The Agile Fleet

Insights, ideas, & expertise for optimal fleet management

Part 1: Motor pool technology -- should you build it or buy it?

Posted by The Agile Fleet on September 17, 2015

Build or buyThis is Part One of a two-part blog post examining the pros and cons of building your own fleet and motor pool automation solution.

So you’ve decided to automate your motor pool management, that's great!  Now what?  You may ask yourself, “should we buy an off-the-shelf fleet and motor pool management system or build our own?” Be careful how you answer.  It may have some not-so-positive cost and productivity implications that could ripple throughout your organization. Over the years, we have heard a lot of reasons fleet managers consider building their own solution. Following is Part One (of our two-part blog post) which offers some of the most common reasons we've heard for building an in-house solution, with advice from the experts on how to avoid hidden pitfalls before you begin.

Part 1:  "We can do it better."

Reason #1.  "We can do it better than the experts." You know fleet management, but consider whether you can tackle fleet and motor pool software development better than the experts. Do you have a development environment?  How about a test environment?  Do you have all of the tools you really need?  Only you know the capabilities of your engineering resources.  But engineering resources are only the tip of the iceberg.  The task of specifying and managing the thousands of software requirements that must be incorporated, tested, released, and maintained, will tax your fleet resources. Consider whether or not you are prepared to burden your fleet resources with that task. 

Reason #2.  "We can do it faster ourselves." It's easy to underestimate the time it takes to develop your solution. Consider the time frame for each of the following activities: identifying requirements, system specifications and approvals needed; software development time; defining & refining the hosting environment; and testing. Don't forget implementation. Remember, reputable, well-established software vendors will import your fleet data during your evaluation process so that you can experience the software in your own environment. So, even skipping the months or years of anticipated development time, an off-the-shelf solution can most often be implemented in a much quicker time frame than an in-house solution. 

Reason #3.  "We just need something simple." A very simple capability could probably be built quickly, however be careful what you wish for, you just might get it. The list of considerations for one simple vehicle request form alone could well exceed 100 different aspects. A simple system could be so limited in its capabilities that it would be only marginally beneficial relative to a well-planned and tested commercial product that has been put through its paces thousands of times by organizations such as yours. 

Reason #4.  "We need something different." If you feel your fleet has unique needs, you're probably not alone. Every fleet has unique challenges, and a reputable vendor most likely has already built custom solutions for organizations similar to yours to meet those challenges. Plus, they may have built solutions to address issues that you may have not anticipated. Vendors can also provide references so you can speak to peers who have "been there and done that" and benefit from their experience.

Reason #5.  "We can build an interim solution." Remember, an interim solution will be just that. If you build something for "in the meantime" you most likely will find yourself needing to build upon it later, or be seeking a more permanent solution later. That kind of wasted effort can be costly and time consuming. If you choose to purchase an existing software solution, your efforts are "once and done." And if you take advantage of the many pre-vetted procurement contracts, there is no need to spend time with a lengthy RFP process. (For more on no-RFP purchasing, click here.)

Part 2 of this blog post, where we examine cost savings and more reasons fleet managers consider building their own solution can be found here. It will offer an indepth look at hidden downsides to be aware of before beginning.

If you are considering building your own motor pool automation system, don't miss our new e-guide that offers detailed action plans for addressing many more common challenges that come along with building your own solution. Click below to download.

E-Guide:  Fleet Management Software: Build it or Buy it?


Topics: Motor Pool Technology

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