Verizon Connect: driving growth and innovation
Derek Bryan, Vice President EMEA, Verizon Connect, discusses his predicitions for the year ahead and the company's 2019 developments and innovations.
Could you tell me a little bit about your company and your role at the company?
I’m the EMEA Vice President at Verizon Connect, responsible for driving growth and innovation across Verizon Connect’s portfolio, as well as leading the sales team and strategy. With over 18 years sales experience, I’ve got a passion for technology and specialise in software as a service (SaaS).
Verizon Connect offers advanced fleet management software solutions for a wide range of industries, including supply chain and logistics. It helps businesses to track vehicles in the field, improve fleet operations and encourage safer driving.
What are the current trends within your industry?
The big trend is the increasing use of data and analytics, especially within the supply chain industry. Thanks to additional processing power, managers are now able to generate multiple data sets at once, providing a more informed view of their supply chain fleet. At the same time, greater processing power makes all this extra data easier to understand and facilitates the automation of some tasks. It’s likely that this trend will continue to grow as the industry collects more contextually relevant data from a combination of devices such as vehicle, mobile and other IoT-enabled sensors.
Another innovation on the horizon is the additional computing power within vehicles. While the widespread adoption of autonomous vehicles may be some time off, the computing power of non-autonomous vehicles is already growing significantly, to the point that vehicles can now report more information to managers than ever before. This trend is likely to continue, as the depth and quality of this data increases, helping improve the management of vehicles, including maintenance, and reduce fuel consumption.
What makes your company competitive?
Verizon Connect was established through the merger of SaaS fleet management providers Fleetmatics, Telogis and Networkfleet, reflecting our rich heritage in building the best software to suit the needs of fleet managers. Not only does this include visibility of fleet locations, vehicle health, job allocation and driver behaviour, but also forms a digital foundation upon which fleet managers can easily implement new tools and innovations such as AI, Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) communication and enhanced driver safety systems based on predictive analytics.
With technology quickly shaping the future of the automotive industry, it’s crucial for fleet managers to have a single, centralised platform from which their business can run. That’s why we’ve made our solution ‘integration friendly’ through our API toolkit, which allows in-house software engineers or third-party developers to build custom connections between our software and another solution, from billing, payroll, and HR to maintenance, CRM and health and safety. Using commonly accepted standards and robust security protocols, our platform helps provide fleet managers with the software foundation they need to digitally transform and continue to compete and grow in today’s technology-driven business landscape.
What innovations has your company been developing during 2019?
We’ve launched several new products this year to enhance our platform and deliver more solutions for our customers. In September, we launched Immobilisation for Verizon Connect Reveal, which allows fleet managers to disable a vehicle’s ignition once the vehicle’s engine has been shut off, effectively stopping vehicle misuse in near real time. Developed specifically to prevent unauthorised use of vehicles and aid in the recovery of stolen vehicles, this new functionality provides customers with peace of mind that they have power to take action with the push of a button.
We’ve also launched a number of products that enhance access to the data sets, helping fleet managers to effectively plan ahead and reduce risk. For example, we launched Engine Connect in March, a tool designed for light commercial vehicles which collects critical data directly from a vehicle’s engine to help monitor for potential issues with the vehicle, helping prevent mechanical problems and increase vehicle uptime. We’ve also updated our digital tachograph offering so managers can now remotely download the data tracking driver activity and mileage. This is helping businesses be compliant with the new European tachograph regulations, as well as increasing vehicle uptime and streamlining day-to-day processes.
What are your predictions for the industry in 2020?
With artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) already a hot topic of discussion in 2019, it’s likely we’ll see its benefits come to light in fleet-based operations in 2020. As the growing mobile workforce requires increasingly frictionless engagement with managers, AI/ML will be key to keeping fleet-based operations running efficiently and to meeting customer expectations. For example, in the event that an electrician be delayed in installing a light fitting, AI/ML should be able to automatically identify the delay and assign another colleague to the next job – all without intervention from the worker or causing inconvenience to customers.
2020 may also see mobile workers harness the power of voice recognition technology to help improve safety. Despite the growing popularity of consumer products in recent years, there has been a slower rate of adoption of this technology from enterprises. Over the coming year, however, improved voice recognition technology will become an ever more powerful tool for the mobile worker, enabling hands free input of data, activation of tasks and streamlined communication with managers.
Is there any exciting news you’d like to share with our readers at Supply Chain Digital?
We’re constantly innovating at Verizon Connect, looking at the types of technologies that will help transform supply chains, vehicles and logistics and working on the ways our customers adopt them. At the same time, we’re always looking at how we can help improve efficiency, decrease operational costs and, crucially, make fleets safer and more secure.
We recently launched some research into driver hours and found that a surprising one-in-five commercial drivers in the UK are spending more than the legally defined period of 4.5 hours behind the wheel without a rest break, potentially putting themselves and other road users at risk of fatigue-related accidents. For drivers, there is a lot of pressure to meet strict service level agreements and cope with increased demand in the lead-up to Christmas, but safety must always come first. With health and safety at the top of the agenda for fleet managers, we will continue to provide customers with the tools they need to help stay safe and compliant on the road.
For more information on business topics in the Middle East and Africa, please take a look at the latest edition of Business Chief MEA.
Automation of repetitive tasks leads to higher value work
Two-thirds of global office workers feel they are constantly doing the same tasks over and over again. That’s according to a new study (2021 Office Worker Survey) from automation software company UiPath.
Whether emailing, inputting data, or scheduling calls and meetings, the majority of those surveyed said they waste on average four and a half hours a week on time-consuming tasks that they think could be automated.
Not only is the undertaking of such repetitious and mundane tasks a waste of time for employees, and therefore for businesses, but it can also have a negative impact on employees’ motivation and productivity. And the research backs this up with more than half (58%) of those surveyed saying that undertaking such repetitive tasks doesn’t allow them to be as creative as they’d like to be.
“When repetitive, unrewarding tasks are handled by people, it takes time and this can cause delays and reduce both employee and customer satisfaction,” Gavin Mee, Managing Director of UiPath Northern Europe tells Business Chief. “Repetitive tasks can also be tedious, which often leads to stress and an increased likelihood to leave a job.”
And these tasks exist at all levels within an organisation, right up to executive level, where there are “small daily tasks that can be automated, such as scheduling, logging onto systems and creating reports”, adds Mee.
Automation can free employees to focus on higher value work
By automating some or all of these repetitive tasks, employees at whatever level of the organisation are freed up to focus on meaningful work that is creative, collaborative and strategic, something that will not only help them feel more engaged, but also benefit the organisation.
“Automation can free people to do more engaging, rewarding and higher value work,” says Mee, highlighting that 68% of global workers believe automation will make them more productive and 60% of executives agree that automation will enable people to focus on more strategic work. “Importantly, 57% of executives also say that automation increases employee engagement, all important factors to achieving business objectives.”
These aren’t the only benefits, however. One of the problems with employees doing some of these repetitive tasks manually is that “people are fallible and make mistakes”, says Mee, whereas automation boosts accuracy and reduces manual errors by 57%, according to Forrester Research. Compliance is also improved, according to 92% of global organisations.
Repetitive tasks that can be automated
Any repetitive process can be automated, Mee explains, from paying invoices to dealing with enquiries, or authorising documents and managing insurance claims. “The process will vary from business to business, but office workers have identified and created software robots to assist with thousands of common tasks they want automated.”
These include inputting data or creating data sets, a time-consuming task that 59% of those surveyed globally said was the task they would most like to automate, with scheduling of calls and meetings (57%) and sending template or reminder emails (60%) also top of the automation list. Far fewer believed, however, that tasks such as liaising with their team or customers could be automated, illustrating the higher value of such tasks.
“By employing software robots to undertake such tasks, they can be handled much more quickly,” adds Mee pointing to OTP Bank Romania, which during the pandemic used an automation to process requests to postpone bank loan instalments. “This reduced the processing time of a single request from 10 minutes to 20 seconds, allowing the bank to cope with a 125% increase in the number of calls received by call centre agents.”
Mee says: “Automation accelerates digital transformation, according to 63% of global executives. It also drives major cost savings and improves business metrics, and because software robots can ramp-up quickly to meet spikes in demand, it improves resilience.
Five business areas that can be automated
Mee outlines five business areas where automation can really make a difference.
- Contact centres Whether a customer seeks help online, in-store or with an agent, the entire customer service journey can be automated – from initial interaction to reaching a satisfying outcome
- Finance and accounting Automation enables firms to manage tasks such as invoice processing, ensuring accuracy and preventing mistakes
- Human resources Automations can be used across the HR team to manage things like payroll, assessing job candidates, and on-boarding
- IT IT teams are often swamped in daily activity like on-boarding or off-boarding employees. Deploying virtual machines, provisioning, configuring, and maintaining infrastructure. These tasks are ideal for automation
- Legal There are many important administrative tasks undertaken by legal teams that can be automated. Often, legal professionals are creating their own robots to help them manage this work. In legal and compliance processes, that means attorneys and paralegals can respond more quickly to increasing demands from clients and internal stakeholders. Robots don’t store data, and the data they use is encrypted in transit and at rest, which improves risk profiling and compliance.
“To embark on an automation journey, organisations need to create a Centre of Excellence in which technical expertise is fostered,” explains Mee. “This group of experts can begin automating processes quickly to show return on investment and gain buy-in. This effort leads to greater interest from within the organisation, which often kick-starts a strategic focus on embedding automation.”