Thanks for taking time to speak with us and discuss with our blog community. You recently shared your personal outlook for this year on LinkedIn where you gave insights into the industry and predicted upcoming trends. But before we jump into 2017, how would you summarise 2016?
It is my pleasure to speak with you and our readers. For Alphabet, 2016 was a successful, dynamic and exciting year marked by strong growth. Some highlights include the launch of our latest innovation, AlphaFlex, in Belgium, new features for our AlphaGuide app and a visionary customer event about autonomous driving. Last month, we premiered in China, our 19thmarket, so 2017 is already starting off strong. I look forward to the many new opportunities ahead!
Speaking of opportunities, on LinkedIn you predicted three trends for 2017: telematics, fuel management & safety and new Business Mobility concepts. Why did you choose them?
There are a number of exciting innovations and advances currently infiltrating fleet management. I chose these three topics because, in my view, they represent the biggest opportunities and the biggest challenges. Let’s take telematics, for instance. When speaking about telematics we must remember that the Internet of Things (Iot) plays a key role. Thanks to IoT, telematics data seamlessly pairs with other data sources to generate powerful insights for fleet managers, companies and, in some cases, drivers. An estimated 50 billion ‘things’ will be capable of connectivity by 2020, meaning we are certain to see additional ways for telematics to automate and control aspects of Business Mobility in the near future.
What does this mean for companies?
In 2017 organisations stand to gain a lot from telematics. For example, greater efficiency in terms of cost, fuel or time, and more accurate and easier maintenance scheduling, CO2 and fuel reports, employee time tracking and electronic driver logbooks. Further, they can acquire detailed insights that will help them make smarter business decisions. However, organisations with international fleets must bear in mind that data protection regulations can vary greatly from country to country. Also, companies should be cautious not to create a ‘Big Brother’ atmosphere.
You briefly mentioned fuel management in combination with telematics. Fleet managers are usually concerned about their bottom line when it comes to fuel management. How would you respond?
I am well aware of fleet managers’ concerns, especially since fuel consumes a significant portion of a company’s mobility budget, and affects a company’s carbon footprint. One related trend that’s cropping up in 2017 is right-sizing a fleet.
Can you be more specific?
Gladly. Good fuel management today can be done by investing in cars that consume less without sacrificing space or performance, what’s known as right-sizing. For me, right-sizing involves 1) The number of cars, 2) The mileage these cars are driving, and 3) The size of the car. In the end, all this is defined by a company’s car policy. And saving cost starts by reviewing it. Then a company must evaluate whether or not the vehicle size fits a driver’s needs and job classification. If not, they should switch to a smaller model. Implementing these types of changes can be hard, but they can also be very good for a company. Especially if performance remains equal or better while expenditures and CO2 emissions decrease.
That said, companies should take care not to be overly scrupulous to save a few euros and reduce their carbon footprint, only to have resentful employees. Strive for balance instead.
To a great extent, Business Mobility remains exclusively car-related. Do you see new Business Mobility concepts gaining momentum?
I certainly do. We are already seeing a shift from car-centric Business Mobility solutions to flexible, multi-modal ones. Today, the world in which we live is in a state of rapid change and the line between our private and work spheres is blurring. Simultaneously, people’s behaviour is changing. For instance people are electing to live in cities and don’t have a parking space, and some part-time employees are only at the office 3 days a week. I strongly believe that to accommodate these changes – and ensure companies’ and people’s needs are met – mobility too must change. Therefore, flexible, innovative and clever Business Mobility solutions that can be tailored to each company’s unique requirements are the clear answer.
Are companies beginning to adopt new mobility concepts?
This year a growing number of companies will look for flexible solutions that break traditional mobility paradigms. The one-size-fits-all (or most) approach to fleets is officially a relic of times past. Both companies and employees profit from more flexible, versatile and eco-friendly modes of transport. But exploring this new territory requires a sophisticated solution.
As previously mentioned, today our focus is no longer exclusively on cars, but is shifting to encompass a range of transport options, including carsharing, private leasing, cycling, public transport and car pooling. I am certain that variety and flexibility, along with the rising demand for eco-friendly transport, will shape the future of mobility – in 2017 and beyond.
In your LinkedIn article you say that with Business Mobility concepts entering a new era, fleet managers should expect new challenges this year. Can you explain what you mean?
As companies redefine and change what Business Mobility means to them, the role of the fleet manager will change, too. I see a clear trend of their role transitioning from fleet manager to mobility manager. He or she will be responsible for drawing up plans for a company’s complete mobility offer, comparable to the task of an architect. Employees benefit from seamless access and management of flexible transport options using easy online tools like apps.
Of course, this won’t happen instantaneously or even within one year. Fleet policies and corporate structures take time to revise, and typically do so in a more evolutionary than revolutionary fashion. Furthermore, companies need time to sort out the financial impact a new Business Mobility concept might have on their bottom line.
Thank you, Norbert, for sharing your insights into the top 2017 industry trends with us.