Operating in a dynamic consumer climate, transit agencies need to stay up-to-date with industry evolutions in order to be ahead of the curve. In addition to that, they need to keep the operational wheels turning, which can stretch resources thin. When internal resources can no longer scale to meet service demands, agencies turn to more efficient practices – automation through transit software. However, choosing the right transit software provider can prove to be an overwhelming process.
Here are seven key details that will guide you through the selection process:
- Set realistic expectations: You can surely start out with an extensive wish list, but you need to distinguish needs vs. wants, ultimately setting realistic expectations when evaluating the options. Figure out what you need in a transit software provider before you even start researching. A good strategy here would be to lay out a list of pains and challenges you are currently experiencing and how adopting new software will solve these issues. The idea here is that when you are ready to start scouting for options, you will know exactly what you’re looking for.
- Provider experience and reliability: When we say experience and reliability, we don’t just mean years of operation. We mean digging deeper into industry-specific experience and competence in the technology space. A great way to gain insight into industry experience is to dive into the providers’ past projects, the success they’ve achieved with agencies, and their methodology. You could also ask them to provide references from an extensive list of longstanding agencies. Do research and find out if they’ve ever been in a lawsuit for breach of contract. As for technology expertise, connect with their tech team to gauge their hands-on experience and expertise in the field. Find customers who have stopped using the product and ask these customers why they stopped using the solution. It may provide insight into how your agency fits with this solution.
- Visibility into implementation and training: Find out exactly what implementation entails, what each party will be responsible for, and how long it will take from start to finish. If it’s a timeline that doesn’t fit with your project, that’s something you’d need to address early on. Another detail to know here is what the training process looks like. Be wary of training exclusively on web - it is not a replacement for having an experienced trainer working directly with your staff on location. Ensure there is buy-in from top-down; management and staff need to be on the same page to make any implementation successful.
- Pricing & ROI: On the subject of pricing, look beyond the upfront cost. Calculate the total cost of ownership. In other words, what will your return on investment (ROI) be over the entire life of the contract? In addition to that, clarify what exactly the price includes. Does it include every aspect of support, maintenance, and software, or do you still need to pay additional fees for additional user licenses, hosted servers, hardware, etc.? Are there any hidden costs? Does each vendor price components the same way? If no, why? Does each vendor charge by revenue vehicle or total vehicles in the fleet? Is annual maintenance held at the same level each year or does it increase annually? Lastly, it’s important to nail down details of cost increases. Understand how and if any areas of pricing will increase over time and how pricing will be figured out at the end of a contract term. All of these cost details ultimately paints a clearer picture of what your ROI will look like.
- Flexibility & scalability: The flexibility aspect entails making sure your software provider of choice will be able to provide customizations to match your project scope. If your needs evolve within a contract, will they be able to evolve with you? In terms of scalability, it is important to understand whether your potential provider has the capability to scale to your project size as it grows, without compromising quality.
- Support after the sale: What happens after you sign the contract? Will someone be assigned to oversee and ensure success of your project? What happens in the event of a critical issue? Get a clear picture of how much support your provider will offer after they’ve closed the deal. To get this information, you’ll need to do your due diligence in researching what other companies are saying about the provider and their product.
- Reporting & optimization: The final piece of the puzzle, how robust is the reporting platform? There is room for improvement in any system, but the distinction is how easily identifiable and attainable are those improvements? In selecting your transit software provider, you will want to make sure they understand what you are trying to optimize for and that the reporting system they have in place will provide you with accurate and reliable reports and analytics to do that.
Your transit software provider can be the difference between your project’s success and failure. In this ever-changing mobility landscape, your agency needs to adopt technology that will allow them to be industry leaders. As a result, evaluating a new transit software solution and determining which provider is the “right fit” should entail an investment of time, research, and due diligence. To dive even deeper into consideration points of this decision, download our free eBook, which includes a checklist of critical questions to ask before signing.
About the Author:
Ryan Larsen, Ecolane's Senior Vice President, is a transit industry veteran with 33 years of experience in transit, paratransit, transportation software, consulting, and executive level management of paratransit service. Ryan was the first Ecolane employee in the United States and from 2006-2013 served as President of Ecolane. Prior to rejoining Ecolane, Ryan was President of IntelliRide from 2013-2016. IntelliRide is a division of Transdev. Ryan is very active in the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) and serves on numerous committees setting policies to guide paratransit in the United States and to help create excellent service delivery for people with disabilities. Ryan is committed to providing a great customer experience for those agencies who select Ecolane and he is involved in all aspects of the Ecolane business to ensure service excellence.