them use their own specifications to remain proprietary. Some OEMs provide more data than others, and the further back in history you go, the scarcer data becomes (across all OEMs).

It's unrealistic to expect that a fleet is made up of all brand-new vehicles conforming to a uniform make and model. So, it's important to understand that discrepancies in data and extrapolating the meaningful bits hangs in a fine balance. This balance is important to maintain through bringing data in from the best source possible for each vehicle.

The ultimate goal: to be data agnostic

Another term thrown around the data conversation and business intelligence utilization is data agnostic. What that means for the world of vehicles becoming more connected is: by sourcing data from different OEMs and from different vendors who make it their focus to bring that data to life, you can see a better picture of the fleet at large rather than conforming to a single data source.

Data agnostic insights are important because it shows the best possible data for each individual vehicle. This alleviates the problem of mixed fleets and tailors actionable insights to the best of each vehicle's abilityregardless of manufacturer.

In a world where data is king, finding the right queen to reel it all in and give it meaning is a paramount decision. Find out how the power of data via telematics can help your business through our eBook, "How – and why – telematics drives value."

* LeasePlan is committed to ensuing we handle customer, business partner and employee data to a high and compliant standard. We were one of the first companies to introduce a set of binding privacy rules across the whole of our organization, and we have established a dedicated Privacy Office to make sure those rules are upheld. But this does not make us complacent. As technology develops and our use of data changes, LeasePlan is continuously working to improve our data protection policies, processes and systems.

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Small fleets may not always see telematics as a priority. With smaller margins the cost of the service may seem prohibitive, but even smaller fleets can yield strong results. A fleet operations manager with a fleet comprised of nearly 50 vehicles realized higher average fuel mileage and lower cost per mile by implementing telematics into his fleet.

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