Managing fleet data is a critical part of any fleet manager’s job. All the fleet information available to an organisation needs to be up-to-date and properly vetted in order to provide clear visibility of the fleet and to enable quality strategic decisions to be taken. Poorly managed data on the other hand can lead to numerous issues such as phantom fleets and budget overruns.
We’ve been working with fleet managers and leasing companies for many years, and during the numerous painstaking hours spent cleansing data, we contemplate better solutions to the problem. Here are five easy ways for fleet managers to keep their data in check and extract maximum value from it.
1. Have a standard reporting template/format for your suppliers:
Getting good quality information from leasing companies and fleet management firms is hard enough, so don’t complicate your work further by allowing them to provide data in whatever format and structure suits them. Setting a standard template across suppliers will make it much easier for you to collate and compare information, saving you hours, if not days and weeks, of effort when the time comes to making decisions from this data. It also impresses upon suppliers your seriousness for good data, as it indicates that you have spent time and effort in figuring out exactly what you need.
2. Only collect what you need:
There is something called, ‘too much of a good thing’. Most companies hoard data like a survivalist envisaging the end of the world, but with little understanding of how the data will help, and more of a compulsion to gathering whatever can be and figuring out the use later. While this approach might have helped in the early days of the information technology age, it is a self-defeating strategy in the modern, data-heavy world. Collecting unnecessary data forces needless overheads in terms of collection, cleaning, reporting, management and storage for both you and your suppliers. In the end, however, the benefit derived from such data is also limited.
Instead, focus on only collecting the data that meets your organisational objectives. In fact, it is often best to first figure out what strategic objectives you are working towards and then work backwards to identify the specific data you require to meet them. This helps streamline your data collection and management activities, and saves you the headache of sorting inconsequential data.
3. Automated cleaning algorithms:
Most of the data issues in fleet data are recurring and predictable. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean it is easier for an individual fleet manager to sort it out manually as many of these issues may be systemic owing to different reporting techniques and data standards. Luckily, there are now plenty of off-the-shelf products available that can be used to automatically clean up such data. From fully-customisable data cleaning engines such as Open Refine (formerly Google Refine) and fleet-specific solutions such as Smart Fleet, automated algorithms are now available to fleet managers to do the messy work for them, and ensure error-free data.
4. Use centralised platforms or solutions to manage data:
A sure shot way of ensuring even the best quality data is not optimally used is by storing and managing it in multiple Excel files and e-mails. Data is often obtained from different sources in disparate files and dashboards, which makes the simple process of managing their storage and utilisation complex. The best way around this is it to use a common platform or server to store everything under one roof in a systematic and organised manner. This centralised approach also saves enormous time and effort (and the related expenses) in finding old data and ensuring smooth transitions between fleet managers and leasing companies.
5. Hold suppliers liable by incorporating data quality into contracts:
None of the above steps will be of any use unless your suppliers are willing to cooperate. When possible try to incorporate data quality and reporting frequency requirements into your contract so that the supplier is obligated to provide you with the information you need in the way you need it. At the very least, get in place a simple agreement or understanding that commits your supplier to assisting with the your minimum data needs.
Without the right data in the right format, even the best fleet managers will be driving blind. Solutions such as Smart Fleet can be valuable partners for a fleet manager by essentially taking the tedious task of data management off their plate, providing more time to focus on higher value decision-making.
To find out how The Smart Cube can help you better understand your key categories and the forces influencing them, and develop effective sourcing strategies, read more about our procurement intelligence and analytics solutions or get in touch.