Fleet Alliance innovation makes it a class apart
14 October 2014
Business agility is central to Fleet Alliance's success, and is one reason behind the company claiming the
Best App prize in the BusinessCar Techies, writes Tom Seymour
Fleet management and funding provider Fleet Alliance has been using its e-Fleet Mobile app as a way to differentiate itself from the competition.
Martin Brown, Fleet Alliance managing director, tells BusinessCar that larger rivals in the industry have been slow to innovate and having a smaller company makes it easier to stand out from the crowd.
He says: "Having such a large company means it can be difficult to react to changes in the market. The way people are using technology is changing so quickly and the industry needs to react to that."
Fleet Alliance picked up the Best App award in BusinessCar's 2014 Techies, the only awards that recognise technology in the fleet sector.
The e-Fleet Mobile web application distils the company's services into an easy-to-use mobile-optimised website that puts its key fleet management services at the touch of button. It's the little brother to Fleet Alliance's desktop fleet management software, which will always be the starting point for customers, but development on a mobile version started after Brown noticed an increasing trend for mobile use on its website.
While e-Fleet is a web application, it's not an integrated app that you would find on the iTunes Store or Google Apps Marketplace.
By developing an application that is accessible through a web browser, it means any smartphone can access it, regardless of whether it's an Apple, Android, Windows or Blackberry device.
Brown says: "It makes it easier for us to make changes rather than having to update separate apps for separate operating systems, and all drivers are able to benefit when we make a change. It improves the accessibility."
Fleet Alliance is looking at making platform-specific integrated apps in the future, but it's not a key priority.
The e-Fleet Mobile service has now been running for 18 months, and 10,000 drivers out of Fleet Alliance's 11,000 are using it.
The web app displays tyre services, glass replacement, service and MoT booking, maintenance booking, breakdown and recovery, accident management, and insurance details all in one place. It means drivers don't need to search online for the numbers they need to call and can get the help they need quickly by using the web application.
The app also makes it much easier for drivers to record their mileage information, making the process electronic on their smartphone, rather than using bits of paper in the glove box.
Drivers can book in their next service, too, because the app can be tailored to each individual's registration numbers and will direct them to the closest nominated dealership or independent garage.
Meanwhile, fleet managers can access mileage reporting and contract extension control, with mileage split between private and business, all directly through the web application too.
Drivers can also use the web application to monitor the condition of their car and send any details of damage through the app to the fleet manager's e-Fleet system.
Brown says the app's list of technical features is helping more fleets that are looking to outsource some of their legislative burden, especially with the split in the industry between large fleets having dedicated fleet managers and then smaller companies adding fleet management as part of an existing job role in HR, finance or facilities.
Does this trend to outsource fleet management mean the role of the fleet manager is disappearing completely?
Brown says: "Companies like ours are having to become more professional and take on more risk as more fleet management becomes outsourced.
"The role of the fleet manager won't disappear, but companies of a certain size don't want the pressure and might not have the expertise to deal with what is expected from a fleet manager today.
"When you're looking at a business with over 400 vehicles, having a dedicated fleet manager can better represent the culture of the business and what it needs. Some clients with less than 50 vehicles really don't want anything to do with fleet."
Fleet Alliance is continuing to invest in its technology with 16 months' worth of development projects underway, with a full-time developer team of four people to help improve and launch new technology.
The next step for e-Fleet will be to add the ability to track drivers through their smartphone GPS to increase the accuracy of fuelling and speed information. Brown expects this new feature to be added to the e-Fleet Mobile app before the end of this year.
The biggest challenges facing Fleet Alliance in the next 12 months will be regulation from the Financial Conduct Authority. The FCA has taken over enforcing consumer credit from the Office of Fair Trading and is clamping down on all businesses that lend credit.
Brown said: "We need to make sure our systems comply with the FCA.
"We need to make sure we're covered from a legislative point of view, and that does draw on management time. Ultimately, it's a good thing that the FCA is cracking down as it will only improve the industry."