If you ask a service professional if they “manage their fleet,” the answer is going to be yes. What self-respecting business owner of any stripe would release their employees into a chaotic hurricane of service visits without the bare minimum of oversight? With the broad proliferation of technologies like GPS and mobile phones, fleet management, as an abstract, is a foregone conclusion. But what does fleet management actually mean for companies?

Aberdeen’s recent research into the state of field service decisively shows that while most service companies want to invest in their fleet, not all fleet managers are created equal. Based on the wants, needs, and budgets of various service companies, we’ve created a set of characterizations for fleet managers. Consider them below:

  • Watchers rely almost exclusively on location. Their priority is understanding the physical location of their fleet and ensuring that technicians are effectively moving from job-to-job in a timely and accurate manner.
  • Planners take this a step further by reviewing planning, scheduling, routing, and using historical data to ensure that their fleet is deployed efficiently, building upon in-the-moment accountability towards premeditated planning.
  • Optimizers look to take managing their fleet from an operational liability to a brand differentiator. Using sophisticated tools like automation, predictive, and territory analysis, these firms are able to maximize fleet utilization by building optimized territory maps and intelligent routing.
  • Integrators take the robust, optimized data collected through Fleet Management systems and combine those insights with other business areas to create a more complete picture to measure service effectiveness.

If you see yourself as falling into the first two categories, I have bad news for you. Organizations that remain entrenched in accountability and the day-to-day struggle of routing are tripping over dollars to pick up pennies. The average watcher or planner is focused on discipline and oversight, when successful organizations understand that they need to invest in the technologies that will help them grow. By investing in cheap, disposable solutions for fleet management, these organizations are shutting off pathways to scalability, limiting their capabilities in the eyes of their customers, and making future growth more costly, requiring the removal of entrenched systems, re-training on new systems, and disruption of the natural evolution of a firm.

Optimizers, with their more structured solutions, don’t have to worry about that. For these organizations, fleet management ceases to be seen as a bandage to stop the bleeding, and transforms into a brand differentiator. Imagine the goodwill that it will engender in the eyes of your customer to know that you’re investing in complex territory planning and real-time scheduling updates not just to improve your bottom-line, but to improve their experience. Of course, just doing that on its own is not enough. It’s up to you to find the messaging that articulates these tech advancements to your customers.

Integrators take the complex systems put in place by optimizers and make the data collected work across the organization. Aberdeen’s recent report, Fleet Management as Data Management: Integrated Systems Drive Better Results, explores the many nuances, considerations, and benefits of this approach.

The bottom line is this: Fleet Management doesn’t mean the same thing it did five years ago. The toolset for building fleet solutions is constantly growing, and organizations need to evaluate their maturity to see where they fall on the fleet management spectrum.