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Although you may already know what you’re looking for in route planning software, it may take you longer than you thought to find best one for your needs. There are several types of software on the market, each with its own set of features and services. Really, the best way to choose the best software for your needs is to research each product and ensure that you’ve considered as many of the points below as possible.
Cost versus the ROI
Too many owners and senior directors focus on upfront or monthly costs without weighing up the longer term savings made through route planning software. The simplest method to gauge an expected ROI prior to purchase is to provide all prospective suppliers with an accurate sample of data that includes cost data such as cost per mile, vehicle costs, labour costs, etc and get them to demonstrate how they calculated the ROI. Typically ROI is attained within 12 months of go live and the higher savings made through reductions in staff numbers (planners and drivers).
Access and Auditing
Although it may not always be at the top of the list of considerations, suitable access to the route planning software you choose is crucial. The maintenance of accurate data depends on the ability to control quality assurance measures. Features like the ability to assign user permissions can ensure that everyone has access to data that is specific to his or her job. For example, drivers may be able to access reports, but not alter them in any way. Or, dispatch may be able to add locations to a route, but not be able to change the route that a driver takes.
Auditing also becomes far easier with this type of role and rule based functionality enabled. When changes occur, user access allows for tracking of who may have changed information, what information was changed and when the changes occurred. This places the onus on software users to use the program responsibly as it provides you with a history of changes that can be reviewed at any given time.
Training and Mentoring
The only way to get the most benefit from your route planning software is to know how to use and optimise it… and that involves training. Any software you consider should include some form of training program. Moreover, learning the system can be much easier when your own route and driver data can be used especially if short timescales exist.
But learning which buttons to press and which data to import isn’t enough. There is still a skill in planning routes and it is imperative that the planner draws upon that knowledge bank when using the software. Formal training soon morphs into ‘mentoring’ which is more about sharing knowledge and experience, best practice and anecdotal lessons.
Real-Time Data Support and Integration
The route planning software industry is undergoing constant change. For this reason, any software you choose should be capable of supporting real-time data. Integration is a term used by many fleet management software providers. But not all of them define this term in the same way. To some, ‘integration’ means the ability to export data to a spreadsheet. This will not help you if you are seeking software that automatically imports data when driver or route information changes.
Integrated and Updated Maps
The manual modification of maps is a time-consuming process that can result in delayed schedules. However, when map data is included in the route planning software itself, there’s no need to wait for important data like new roads to be added by the vendor.
The difference between mediocre and essential route planning software really comes down to the considerations above. If all are present, chances are incredibly good that the software you choose is the right one for you, and will provide your business with a vastly improved bottom line.
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