Collaborative innovation: the key to breakthrough Fleet propositions?

Understanding a fleet cost centre may not be rocket science, but you could argue that today's service providers don't do much to make it easier. Imagine operating a fleet of a hundred or so sales reps or service engineers....getting to grips with the costs of that activity will still involve extracting and combining data from a leasing company, a telecoms provider, a corporate card program, a fuel card and possibly more. Really?

And yet, fleet operators have not yet seen any significant progress from the market in proposing integrated solutions. This despite the well-known advances in GPS, telematics, payment, expense management and artificial intelligence technologies, which are being driven from outside the mainstream market. Curious, isn't it?

Yes, and no.

In the fuel card world as in others, entrenched and outmoded attitudes towards customer ownership throw obstacles in the way of real innovation. Rigid determination to "own the customer relationship" blinkers firms to the possibilities offered by open and collaborative innovation - and that will have to change.

Fear of being displaced from a direct customer relationship, or "giving" away the value of your own transaction data, seems to hinder the sort of collaborative thinking which could deliver exciting new propositions for the Fleet customer. Yet, at the same time, that customer is more ready than ever for breakthrough propositions which deliver enhanced understanding and management capability.

Only when Fleet service providers put their heads together to think through the possibilities offered by cooperation, and together imagine the potential to jointly exploit some of the emerging technologies around Fleet, will we see the sort of innovation the market craves.

What emerges from these "innovation laboratories" may be strategic alliance, independently branded joint venture or co-funded and co-launched new services - but it seems altogether certain that the market will demand it happens. And quickly.

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