Raj Bucktowar of Mobile Worker Plus believes in focus and finesse. ParkMaven grill a fellow software maverick on doing business in the parking industry.
Hi Raj. Could you tell us a bit about what you do with Mobile Worker Plus?
My name’s Raj Bucktowar and I’m the CTO of Mobile Worker Plus. We’ve existed since 2005 under our parent company, Synergise IT, but in 2014 we split off and became our own entity. We’ve now got 3 product areas: workforce management, self-service portals and data insights.
Tell us a bit more about those 3 products…
Firstly we have parking-centric workforce management. We’re looking at incident reporting, lone worker protection, job dispatch, mobile enforcement, but also the SLAs and response times for dealing with jobs. We can work with every stage, from out there in the field reporting the problem to you, to getting it fixed. This information all feeds into the operation of our dashboard for data insights.
Another one of our products is self-service portals. These are parking permit portals where staff from universities, office blocks, or rail companies can register simply for annual permits, accept our T&Cs, get the permit and park their vehicles in allocated spaces.
The final one is the data insights platform. That’s the analytics side, where we consume our own internal data, or our clients’ external data, and generate insights about operational efficiency with a view to increasing revenue and improving efficiency of the workforce.
How did Mobile Worker Plus discover that the parking industry needed your solutions?
Through our own clients! The first product one of our clients wanted was a standard Android phone with an enforcement app. But they were also doing other jobs as well as enforcement, and thought it would be useful to manage these together. So, when you log in to our software, you can manage multiple things: process jobs, take surveys, do a checklist of daily activities…
The insights and analytics are about making reporting easy. What we’re finding is a lot of our clients are contract managers who are spending days writing manual reports into spreadsheets. With us, it’s just automated: reports can be extracted from a category, or be of an overall ‘type’ that they choose.
People also want to see the history of that and project to the future – a bit like ParkMaven’s Smart Dashboard, really. But we’re about the workforce more than occupancy.
Workforce management doesn’t need to be limited to the parking industry. Surely you’ve got a product you could sell to clients in a variety of different industries?
We’re in parking, rail, security and retail. We’ve attended facilities management shows, but what we’ve found is the need to remain focussed in parking because there’s a lot going on in the way the industry is moving. We don’t want to spread ourselves too thin.
When you go to a facilities management show, there are people doing workforce management just like us, whereas in parking, there are not. The operators don’t want to see a generic solution, they’d prefer a specialist or custom one.
It’s not the first service people think of in parking either – we have people walk past and say, ‘oh, that’s exactly what I want’. That moment sells our product!
You say you don’t want to spread yourselves too thin. What’s the advantage to a small and focussed team?
We’re a product company and we’d rather do something well with our current clients to gain more business with new clients in the same industry, rather than being a jack of all trades and master of nothing.
We’re a small team and don’t want to be moving in multiple verticals. In security and facilities management, there are other companies doing similar things, and they’re more mature than we are. You don’t want to be a little fish in a big pond – be the best in a specific pond.
Is there any other piece of parking technology that’s caught your eye in the current market?
ParkMaven does! The underutilisation of parking is a big problem for operators. Also, the amount of vendor infrastructure, with multiple suppliers in one location - it’s very difficult to get reliable information on all of that.
The biggest pain of a journey is parking – people want something that sorts the entire process. Pay for it, tell me where to go, park my car straight. That will work only work if the data is consistent and standardised. You need companies like ParkMaven who can do intelligent things with data, and organisations like the BPA who can ensure proper methods are used to share it, through initiatives like the Alliance for Parking Data Standards.
They say the parking industry is dominated by dinosaurs. If you were a dinosaur, what would you be?
A diplodocus. They’re calming, but with a big presence. They’re not aggressive – but still, you wouldn’t mess around with one!
Parking shouldn’t keep the dinosaurs, though. We need to move from ‘dinosaurs’ to ‘dynamic’. The future’s about sensors, smart cities, standardisation of data – at the end of the day our industry exists to provide for the customer, not just for the people behind the big companies.