How to Simplify Your Decision-Making Process…And Get the Data You Need

Gretchen ReeseAugust 11, 2021

Getting data where it needs to be continues to prove to be a challenge for many organizations today – especially when it comes to streamlining and effectively optimizing operational strategies.

Today, I am “virtually” sitting down with Sean Killen, the Vice President for Global Business Development and Vice President of Latin America for GEOTAB to delve further into the topics of big data, enterprise resource planning software, and of course, GEOTAB telematics.

Let’s dig in.


How to Simplify Your Decision-Making Process…And Get the Data You Need with Sean Killen | Fleet FYIs: Season 2 Episode 16

Gretchen Reese (00:06):

Hey there. Welcome to Fleet FYIs, the weekly podcast by Utilimarc that reveals how you can make the most of your data for smarter fleet management. My name is Gretchen and every week you’ll hear from me and some of the industry’s finest and candid conversations that will shed some light on not only two decades worth of data insights, but some of the industry’s hottest talking points and key metric analysis with the aim to help you better understand your fleet from every angle. But before we begin, if this is the first time you’ve heard our show, thanks for stopping by. I’m so glad you decided to come along for the ride with us, but I’ve got a quick favor to ask you, once you’ve finished today’s episode if you could take a few minutes to leave us a review on your favorite podcasting platform, we would really appreciate it.

Gretchen Reese (00:51):

Give us a rating, five stars I hope (laughs) or tell us what you liked or leave us a comment or a question about what you’ve heard in today’s episode. But if we haven’t yet covered a topic that you’re interested in hearing more about let us know, we would be happy to go over it in detail in a later episode. If that sounds good to you, let’s get back to the show. Hi everyone. And welcome back to another episode of the Fleet FYIs Podcast. I hope you all have had a lovely week. It’s been over 90 degrees in Minnesota for the last, gosh, at least seven days now, which is about 30 degrees plus for all of myself, Celsius folks. And it is absolutely sweltering, key sign of [inaudible 00:01:37] (laughs). We don’t like extreme heat, but that’s besides the point, because even though I could talk about the weather all day, kind of like I said, trademark miswest- Midwestern trait in other episodes past, I’m sure if you dig into them, we’ve gotta show to get to.

Gretchen Reese (01:53):

Today we’re talking about big data, so enterprise resource planning and last but not least Geotab telematics. And to provide a bit of context, Utilimarc has worked closely with Geotab telematics for quite a long time, primarily in providing a deeper analytical layer that sits on top of their vast data gathering abilities. And Geotab on that point has been such a wonderful partner for us over the years. And it’s always interesting to see how their product and our partnership itself evolve and adapt as technologies and, and the industry itself changes over time. But to get back to the big issue here, more focused on database decision-making. So how can you fi- simplify your decision making process? Can you actually do that, whilst you’re still getting every type of data and analysis that you need? Perhaps.

Gretchen Reese (02:41):

Getting data where it needs to be continues to prove to be a challenge for many organizations today. I mean, that’s no secret, right? And this is especially true when it comes to streamlining and effectively optimizing operational strategies. So to dig more into this topic, I have a true expert. I’ve got Sean Killen, the VP of Global Business Development and VP of Latin America for Geotab on the show today. So if you are ready to delve into this topic just a little bit more, sit back, relax. I hope you’ve got something to drink or maybe something to munch on because this show’s gonna be a good one. Let’s dig in. Alrighty. So today we have with us Sean Killen, who is the Global VP of Business Development and B, and VP for Latin America at Geotab. Hi Sean, how are you?

Sean Killen (03:35):

I’m doing great, Gretchen. Thank you. How are you doing?

Gretchen Reese (03:38):

I’m doing great as well. Thanks for asking. And let’s just get acquainted to start out with, I mean, you know, we’ve spoken before, but could you tell our listeners a little bit about yourself and what you do at Geotab?

Sean Killen (03:50):

Sure. Uh, my role on Global Business Development is I help build Geotab regional channels. So I own Southeast Asia, Australia, and Latin America and all our major technology reg- uh, partners such as Google, SAP, Oracle. So I need the big SaaS companies are Cloud companies, I own those relationships as well. And what we’re really trying to do is build alliances and partnerships around the world, um, to get the brand out there, so people understand who Geotab is, wh- how we can help their business and help, help them succeed in the connected vehicle world.

Gretchen Reese (04:25):

Fascinating. So then how does that build into what, um, Geotab does? Because I think a lot of people are aware that Geotab is a telematics company, um, but they don’t really focus on the big picture. How does that fit in?

Sean Killen (04:38):

Well, my role really, um, is to look at where telematics is going to go. So I think telematics for the last 20 years has been very focused on GPS, driver safety, productivity, things like that, but I think really where, where, where Geotab and telematics in general are going, is becoming an information source for the larger company and that is a work in progress, to be honest. And my role as a global, global lead with all the technology partners is how do Geotab, who is a decent sized company, but certainly not in the, in the realm of a Google, um, start using what we create to add value to some of those larger technology companies and to our end customers.

Gretchen Reese (05:22):

And if we’re looking at it from that perspective, um, you know, like, like we said, um, Geotab is known to be a telematics company, even though we are trying to work with different sources of data and getting it where it needs to be. And, you know, whilst telematics are super important, there’s no denying that. Um, you know, we both know GPS and vehicle tracking it might not be the next big thing when it comes to fleet data management, why do you think that is?

Sean Killen (05:49):

I think we’re kind of, uh, you know, version 2.0 telematics for the last 20 years. I think for the majority of north American companies, they have an existing telematics platform to one degree or another in their vehicles. Uh, they’ve seen the value of knowing where the big vehicles are, seeing how the drivers behave. They understand that now, um, and I think that’s kind of where the industry is sitting right now is what’s next. So we’ve got this good technology, we get really good value out of it, um, but is there more to this technology and that’s where I think that the, the industry in north America specifically is, is sitting on, on what to do next in telematics with what we’ve already got in place.

Gretchen Reese (06:28):

So, um, and that’s US and Canada, right, that you’re referring to, um, with where we are with telematics data and where we’re looking at that?

Sean Killen (06:36):

Yes. I mean, Europe- Western European stuff is, is quite advanced as well. Very fragmented. There’s a lot of telematics companies there, but definitely very advanced. Um, and the emerging markets where we’re not quite there yet, I think you will see it happen, um, but still building towards where, where telematics is sitting out in north America and Western Europe right now.

Gretchen Reese (07:00):

And do you think that, um, compared between, say for example, you know, the north American market and then also European, do you think they use telematics in a similar way or do you think it’s different enough to take note of?

Sean Killen (07:13):

The requirements are different, um, particularly, I, I’ll use Latin America as an example, uh, primarily because I, I do run Latin America for Geotab. There’s a real issue around driver safety and when we talk about driver safety in Latin America, we’re focused on, you know, the vehicle being robbed on a highway. There’s no, there’s no real rail in Latin America, so you have a lot of valuable goods going off, very remote regions and highways and there is, you know, uh, an issue around theft. So things like telematics being very important for the driver’s safety and the cargo safety is very important to large company in Latin America. Um, when you get into Asia, a lot of, a lot of the deliveries and things like last mile are gonna [inaudible 00:07:57], which you don’t see in north America at all. So you have hundreds of drivers coming in with their own motorbikes saying, I’ll deliver for you today. And you have to know where those packages are going. You have to understand how that is affecting your operation. It gets very different as you get into different region, region by region.

Gretchen Reese (08:15):

Yeah, I would assume so. And if we’re looking at this again, um, let’s go big picture here, because we mentioned big data maybe once or twice already in our chat today, where does that fit into the conversation surrounding telematics?

Sean Killen (08:29):

To me, I think it is complete future of telematics is around data. Um, the fleet produces so much information for an organization that is yet to really be leveraged for the most part. It is really to me in the supply chain, one of the great opportunities for top companies to find more savings. I think great companies right now, you know, your, your Walmarts and targets and your, your company is like that, um, some of the most advanced supply chains you’ve ever heard of. And I still think that they could realize a lot of gains by leveraging big data out of their telematics, um, and get more learnings from the factual data that’s coming from the fleets and their world-class out of now, but they could even get better just because the more data sources they get, they’re really smart people can, can learn more things and, and drive more value.

Gretchen Reese (09:24):

Yeah, that’s fair enough. And perhaps this may be a bit of a vague question, but in your opinion, maybe you could summarize it. What do you think are some of the largest opportunities of big data? And we’ll follow this up with challenges too, but I’m curious to hear the benefits first.

Sean Killen (09:41):

Well, I mean, just, I think we have a lot of assumptions. Um, you know, if you’re familiar with the movie Moneyball-

Gretchen Reese (09:46):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Sean Killen (09:46):

… uh, you know, everybody had assumptions in baseball, that was just how we always did things. And then when they looked at the numbers, they completely changed everything when they were actually honest with themselves to say, you know what, maybe that’s not how things actually work. And I actually believe that’s happening in telematics right now where some very advanced companies are looking at their data and saying, “Wow, that’s not really what we thought was happening.” And they are adjusting their supply chains and the logistics profiles to take advantage of the learnings that they’re getting. Um, and to me, I think the biggest opportunity is getting that information in a major organization to the stakeholders inside the company who can actually action it. I think a lot of the times you will see that, that data sit in a silo in the fleet management spot, um, and not really get shared outside of that company. And the fleet manager is fantastic at running the fleet, but a lot of the, uh, the data could be used outside of that.

Gretchen Reese (10:44):

Mm-hmm (affirmative). And if we flip this for the challenges, what do you think some of the biggest challenges for big data would be then?

Sean Killen (10:52):

The quantity for one. Uh, I’ve seen a lot of instances where there is so much data. It’s just hard to figure out what to do with it. It’s great data, but if you have so many data points you don’t really know how to get what you’re looking for. So I think that would be very specific when you look at data on what you’re trying to solve, you, you can very much try to boil an ocean, uh, when you’re looking at big data and it, it, it becomes overwhelming. And then the other thing I think, and this is more of a product of the organization versus the data itself is, organizations often are not structured to share as well as you would like.

Sean Killen (11:27):

Um, so I think that is one of the biggest challenges is, how do you get all this data that is sitting in the fleet managers software package and get it to the controller and finance or the head of procurement in, in the transportation and, and purchasing department? How does that connection get, get made in a large enterprise? And that’s a very hard connection to make, um, and it’s going slow, but to me that’s the next frontier really is getting the value of the fleet into their greater organizations. The biggest opportunity companies have right now

Gretchen Reese (11:59):

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, I’d absolutely agree. And you know, one thing I’ve heard from, um, a client of ours actually, um, Quanta they’ve told us that we process about, oh gosh, what was the number, maybe two billion, billion with a B (laughs) data points for them for a day, just because they have such a massive fleet. And I mean, you know, if you just look at it from that perspective, I mean, how, how would you even visualize that, right? I mean, you, it’s hard to visualize a number that high, unless you’re literally looking at it from a spreadsheet or a visual representation in a graph or a chart. I mean, otherwise it could be virtually impossible.

Sean Killen (12:35):

Absolutely. And I think one of the things you actually see happening right now is major organizations are employing data scientists, people who are familiar with the problem and know how to use it. I mean, there are some very, very top level data scientists not going to analytics firms, but are going to Fortune 100 companies and Fortune 500 companies. Trying to solve this very problem is we have an anonymous amount of data, what do we do with it? And we hear that pretty regularly right now. Um, Geotab as a company, I think there’s about 50 billion data points a day right now, um, with the growth that we have. And a lot of that is using our curve algorithm, which manages the data down and tried to keep it, uh, only the relevant data. So the amount of data out there as a Spellman, it is just incredible.

Gretchen Reese (13:20):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Sean Killen (13:21):

So I, I really do think that the key to figuring out is hiring people who really know how to work with data. I think we have close to 80 data scientists inside Geotab right now-

Gretchen Reese (13:32):

Oh wow.

Sean Killen (13:32):

… some of the smartest people in our organization. It’s, it’s really an enjoyable experience to see them big into a problem using data.

Gretchen Reese (13:39):

Yeah. Well, no kidding. I mean, honestly I think some of the data scientists that I know (laughs) they, they’re certainly the smartest people that I know it’s almost insane, just what they can do with a spreadsheet and quite a lot of numbers I should say (laughs). Um, but going back to the, uh, data piece, because I wanna dig into the part where you were speaking of getting the data where it needs to go, because I think that’s one thing that, you know, like you said, organizations are having a massive challenge with today. And, um, different organizations depending on the niche, depending on the industry, but specifically I would say C-suite level, you know, maybe that higher or upper management, um, getting the appropriate data where it needs to go is probably one of the hardest aspects of managing the data sets that they’re receiving. How would you say is the best way to go about getting data to one who needs it and then also teaching them how to consume it in a way that could, um, make it a productive consumption of data?

Sean Killen (14:39):

I think there’s two parts to that question. The first part would be how do you get it to the right people? Um, I’m gonna use an example ’cause I, I tend to work better in examples and I’ll use one that’s close to my heart, which is sustainability.

Gretchen Reese (14:50):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Sean Killen (14:51):

So right now, in the United States there as a big push for electric vehicle and for moving to more sustainable practices by companies in general, you see many major corporations saying we wanna be carbon neutral by 2050 and things like that. Our own CEO here at Geotab, it’s very near and dear to his heart. He wants to try to be a carbon neutral company. So he’s very invested in sustainability. So we’ll talk about sustainability. One of the biggest, if not the biggest contributor of carbon emissions, uh, in our major enterprise would be any, any company with a big fleet.

Sean Killen (15:27):

So imagine a fleet that has 10, 15,000 vehicles that would produce with combustion engine with an enormous amount of other emissions. If you start converting that lead to electric vehicle, what does that mean? And I think that’s where you get the question mark. I think a lot of companies say I really don’t know and that, and it goes into two parts really. And it becomes a very operational question to get information into an organization and then a sustainability question. So first, if you used to run a Depot style, style refueling station, so you have 1000 combustion engine vehicles in one spot at night, they all come there at night and park there at night. It’s pretty easy to fill them up if the combustion engine. Give everybody a credit card, they go fill up with gas, they expense it and they’re ready to go the next day.

Sean Killen (16:16):

Now imagine that same 1000 vehicles show up 20% charged, then all have to be charged by the end of the night, ready to be back on the road. That is a very different problem from a logistics point of view. So the people who are running those organizations need to know how much charge, how much battery is being used, what vehicles they should be using in the operations to really understand what vehicles are the most optimal vehicles to be using for the functions that they’re using. All those things can be found through telematics. You have factual data, you have tons of research on electric vehicles on which ones are best suited for which type of emission, really a deep project that we’ve gone into with Geotab and how we look at electric vehicles. And then you get into the problem around an electrical engineering to say, can the local utility handle 1000 vehicles right now, plugged in at night all at once?

Sean Killen (17:08):

And should we charge them all through the day at peak hours? There’s a lot of different things from a purely logistical point of view. So you would wanna get that data to the decision makers who need that, and this is new ground for them. They know how to run a fleet right now, and they know how to run an organization, but maybe there’s a loop. And the more data they have the better, because they can solve the problem with a more accurate information they have. But there’s a second part to that exact same example is when did you save from an emissions point of view to the CSO? For the chief sustainability officer who has likely a public stated goal to Wall Street or to any shareholders and say, this is where we wanna go from a missions point of view and a sustainability point of view, what does that same conversion to EV need to go back to?

Sean Killen (17:51):

And, and how does your telematics solution really help them deliver their goals? That information needs to get to that team as well. And really that information needs to flow through the company’s core softwares. Um, you, you look at all these corporations, they’re running ERP, they’re running supply chain softwares, they’re running a large enterprise software stack, a lot often in the Cloud now, and all of that information needs to get to those decision makers in a consumable form that they’re used to. So I need to see it in my ERP that I use every day. I need to see it in, in products that I’m familiar with so I can actually get value out of it that way. And those are the two challenges really is getting into them and then giving it to them in a digestible format that they’re able to use.

Gretchen Reese (18:36):

Yeah, I agree. And, you know, I liked that you broke into the, um, enterprise software, um, with your last answer there, um, because you know, different data management platforms and, you know, Utilimarc is one of them and Geotab is another, um, that can integrate with enterprise resource planning software. I mean, I think that’s pretty well known about you guys and about us, but why is that enterprise resource planning that software stack, why is that such a benefit to organizations that are looking to make the most out of their fleet data? Could you maybe speak to that a little bit.

Sean Killen (19:08):

Sure. And I mean, let’s, let’s be clear what Geotab does. Geotab is a producer of data. Um, we try to make it as consumable for other platforms as possible, but I think what Utilimarc does is something a little bit special where you’re getting it to the people who need it with your platform and that’s really important. Um, the ERP is particularly in interfacing with those. An ERP is the nervous system and the life blood of most organizations. Um, it touches every piece of the organization from finance to supply chain to order processing, in inventory modules. It is just the nervous center of the entire organization. So, if you wanna put something in there to consume data is the most readily used piece of software in an organization.

Sean Killen (19:55):

It will always look up in the ERP as the source of truth. If you are operating outside of the ERP, it’s unfortunate, but a lot of it’s just I’m in the day too, are gonna get a controller or a supply chain VP to learn telematics software that they don’t have to use on a regular basis and get a report? Probably not. I mean, I would love it if they did use my Geotab software all the time, but I’m also realistic about who in a major organization is gonna use our software. And I think it’s very important that the data can be consumed in the format that they want, and more often than not, that’s the ERP.

Gretchen Reese (20:30):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Sean Killen (20:33):

They’ve spent, you know, they’ve spent tens of millions of dollars on the ERPs. They use them every day and they run their site, they run the whole business on it. So you should be able to put your data in when they run their business.

Gretchen Reese (20:44):

Yeah. Fair enough. All right. So, hardest question of the day, what do you think in your opinion is the best way if you’re looking at trying to drive innovation, how do you think it’s the best, or what do you think is the best way to drive innovation when it comes to managing a fleet?

Sean Killen (21:01):

Driving innovation in the fleet, I’ve said this often. I, I think the fleet in terms of its actual innovative technology is gonna continue to improve. We’re gonna add cameras and video. We’re gonna add more sensors, but that’s not really changing how the fleet performs. Let’s just improve how it performs, but we’re not even doing most of that stuff. I think data really is the innovative strategy is, the things you will learn you can change long held conceptions on how to do things, that will really change things in an organization more than a new video camera or a new sensor or a faster processor. Um, really just information and clarity of information, you put it in the right people’s hands and they will deliver the innovation for you.

Sean Killen (21:54):

I think that’s really how we’ve always seen things develop in, in corporations is, enable the really smart people in your organization to, to really get into a problem with the right in, right data and an opportunity to make changes and they will, and they will deliver. And I think that’s key, and if you have a way to get them that data, to me, that’s the goal for the telematics 2.0 era, not a, it’s not a million video camera or a faster processor. It really, really is information and data.

Gretchen Reese (22:24):

Mm-hmm (affirmative). I like that. Telematics 2.0, I think you should probably trademark that one.

Sean Killen (22:29):

(laughs). I will talk to Mr. Cos about that.

Gretchen Reese (22:33):

(laughs). So, Sean, I know we’ve talked about quite a bit in surrounding data and enterprise resource planning and C-suites and all of that, but is there anything else you’d like to add before we wrap this episode up?

Sean Killen (22:46):

Um, I think telematics is a fun spot to be in right now. Uh, I think maybe five years ago it was still GPS driven, but working globally right now and seeing the explosion we’re seeing in Europe and the success we’re having in Europe now and seeing where the Asian market is starting to go and the Latin American market is starting to go. You just, you get a million different problems and ideas, and it’s just so exciting right now. Uh, it sounds, you know, GPS, that’s not exciting, but it really is where we’re going in the next five years is gonna be so unlike what we’ve seen in telematics. You’re gonna see it used in ways that we just never thought it would ever be used before, because some really creative people are getting information they never had before and are coming up with solutions from smart city and supply chain management to sustainability that are just, it, it’s just gonna reshape how we do things in the supply chain. And that’s really cool.

Gretchen Reese (23:44):

Yeah, I agree. And you know, I definitely, I think that telematics is gonna be fascinating to see what happens with it, especially on the sustainability front. I think that’s gonna be huge.

Sean Killen (23:55):

I agree. I think sustainability for me is one of the reasons why I love working at Geotab is, it really a core leadership team and it’s one of my own really, you know, deep seated beliefs that I think it’s important for us to try to leave a positive impact. And when you work for a company like Geotab, and I know you’ve, you’ve encountered a lot of people at Geotab it’s, it’s not lip service. They really believe that we can, we can help save the planet, and, and that’s, that’s an industry I wanna be a part of when we can say things like that.

Gretchen Reese (24:25):

Yeah. And we do the same thing, you know, any chance that we can to help people reduce waste, and basically make sure that they’re being sustainable because, you know, and here I am the word nerd, um, you know, sustainability at its core is just being able to prolong whatever you have for as long as you can and make sure it’s still accessible in the future. So that could be for future generations, that could be for future fleets, whatever it is, or, you know, at what its core is now, when you see it in mainstream media, it’s, it’s environmental conservation. So it’s like being able to do that and like you said, being a part of an organization that’s willing to help drive the change. I just think it’s a phenomenal thing to do.

Sean Killen (25:02):

Yeah. And I, and I think that’s one of the reasons why Geotab in my court so well as tying this together is I think there’s a like-mindedness in the company’s philosophies on a lot of things and, and it makes a great partnership.

Gretchen Reese (25:12):

Absolutely. Alrighty. So Sean, you know, I’m sure that there’s gonna be a lot of people listening today that would probably be interested in continuing this conversation because as you know (laughs), as much as we’d love to talk about sustainability all day, that would be one very, very, very long podcast episode. So outside of Fleet FYIs, where can people get in touch if they wanna chat with you?

Sean Killen (25:34):

Anybody who’s happy to email me at seankillen@geotab.com. It’s pretty simple, always happy to li- to take new emails from outside. You can also find me on LinkedIn, just search Sean Killen Geotab. I’d probably come up quite quickly. There’s a lot of posts on, on my blog there and some of the things I do in Latin America, but a lot of engaging people with new ideas and new opportunities. So I’d be happy for anybody to reach out.

Gretchen Reese (25:59):

Awesome. Well, again, Sean, I just wanna thank you for your time today. I’ve really appreciated having you take the time one to talk to me, but also we’ve really enjoyed having you on the show. It’s been a lot of fun.

Sean Killen (26:08):

My pleasure. Thank you so much.

Gretchen Reese (26:22):

Managing your data can be a bit of a daunting task, this much I know for sure and I’m not just saying this because I am not an analyst and instead I run the podcast here at Utilimarc. But like Sean said, if you can work with the data management platform that cannot only help you gather the data that you need, but also analyze it and get it where it needs to go, you’re absolutely golden. I would love to hear your thoughts about the show today, so whether that is your thoughts on ERP systems or big data or Geotab telematics, or telematics data in general, or you just wanna chat about a new and upcoming topic that you’d love to see us cover on Fleet FYIs, send me an email at marketingutilimarc.com or use the hashtag #UtilimarcFleetFYIs is on LinkedIn to tell me what you think.

Gretchen Reese (27:08):

I’m looking forward to hearing from you as always, and until next week, that is all from me. I will look forward to seeing you in your headphones again next Thursday. Ciao. Hey there, I think this is the time that I should cue the virtual high five because you’ve just finished listening to another episode of the Fleet FYIs Podcast. If you’re already wanting more content head over to utilimarc.com which is utilimarc with a C, U-T-I-L-I-M-A-R-C.com for the show notes and extra insights coming straight from our analysts to you. That’s all for me this week, so until next time I’ll catch you later.

If you or someone you know is interested in being a guest on Fleet FYIs, please email our content manager with your request.


Gretchen Reese

Content Manager

Gretchen Reese is the content manager at Utilimarc. She has experience in global and strategic marketing, previously working as a copywriter and content specialist for a London marketing agency and freelancing in multiple niches. See more from Gretchen


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