Deploying an enterprise-level fleet management or asset tracking solution from the ground up is complicated. I can tell you from on-the-ground, personal experience that it takes hard work and an integrated effort from a cross-sectional team of hardware designers, engineers, software teams, network providers, and system integrators.
In this article, I'm going to share a few insights I gained as the technical project manager for an enterprise fleet management solution as it was deployed on a national scale.
Place yourself back in the dark ages–Netflix is simply Blockbuster with a twist. Watching a movie requires you to actually get off of the couch, crouch down, and place a DVD inside the DVD player. After all your hard work, you sit back, open up your bag of microwaved popcorn and start watching The Lion King, a Disney classic. All of a sudden, the TV screen begins to glitch, scenes skip around, and Simba’s voice sounds more like a robot than a baby lion. But, you don’t fret–you’re a DVD expert. You stand right up, take out the DVD from the player, wash it with soap and warm water, dry it off, and place it right back in as if nothing happened. Everything’s smooth sailing from there and you get to sit back and enjoy the animated masterpiece.
Troubleshooting an enterprise level IoT Fleet Management solution is nowhere near as simple as the DVD example. What happens when you don’t receive GPS position updates from custom hardware?
Some issues are easy to diagnose and deploy a quick fix. Some aren’t. Firmware and software bugs, as well as network issues, are a part of any scaled IoT deployment. Having the right communication and operating strategies across the cross-sectional teams is key to determining root cause and mitigating issues as they inevitably arise.
Humans are creatures of habit. Just because an asset tracking solution is supposed to create operational efficiencies, and therefore make everyone’s life easier, doesn’t mean everyone’s going to hop on board.
In my project, for example, multiple jobs were significantly altered or outright obviated with the introduction of the Fleet Management solution we implemented. To outline one major change, Security Personnel gained the time-consuming responsibility of associating tracking devices, maintaining tracker populations, and inserting/removing devices from vehicles throughout the day. This change took some getting used to, and as a member of the implementation and project management team, I had to be as supportive and helpful as possible–even when dealing with a ton of user pushback.
There’s an old adage often misattributed to Thomas Jefferson that goes: “I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have." I generally agree with this statement, and definitely agree with it in the context of deploying an Enterprise Fleet Management solution leveraging IoT.
In my time as a project manager for a scaled, IoT asset tracking solution, I had to ship thousands of trackers at FedEx and UPS, lift and carry heavy boxes, run for miles on large parking lots looking for specific vehicles, attend countless meetings, pull 17 hour work days, and travel for months on end. All of these tasks are necessary for successfully launching solutions off the ground.
Hard work is no joke, but the feeling of a successful project is worth the grind.