MyRideTrac – Cool Tools for Ride Share Drivers

So, I am at the Chicago Auto Show with a buddy and we pass the UBER booth.   He says, “What’s UBER?”  I say,  “It’s the future buddy. Asset Sharing, Gig economy”,  and I explain what is UBER.   He says, “Wanna try it?” and I say “SURE!”.  Three weeks later, we are both driving UBER and sharing stories.

I tried recording my mileage in a book and transferring it to a spreadsheet.  TOO HARD!  Next, I downloaded about 10 different apps for my iPhone and tried them all.  None of them met my needs, so I said to myself,  “Hey, I can do this better!”  I started on the design of MyRideTrac the next day.   About 120 days later and 53 versions of the app, I rolled out MyRideTrac on iTunes.   Six months later, MyRideTrac for Android was rolled out on Google Play.

The app has been downloaded in over 60 countries and has been installed about 15,000 times so far.  It’s not paying the bills, but it has been a great learning experience.   I still drive UBER every week to test the app.   Besides knowing my app works, I still enjoy meeting interesting people on my journeys.  Every trip is an adventure!

AUM – SCORE – Customer Facing Advanced Analytics

 

When I started at American Utility Management (AUM), I was asked to stabilize a Software as a Service (SaaS) platform that was crashing multiple times per day.  It was a challenge.  Within my first week with the company, I was listening to the President of the company complain about how our customers knew we were down before we did!    Within the first four months, the platform was stable, faster and I designed an exception management process that “knew” when things were supposed to happen.  It sent alerts to the developers and operations team when they needed to become aware of any system events.   Operations knew at the same time as the developers so they could begin managing their customers while the development teams worked the issue.   We received many kudos as well as new customers because our service levels became legend in our industry.

My next challenge was much bigger.  Help AUM change their image to become a trusted adviser to their customers instead of a commodity processor of utility bills.  We decided that advanced analytics coupled with knowledgeable consulting was the path.   As a team, we evaluated analytics engines, chose,  installed and developed an industry-first customer facing analytics platform within 90 days after installation.   AUM Advanced Analytics was awarded the 2013 and 2014 MHN (Multi-Housing News) Technology award.

What next… how about SCORE.  An advanced statistical analytical application developed based on a year-long study conducted by AUM and Georgia Tech University.  SCORE (Statistical Comparison of Relative Efficiency).  After meeting with the very bright people at Georgia Tech, I was asked to commercialize a set of advanced algorithms and design an easy-to-use online product.  The first edition of SCORE was rolled out 120 days after start of design.  I was responsible for all aspects of the product from database design, to reporting to user interface development.  SCORE took AUM to the next level.   As a result, we won 95% of all new customer initiatives for the following two years.  An introductory video developed for SCORE appears below.

 

Rand McNally Intelliroute TND 500 GPS

The opportunity:

Develop a new GPS device for the company.  Rand McNally had entered into the GPS market four years prior, but ownership was unwilling to make the financial commitment to the development effort.   This new device would target the niche trucking industry which was not caught by the economic downturn with an abundance of inventory on the shelves.  Rand  had the opportunity to be the leader in this  niche and is already a leader with rating and routing products as well as the Rand Truckers Atlas.

Our new CEO was tasked with turning Rand McNally into a technology company.  He looked to me for guidance and the ability to get the job done.   We agreed that we needed to move back into the GPS market and do it quickly.   We decided to introduce a new GPS product prototype at the upcoming 2009 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), just 45 days away.

The mission: 

Design, develop and deploy an attractive new GPS unit with Truck specific routing capabilities, utilizing Rand McNally proprietary truck attribute data.

 

The resolution:

I was tasked, as the project owner, with creating a new product from scratch that could be shown and demonstrated at the 2009 CES show in January 2009.    We assembled a team of designers, developers, sales and marketing professionals from around the company and scheduled daily war-room meetings to accomplish:

  • Choosing a target market for the product
  • Developing a sales strategy
  • Developing a marketing strategy
  • Choosing an industrial design
  • Designing a user interface
  • Partnering with a software developer
  • Partnering with a hardware manufacturer
  • Producing a prototype unit for display at the 2009 Consumer Electronics Show

The sales and marketing teams took off with developing target markets and sales strategies.  After looking at the consumer GPS market, its overabundance of inventory in the market and its low margins, the team identified the trucking industry as an untapped opportunity that still commanded decent margins in the market and was difficult to enter without good truck-related data.

Dave Marsh, an ex-Rand employee, working with us as a consultant served as our product manager.  He worked tirelessly to develop the product features with the teams.   Andreas Hecht joined the team mid project and took over sales and marketing activities.

We were already working with Infogation, a software company located in San Diego that specializes in routing software, regarding other routing product opportunities.  When we discussed being ready with a truck routing product for CES, Kent Pu, President of Infogation said they would be ready.  His team worked with our software and cartographic teams to design a new routing process and integrate our truck specific information into their software.  No easy feat!

On a recommendation from Infogation, the Rand purchasing team and I started discussions with Kevin Chen, President and co-owner of Vio Technologies.  Kevin worked tirelessly with us to pick and design an attractive GPS device that could be ready for CES in time.

Our design group, headed by Joerg Metzner worked tremendous hours way beyond what anyone would have expected,  through the holidays to develop a User Interface that was appealing and usable and our QA teams worked to test and provide feedback to the development teams.

This was a team effort, and the entire team worked through the holidays to be ready for the show on January 10.   Everything came together and we were ready with the new devices just one day before the show!  Dave and I spent all night at the hotel prepping the devices for display and demonstrations.

We delivered a new 4.3” and 5.0” unit to the Navteq team who featured the Rand Intelliroute TND 500 in their display at CES.

The show was a huge success for us.  The press feedback was all positive and reassuring.   The production unit was delivered to stores in Fall 2009 and most recently won the CES “Best of Innovations” award for the 2010 show.

The fun video below was filmed during the show and presented to the team during our after show celebration.

 

Rand McNally – MapTrac Sales Force Automation

The issues:

  • A really, really (I mean really) old hand-held technology that was failing daily
  • Over $300k/day in outstanding errors with our customers
  • Inventory shrink in the millions due to system issues
  • The list goes on…

Rand McNally was using hand-held technology for its Direct Store Delivery (DSD) operations.  It was deployed in the late 80’s to service over 50,000 customer locations throughout the US and Canada.

The developer of this mission critical system was an outside vendor whose only employee who still knew the system was a walking heart attack waiting to happen; we were losing millions in inventory because the system was not recording transactions correctly; the system allowed us to place unauthorized product in our customer locations resulting in fines and refusal to pay our bills.   Bottom line, the technology needed to be replaced and replaced quickly.

The mission: 

Our new company president asked me to find new technology, develop, test and implement a new system within six months.

The resolution:

Working with our Canadian operation as our test case.  We evaluated and selected a Canadian firm, Filbitron, to modify their existing DSD system to meet our needs.   We were in the field testing MapTrac within 30 days and fully rolled-out and testing in Canada within 60 days.   During rollout testing in Canada, we began system modifications and testing for the US operation.    This was a company-wide initiative that involved the entire Information SERVICES, Operations and Supply Chain departments.

During the project, concern was expressed with the accuracy of the system.  I brought in an outside auditor, who audited and certified every transaction for completeness, internal controls and accuracy.   Faith was restored and the project resumed.

Within 120 days we were rolling out and training the over 200 US DSD representatives.   The teams worked tirelessly to make the project a success.  The project cost just slightly over $1 million to implement and payback was achieved within the first year of operation.   A second generation of the system equipment was successfully rolled out in 2007/2008 (see picture above).

As a result of the new system we:

  • Improved DSD in-field productivity by 100%+
  • Increased our incremental capacity and revenue by over 20%
  • Eliminated in-field errors by 99%
  • Reduced our inventory adjustments to less than 1% by the next physical inventory.

We were recognized by our vendor as the fastest implementation in their history.

Rand McNally – Alamo Kiosk System

The opportunity:

Vanguard Auto Rental (they own and operate Alamo and National Car Rental) approached Rand McNally to develop and test a new map and directions kiosk for use in their high-volume operations (such as Dallas and Las Vegas).   They were experiencing long waits at their counters and redirecting traffic to a maps/directions kiosk would alleviate congestion and increase the profitability of their counter representatives.   In addition, Vanguard was also deploying their own rental kiosks and wanted to make sure that their customers who chose to use their kiosks did not have to go to a counter and wait in line for directions.

 

The mission: 

Design, develop and deploy an attractive kiosk for test in the Dallas and Las Vegas locations.

 

The resolution:

We had just completed work on MapEngine, our Software-As-a-Service platform for the maps & directions over the web.  This was just the type of project to demonstrate the power and versatility of MapEngine.   We selected a kiosk provider (KIS Kiosk) and a great kiosk software development firm (nanonation) to partner with Rand in the development of a new kiosk system.  Working under a tight deadline, we were able to roll the first kiosk into test in Dallas within 45 days.   With feedback from in-field testing, we were able to come out with version 2 of the system within 20 days after introduction.  The system worked great and achieved its goals of redirecting traffic away from the rental counter.

Click on the video below to see customer reaction on rollout day.   I shot and edited this video as a YouTube marketing video for the kiosk as well a fun way to introduce its success to our customer.