The Agile Fleet

Insights, ideas, & expertise for optimal fleet management

Part 2: Motor pool technology -- should you build it or buy it?

Posted by The Agile Fleet on October 20, 2015

Build or buyThis is Part Two 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 Two (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. If you missed Part One, read it here.

Part 2:  "We can do it cheaper."

Reason #6.  "We will know what we want when we start building it." Starting without a plan is a key to disaster and cost overruns. Whether you ultimately decide to build a solution or buy a solution, planning and documenting your long term strategy should not be under-estimated as a key ingredient for success. Consider starting by evaluating off the shelf products to find out what works for you.

Reason #7.  "We can build it cheaper." Let’s assume you develop an initial-capability system that solves an immediate need. What are the true costs that you incur for maintenance the day after the first capability is implemented? Will your development and support team be there at 5:00 p.m. if there is a problem? Are they available at night or at 6:00 a.m.? What are the lost costs associated with the time that the support person could be doing other work? Whose time will be consumed organizing requests from users for new capabilities? When there is a server issue or security audit, who will respond to the requests for information? Who will perform testing each time a new change is made? All of these costs add up. 

Reason #8.  "If we build it in pieces, we won’t have a large expense all at once." It is safe to say that the “big-bang approach” to developing a new fleet and motor pool management package isn’t wise. That is, if the new system will have twenty new capabilities, the most prudent approach is not to deploy twenty newly developed capabilities all on Day One. In fact, there is merit in tackling a large project in pieces. However, nearly every piece that is contemplated to be built for the foreseeable future must be thought of, specified, and considered into the end-state design before the first piece of software is written. Given that getting past the detailed specification phase of a project may represent as much as 60% of the project costs, one must carefully consider what the true costs are to roll-out the initial pieces. When the cost versus benefit analysis is considered, the return on investment of a third-party vendor may compare favorably. 

Reason #9.  "We can maintain it cheaper if we build it ourselves." Maintenance costs for internally-developed applications, unless managed very tightly, may rapidly spiral out of control. Do you require staff to be available 24 x 7? Covering this inevitability may have just increased your staffing costs.

Reason #10.  "We can manage and control the product better if we build it ourselves." Managing and controlling an ongoing fleet system is a time-consuming task. While fleet managers are well capable of managing day-to-day fleet tasks, the myriad of details that must be juggled when dealing with security, technology, and requirements may be more than you bargained for.

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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