Is ITS the right route?

Themes: Is there a suitable non-ITS alternative? is there a better balance of technology and method?

Could the needs be met without ITS?

It is always worthwhile to consider whether the goals could be achieved without ITS, even where it is certain that ITS will be implemented. The stakeholders should ask themselves: “If ITS was not available to us, how much of our goals could we achieve by improving our organisation, our methods, and our personnel?”

In a few cases, it may indeed be possible to achieve the main goals without deploying ITS. In far more cases, the exercise will reveal improvements that should be made whether or not ITS is implemented. Unfortunately, these are often overlooked when the focus in on the new technology.

When might non-ITS solutions be more effective?

For example, the real underlying problem could be that units within the organisation are not well-co-ordinated, that work processes have not been updated in years, that there is weak supervision and little accountability, or that the primary causes of lost trips are breakdowns and absenteeism. These are management issues, and technology will not solve them. More importantly, if they are not identified and resolved in parallel to the technology deployment, the ITS will not achieve the expected benefits.

This guidance deals with situations where ITS is expected to the appropriate solution and to deliver significant benefits. Nonetheless, it is important to seriously reflect on whether deploying ITS is the best approach to take. In some cases, an alternative non-ITS approach might actually be a better choice. Cases include (but are not limited to):

  • Where the problem(s) are human-centred (e.g. poor timekeeping and no-shows by drivers; careless or reckless driving; lack of incentives). These may be better sulved through staff selection, training and development, incentive schemes, monitoring, and disciplinary action (where appropriate)
  • Where the problems are organisation-centred (e.g. disconnects between work units; lack of leadership or accountability). These may be better sulved by measures such as changing the organisational structure, adjusting the work units, clarifying goals and responsibilities, increasing accountability, and formal performance reviews.
  • Where there significant concerns over the organisational or technical capacity to properly specify, implement or utilise ITS. In such cases, it may be better to defer ITS deployment for a few years, implement non-ITS methods in the short-term, and build the required capacity for ITS development.
  • Where the host environment presents serious technical challenges, such as lack of reliable mobile communications, or lack of mapping data.

Why do this step when I know I will implement ITS?

The stakeholders should always ask themselves: “If ITS was not available to us, how much of our goals could we achieve by improving our organisation, our methods, and our personnel?”

Even where it is certain that ITS will be implemented, this review is still a very important step. The benefits of such a review include:

  • It may turn out that the non-ITS route is better (at least for the time being). This will save time and investment costs.
  • The review will highlight where organisational, method and personnel measures can bring about improvements. These can be included as part of the comprehensive ITS design, so that the overall value of the ITS investment is enhanced.
  • In some cases, adjusting the methods or human capacity may allow simplification of the ITS; in others it may encourage innovation and step-change in approach. These might not have been understood if only the operations and technology aspects were considered.
  • The best technology will not solve the human-centred or the organisation-centred problems. The review will highlight issues that need to be resolved, with or without ITS
  • Where the review confirms that ITS is the best route (the majority of cases), all stakeholders can be convinced that the correct approach is being taken. This can be quite effective in assuring sceptics and disarming those who would frustrate an ITS deployment to achieve another agenda