Alphabet and Accenture: Corporate car-sharing: convenience and cost-efficiency

Christian Steiner, head of mobility services at Alphabet, briefs FDE on the value of the company's AlphaCity corporate car-sharing scheme, while Marc Thiollier of Accenture highlights how the scheme was successfully rolled out in France.

In response to demands among corporates for improvements in comprehensive mobility management, Alphabet launched AlphaCity, a new and innovative corporate car-sharing scheme.

Through availing themselves of AlphaCity, which comprises cutting-edge technology and telematics, companies can significantly drive down their total cost of ownership (TCO).

"An attractive characteristic of the AlphaCity concept for finance directors is that the monthly income generated by private vehicle usage is offset against monthly leasing instalments," says Christian Steiner, head of mobility services at Alphabet. "As a result, a company can reduce its TCO by as much as 30-40%."

The service's main features include easy self-booking for users - done online via their company intranet - while a radio frequency identification (RFID) chip on the employee's driver's licence enables fully keyless access to and operation of the AlphaCity vehicles.

"Employees can use their company's pool cars for business trips as well as for private purposes," says Steiner. "Vehicle use for business purposes is charged to the employee's respective cost centre at a price defined by the company, while use for private reasons is charged to the individual's personal credit card. This is possible thanks to tried and proven BMW technology and telematics, which make AlphaCity a convenient and user-friendly system."

Centralised business mobility

With this easy access comes a decrease in the need for taxis and rental cars, dramatically reducing total cost of mobility (TCM), which, in recent years, has emerged as an important performance metric for Alphabet's clients.

"In certain industries the TCM can be one of the biggest expenses a company has to bear," Steiner says. "As it becomes more integrated into corporate thinking, TCM is much more effective and powerful as a key performance indicator (KPI).

"A comprehensive, centralised approach to mobility management is essential if a company is to keep these costs under control. AlphaCity is a mobility solution that makes this possible. Instead of dealing with lots of different bills for taxis and rental cars, a company receives one clearly itemised invoice from us. The total monthly cost for corporate mobility can then be seen at a glance," he adds.

Consequently, the market reaction to AlphaCity among corporates has been manifestly positive, as Steiner explains.

"We are very happy with the international reception to AlphaCity," he says. "So far, we have rolled the scheme out to companies in France, Germany and the UK. Customers include the likes of Microsoft, Accenture, Infineon and ServicePlan Group."

Not set to rest on its laurels, the group is already planning to add to that list by rolling out the scheme in Belgium, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain in the coming months. "Our aim is to have it implemented in all major European markets by the end of 2013," says Steiner.

Case study: Accenture

Global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company Accenture was the first to pilot the AlphaCity service. Geographic services lead Marc Thiollier reveals the factors that affected the successful roll-out of the programme.

What were the main challenges in initiating the AlphaCity scheme at Accenture?

Marc Thiollier: The most time consuming issue was the level of employee adoption to the scheme. We didn't want the cars to be sitting in the parking slots - we wanted the people to use them and support the underlying business case. The testing phase took six months and we paid particular attention to the communication technology employed in the remote monitoring of the vehicles.

Everything needed to work perfectly, as the prospect of having an Accenture executive stuck in a city car park due to being remotely locked out of their vehicle by mistake was not something we could tolerate.

So there was a lot of thorough testing. But testing is never easy because it isn't just done by driving a car. You need to systematically test all the different functionalities to make sure the system is still going to work.

Adoption rate is linked to this. If your technology doesn't work as efficiently and smoothly as you want, you won't have a good uptake. All in all, I would say that it was a good project. It had its share of work, but that's the ransom to pay if you want to be at the forefront.

In overcoming those hurdles, was there a lot of dialogue between yourselves and Alphabet?

Yes, there was constant dialogue. We've collaborated with people from Alphabet on a continuous basis, both online and at our premises to make sure that everything really works well. This was really helpful, as we could anticipate issues and solve them right on the spot.

We also had discussions with colleagues in Germany concerning BMW's embedded technology. This close contact allowed us to deal with issues as they arose.

To what extent do you consider TCO as a metric?

I think it is important to have some TCO metrics, but it's really about how you benchmark the other mobility options. If you compare an internal car rental pool like AlphaCity with a fleet of individual cars, you are going to have a great business case based on economies of scale because more than one employee is using each car. Taxis on the other hand end up being more expensive and less convenient as employees spend considerable time booking them and waiting for them to arrive. For example, in comparison with using a taxi, there is a lot of gain in terms of time, comfort, flexibility and convenience.

Is there any feature of the scheme that you have found to be particularly innovative for Accenture?

The most obvious feature is the fact that everyone has the key to the car. The key is no longer a physical object, but an RFID chip applied on the driver's licence. The chip enables access and operation of the car. This is much more convenient than having to waste time picking up keys from a special location. With AlphaCity, you simply reserve the car on the internet and can access it five minutes later, which is something we really appreciate.

Also, AlphaCity has given us access to a range of BMW products. The cars themselves are really important to the success of the programme - employees are delighted to use them. Consequently, they take care of the cars.

With Alphabet, we piloted the MINI and the BMW 1 Series. Electric models of both cars are also available. That's exciting for everyone at Accenture because we are demonstrating to our clients that we want to be at the forefront of this evolution.

Christian Steiner, head of mobility services at Alphabet.
Marc Thiollier of Accenture.