CIO100 2017 #31-100: Dean Bratley, EROAD
EROAD modernises road charging and compliance for road transport by replacing paper-based systems with easy-to-use electronic systems.
With headquarters in Auckland, EROAD also has a US business based in Portland, Oregon, serving customers with vehicles operating in every US mainland state.
EROAD is a fully integrated technology, tolling and services provider, says Dean Bratley, head of business systems.
“We were the first company to implement a GNSS/cellular-based road charging solution across an entire country,” he explains.
“Our advanced technology provides road charging, compliance and commercial services with the same platform to lower overall client and delivery costs.
“We design and manufacture in-vehicle hardware, operate secure payment and merchant gateways and offer web-based value-added services.
“Our goal is to offer flexible and powerful solutions based on our innovative technology to assist in the creation of a transport sector that is responsive to the evolving needs of business, government and the wider community.”
On 2 March 2017 EROAD successfully registered the first in-cab, hardware-based Electronic Logging Device (ELD) for the US market.
EROAD’s ELD has been listed on the US government’s register of providers offering services to meet new federal rules for electronically recording drivers’ hours of service.
EROAD’s device is the first on the register to offer permanent in-cab hardware as part of a comprehensive solution. The other 30 devices on the register offer less comprehensive app-based services using a smartphone or heavy mobile computer case without a permanent, in-cab device. EROAD’s major competitors offering in-cab hardware are yet to have ELD devices listed on the ELD register.
An enabling team culture
A major business transformation programme over the past year is EROAD’s creation of a Business Engineering Systems Team (BEST).
“EROAD has brilliant technologists available to it but their core focus was on products for our customers businesses,” says Bratley
“When I took over this space, we decided to take the exact same agile approach to our internal systems and customer support systems.”
Taking on a customer-centric approach, he says they took the CRM package from Salesforce and made that the centre of the business technology strategy instead of a traditional ERP with CRM attached.
“This ensured that everything we develop for our internal users starts with the customer at the centre. Sales, supply chain, finance, support all hangs off the CRM rather than an ERP,” he says. “It is all cloud-based allowing us to scale at will.”
Much of the early work revolved around removing paper from the sales processes and ensuring we had data accuracy on contracts, he states. “We measured this by comparing paper contracts to digitally produced ones and then to those digitally signed (using docusign) which created an end to end paperless sales solution.”
In the United States, he says, they went from 100 per cent paper-based sales to 99 per cent paperless. “That journey is just starting in New Zealand.”
Operationally, he says the challenges they faced were mainly around change management, with “lots of time spent telling/showing/telling”.
This is coupled with management buy in and support which they garnered by ensuring they delivered clear reporting along with the new process. This created instant visibility of business information in a space that previously had no view until the deal was signed and entered to the systems, explains Bratley
A core improvement, other than just the pure efficiency of paperless systems, was the control we regained over the deals, he states. “The digital process allowed us to add in control points for approvals to discounts etc with minimal delays, all done via smartphone.”
Reporting to both the CFO and COO, Bratley manages cross-functional teams using Agile (Kanban) continuous release for support teams and Agile (Scrum) sprint based teams for development work.
These teams focus on efficient use and development of our ERP and integrated products as well as the integrations with our other business platforms (EROAD's DEPOT SaaS product), he says.
“Our core development is on applications within the Salesforce Force.Com platform and as an advanced team we are often asked to speak at events to showcase our development and approach.
“Our roadmap aims to engineer a scalable solution for high volume sales with a streamlined paperless flow from lead to invoice across multiple delivery channels.
This team also provides business reporting and analysis to support decision making.”
As a part of his finance remit, Bratley is tasked with ensuring the integrity of EROAD’s general ledger (GL)and chart of accounts (COA) as well as ensuring the automated processes post the correct journals and work with financial reporting requirements. Bratley is a Chartered accountant with ICAANZ so has the full responsibility of the companies finance systems in his remit.
Sources of innovation
He says some innovations out of the BEST team came after they watched some keynotes from a Dreamforce Salesforce event.
He says EROAD was one of the first to develop on the new Salesforce lightning platform, which had a much more user friendly look and feel, and led to the creation of two new core apps.
The customer map gave a sales user a complete layout and graphical (mapped) interaction with their customer records in the palm of their hand.
It plots customers and leads as well as your own location so you see all the contacts relative to your own position, you can call the contacts direct from the APP and log calls as activity in the CRM, get directions, see traffic and satellite layers. This resulted in the potential for increased efficiency of field sales so they can better plan their days and adjust for traffic, but also to give real time visibility of the sales process and activities.
The sales app was another component built to give a really simple menu-based selling tool to ensure consistency of data and conformity of process. “In the very high growth world of EROAD it was critical that we got some uniformity around sales and provisioning processes and removed bespoke processes so we could better serve and support all customers to an equally high standard,” says Bratley
“Most of our innovation in this space comes from someone in the company identifying a pain point, (usually in a tense email to me!), and our key development team looking at ways we can solve that in the most efficient and scalable manner.”
He says they also have a defined strategic roadmap which is designed to review every part of our business systems one by one and ensure maximum scalability.
Bratley relates how they manage operational excellence with working on new technologies and innovation projects.
“We discovered early on that running innovation and development teams alongside daily BAU support teams had a very high risk of derailing the big project development but also delaying minor tweaks and smaller innovations that could be delivered much quicker to the business,” he says.
“So, we run the core development team in three-week time bound Agile sprints and try to focus purely on advanced longer term development and delivering the strategic scalability roadmap.”
They also run an IT helpdesk for all general issues. A separate IT team handles smaller innovations by delivering things like single sign on integration, remote deployment, and seamless remote working functionality.
“This team is pushed hard due to the nature of our employees being generally very advanced users with multiple BYOD and operating systems from Fedora to windows.”
There is a separate BAU support team for all Force.Com issues. This team will also deliver smaller scale innovation and runs in a continuous Kanban release process.
Then we run a separate reporting function that collates business reporting requirements and keeps that away from the BAU, he says.
“By keeping all these delivery separations, we can closely monitor deliverables and success as all teams run daily standups and track tasks on Jira boards.
“By running in smaller functional teams and discussing outstanding tasks daily there is more autonomy and ownership of issues,” he states.
If an employee in the wider business has a particular interest in an area his team is working on, they are asked to attend the standup meetings as a guest so they can see the progress being made. We encourage managers and interested execs to also drop in ad-hoc to hear what is being worked on, he adds.
He says a challenge of running their teams as succinct units is that people can become siloed and compartmentalised.
“I combat this by running regular whole of team sessions. One of these is a ‘Learn something new’ session that we run at least once a month for all of my team members.
At these sessions, a team member talks about something they are interested in that is not related to work.
“It lets the team bond over mutual interests, lets everyone take on a teaching role at some point and helps improve presentation skills,” he points out. “They are very well received and great for team building.”
EROAD recruits from all over the world, and almost all of the teams reflect this diversity, he states.
The Business systems teams are actually heavily weighted on the female side, but this does change as we test and measure candidates in a very technical manner. “So gender and race is irrelevant in that testing,” he says.
Likewise, the technical testing is based on ability rather than verbal testing, so we focus on those tech skills then assist any staff that want it by running New Zealand culture and language workshops to help them acclimatise to our environment, he says.
EROAD also runs training for employees to help with softer skills and their personal development, including EQ, communication, time management and leadership skills.
“We ensure that team leads and product managers are as autonomous as possible so they are not reliant on senior managers or execs being present to make decisions. “They are empowered to keep the business going.”