West-Oliver Managing a complex vehicle fleet, for demanding corporate clients, particularly on the scale of the large vehicle leasing and fleet management companies has more to do with managing big data than the more traditional role of the fleet manager, which is the view of Simon West-Oliver, Director of technology firm Drive Software Solutions.

Explaining what he means, West-Oliver says: “The large complex fleets run by some of our leasing clients have taken shape organically over the 20 years or more with competition between firms and customer expectations adding layer upon layer of service levels and obligations over time to what originally might have been straight forward finance lease without maintenance agreements. As a result, leasing companies now find themselves managing a myriad of different contract types for thousands of different organisations, meaning there is greater scope than ever for mistakes and oversights to happen.”

West-Oliver continues: “Broadly the response of leasing companies has been to tackle this increased complication through the use of technology. The suppliers to leasing companies and the IT industry have consequently developed systems for every aspect of fleet management from vehicle acquisition to handling in-contract invoice payments, maintenance authorisations, the purchase and distribution of tax disks, fuel management, and driver management right through to vehicle disposal.”

West-Oliver ads, “The net result is most large leasing companies are now typically running their operations using multiple significant, separate IT systems to carry out the different functions within their business. As none of these systems were designed to work with the specific combination of other systems employed in any given fleet management environment leasing companies are forced to employ large teams of IT managers and developers to constantly maintain and upgrade the interfaces between one system and the others.”

Explaining the options open to leasing and vehicle management companies, West-Oliver says, “The efficient management and profitability of a leasing fleet is tied up in how well a leasing or fleet management company can control its expenditure. The market largely dictates pricing, input costs (like vehicles and the cost of money) and RVs are a function of the used car market. So it comes down to how well you can manage what happens in between.”

West-Oliver continues, “The management of big data is the major opportunity for leasing and vehicle management companies to take proper control of their cost management. The only way leasing companies can do that is by employing proper database driven systems, which operate from one end of their business to the other, giving seamless access to that data which will allow them to make a difference to their businesses.”

West-Oliver concludes by saying, “There is a huge competitive advantage to be gained by leasing companies who have systems that provide genuine seamless oversight of the business. To date there is one leasing company in the UK with such a system in place and it has cut its IT costs by 70%.”

Asked to comment, the CEO of that leasing company said, “Yes, we are seeing a very significant reduction in overheads, but the DRIVE technology is making us a leaner and more agile organisation. It is not just internally where the benefits of DRIVE are being felt. We are now delivering improved customer service through what is called “Business Process out-sourcing” where our IT system now empowers our customers with far greater levels of online self service facilities.”