Choosing the wrong fuel dispatch software to manage your operations is like driving a car with a flat tire. No matter how hard you try, you’re constantly slowing down. That’s the situation fuel marketers are in when they’re working with outdated legacy softwares.
We were chatting with a fuel distributor from the States, and he speaks for every fuel marketer when he says, “In our industry, the software is still running 10-12 years behind. Even the best of the solutions are outdated.”
In fact, most fuel marketers, even after investing millions of dollars in legacy tools, are still struggling to streamline their operations and minimize errors.
So we decided to write this short guide to help you choose the right fuel dispatch software for your business and save you millions of dollars.
Here are the top 12 factors you absolutely must have on your checklist while evaluating softwares:
1. Make sure the software supports multiple business lines
Most fuel distributors are expanding their business lines to cater to multiple products and services that include lubricants, transport, wet hosing, and tank wagons. Your dispatch software should be able to provide a single platform to run all your business lines efficiently.
2. Consider flexibility and customization as key points
Every business has distinct operational needs, it’s vital to have a software solution capable of custom tailoring to fit your processes. Legacy systems often fall short with a one-size-fits-all approach, making a flexible product architecture an essential factor in selecting a tech partner.
3. Understand the ‘True Cost of Ownership’
You will find a bunch of softwares out there that promise to be the market leader and charge a bomb for that. Don’t fall for it. Here are some important things to keep in mind:
- Total Cost of Ownership (TCO): Look beyond the initial purchase cost and consider the overall TCO. This includes not only the upfront cost but also ongoing expenses such as maintenance, support, upgrades, training, and any additional hardware or infrastructure requirements.
- Implementation and Training: Determine if there are any additional costs associated with implementation, setup, or training. Understand the vendor’s support offerings and whether they are included in the pricing or require an extra fee.
- Support and Maintenance: Consider the level of support and maintenance provided by the vendor. Are there any ongoing costs for technical support, updates, or upgrades? Ensure that the software’s pricing includes adequate support to address any issues that may arise during implementation or daily usage.
While on-premise software still has its place in specific use cases, the inherent advantages of cloud-based software, including accessibility, cost-effectiveness, scalability, and security, make it the default choice for many businesses today.
Here’s a quick comparison:
4. Prioritize seamless and quick implementation
Implementation and use of dispatch softwares are a major blocker for fuel marketers. Companies end up waiting for months and years to get the software launched. Even after launching, there’s the struggle of getting your team to adopt the platform. Most legacy softwares have a one-size fits all approach, and moving to a new tech stack often comes as a cultural shock to the team.
You definitely must consider a solution that’s super easy and quick to implement, and intuitive to use. You should be able to configure the system in a way that fits your current ecosystem and makes it easy for your team to find their way around the platform.
It should be used just as easily by a junior accountant as it must be by the most seasoned fuel marketer.
Software with a flexible architecture built on cloud makes implementation fast and seamless.
5. Make customer support a critical factor for evaluation
For business critical software, you need prompt support available at all times. You should be able to pick up the phone and call someone in times of crisis and not need to escalate every minor issue to the top management for the support team to fake caring.
Ask around – is the support team responsive at all? And not just during the purchasing cycle, but even post-implementation. Their business is done once the software is sold, yours just begins from there.
6. Opt for a software that integrates with your other systems
When you’re managing your fuel logistics, there are 3 main levers you’re looking at – the logistics side of it, accounting, and inventory management. For smooth operations, these systems need to communicate seamlessly, enabling data flow and reducing the need for manual data input – a common issue with legacy systems.
Integrations aren’t just about the ability of the software but also the willingness of the team behind it. A checkbox on the contract doesn’t mean anything if the timeline to build an integration is in years.
Fuel dispatch workflows are complex. It requires API based integrations, CSV imports, read/write directly to the database, and at times on-premise custom programming.
7. Check out the look and feel
Would you still use a Nokia 3310 today, even though it was the best phone in 2002? Probably not, right? The same goes for your software. If it looks like it belongs in a software museum, it’s probably not going to be a hit with your drivers and dispatchers.
What’s worse, think about the future. Imagine the new hires you’ll be bringing on board over the next five years. Will they want to use outdated, clunky software? Doubtful. So, take a good look at the software’s design. If it’s built on deprecated technologies from 40 years ago, it’s time to keep looking. You want something modern, user-friendly, and ready to handle the demands of the future.
8. How fast are they improving their product?
Take a peek at the speed of their product improvements. Ask them for their release notes from last year. Are they introducing new features often? How quickly are they fixing bugs and making existing features even better? This can give you a good sense of their dedication to keeping their software fresh and responsive to customer needs. It’s a solid sign of a software provider that’s got your back.
9. Evaluate the leadership team
Can you easily reach their leadership during the sales process? If they’re unavailable now, consider how accessible they’ll be after you’ve committed.
Do they exhibit a culture centered on strong engineering, problem-solving, and curiosity? Or do they seem more focused on sales gimmicks and building relationships over ensuring the quality and robustness of their product?
Ask these questions to yourselves after every meeting, and you’ll know the answers on your own.
10. Understand the company’s ownership status
Identify if the software provider is an independent company or if it has been acquired. If it’s the latter, investigate the core direction of the acquiring company.
Acquired companies shift focus based on the acquiring company’s strategy – for instance, they might prioritize convenience stores (C-stores) or concentrate more on tank monitor business rather than dispatch and truck systems and thereby neglect the needs of petroleum marketers.
Independent companies, often, are more likely to be solely focused on your industry and maintain consistent product development in line with your needs.
11. Check out the team composition
Who’s actually building the software? You should find out. A solid software company generally has around 50% of its staff as engineers. You can do a quick LinkedIn search – look up the company name, hit the ‘people’ tab, and see how many engineers are on the team.
If all you see are salespeople and consultants, you might be in for a lot of meetings, proposals, and promises, but you’ve got to wonder who’s doing the actual coding. And if you only spot a handful of folks on LinkedIn, all nearing retirement age, then it’s likely that the software was built ages ago and no one’s been keeping it up to date. You know, the kind of software that’s called ‘legacy.’ And that’s not what you’re after, right?
12. Will the software be a trusted ally for the next 10 years?
You are building your business for the future. You cannot trust a system that was built a decade and half back and has no vision for the next 10 years. Both your business vision and the systems that support it needs to align. Investing in a dispatch software is a money, time, and resource commitment – it cannot be a short-term fix.
Choosing the right fuel dispatch software is a big decision. It’s more than just a tool; it’s a partner that helps shape your business’s future. That’s why it’s important to consider things like scalability, flexibility, and cost.
Here’s a quick handy checklist of all the factors you must consider when choosing a dispatch software! Download it now.
Bonus: Here’s a template you could use to request proposals from vendors.