AWARDS 2008 WINNER'S INTERVIEW: CFC Solutions
17 September 2008
After 25 years in fleet software, CFC Solutions' ever-evolving product programme is keeping it ahead of its rivals. Tristan Young speaks to MD Neville Briggs about how the firm plans to make it a hat-trick of wins at the BusinessCar Awards
Tristan Young: What does winning the BusinessCar Award mean to CFC?
Neville Briggs: Because the BusinessCar Awards are voted for by readers of the magazine, it is a great award to win - it comes, effectively, from experts across the industry who really know what is happening. Certainly, everyone at CFC has been very pleased and several of our customers called to congratulate us.
What sets you apart from your competitors?
There are a number of things that set CFC apart from other companies in the fleet software industry.
Key points are size and heritage - we have been developing fleet software systems for more than a quarter of a century and have a very wide user base, providing existing and new customers with a great deal of stability and a wealth of fleet management expertise. This means that as we bring team members through the business they are able to build on our core understanding of fleet requirements. Most importantly, however, they are able to take this understanding further by working closely with customers as the market requirement evolves.
Another important factor is the ongoing investment in the latest technologies that we make. Also, as a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, we have access to the latest Microsoft technology before it hits the general market.
Will you be able to keep winning?
We have a product programme designed to keep us at the forefront of the industry and one of the largest development teams in our software sector in order to meet that aim. All our developers are encouraged to achieve and maintain Microsoft qualifications to keep them at the leading edge of the latest introductions. So our aim is to keep winning.
What changes have you implemented in the past year?
Our account management team have been working increasingly closely with our existing customers to ensure they are gaining the full benefits of the cost efficiencies and process improvements any of our CFC systems can bring.
These user evaluation audits bring a twofold benefit - they allow us to support customers in getting the very most from their software investment on an ongoing basis. In turn, we get a unique insight into the very latest fleet requirements - which we feed back into our software development process.
What impact is the credit crunch having on your market?
The credit crunch is having a kind of push-pull effect on the fleet software sector. On one hand, clearly some existing and potential customers have effectively stopped investing in their fleet for the meantime. On the other, some customers want to improve efficiency and see fleet software as a key way of achieving this.
There are a number of issues that have highlighted the need for comprehensive fleet management - examples being duty of care and the need for carbon footprint reduction. Fleets that have persisted with using generic spreadsheet software to control and monitor their fleet are finding that, because of these emerging factors, they do not have the right technology to really take control.
For many companies, the current economic conditions have highlighted that they can no longer operate their fleet without the means to provide the kind of structure that fleet software can provide - in other words to implement a strategy and carry out accurate, real-time measurements. Products such as ours provide an immediate indicator of cost and a means of controlling that cost.
How are customer demands changing?
In the past few years, it has become apparent to more and more companies operating large numbers of vehicles that dedicated software is the only way to manage the rapidly increasing amount of information that fleets are producing. This has come about as a direct result of needing to control areas such as duty of care, the environment and, most recently, increased pressure on costs.
Customers are now looking for fleet software that will pull together all of the information that fleets generate, process it thoroughly in line with parameters the fleet manager has put in place, and then present it in reports that allow fleet decisions to be made effectively based on timely and relevant information.
Something we are noticing more and more is an emphasis from customers on having a single system that brings everything together rather than having a series of standalone tools such as using a combination of fleet software and a spreadsheet.
This is as a result of pressure on time and the increasing prevalence of multiple job responsibilities in the current climate.
How are you keeping up with this?
Increasingly, our products are designed to sit at the hub of a series of information feeds from a wide variety of sources - from fuel card companies to insurers to drivers themselves. Some of our customers have 20 or more interfaces of this type, all continually pushing data into our software. The way in which the products can be set up and configured - allowing fleet managers to use software to put in place the management infrastructure and fleet policy that they envisage - and then report on how these targets are being met, is a direction in which we are increasingly taking our product development.
It is all about bringing products to market that deliver measurable benefits - lower costs, higher levels of efficiency, increased customer service and as close to complete compliance with legislative and taxation measures as can be achieved.