Most of us are familiar with the statement, “Sounds like a plan!” It’s a form of affirmation used conversationally to mean a decision has been made that is agreeable to others involved, often after some level of discussion.
Planning is a uniquely human enterprise that is important to some degree in our private lives, but essential for businesses and other organizations. And, as Peter Drucker says, “Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work.”
The current NAPT strategic plan is unique in that it is comprehensive but contains just three goals, all of which we work on every day.
The first is communicating better — identifying the needs of school transportation professionals and ensuring that our association model meets their expectations. We are working to communicate with every school transportation director and supervisor in America to get their opinions on a variety of topics.
This outreach is critical because it helps us create new opportunities for people to get involved in NAPT activities. For example, NAPT President Keith Henry created a President’s Advisory Council so those with specialized skills and/or a unique perspective are assured that their viewpoint is acknowledged and understood early on in NAPT decision-making. We also now communicate at least once every quarter with the presidents of our state affiliates, and we seek their views on positions.
Taking a page from AT&T, we also initiated a “reach out and touch someone” membership-wide outreach campaign. Every member of the NAPT leadership team made personal contact with at least 150 members last year to listen to their ideas and learn about their needs. Several of our regional directors also held “town hall” meetings, and others visited state association partners in person.
These efforts are being integrated into a report card that will be posted online when we launch our new website this fall, so NAPT members will be able to track our progress.
Our second goal is to provide school transportation professionals with useful resources to improve their communication and decision-making capabilities.
The cornerstone of this effort is completing our Data Driven Decisions (3D) project begun under the leadership of Don Carnahan, the late, great NAPT president and industry icon. Don was a big believer in the power of data, and the current board is, too.
This was a much bigger project than we realized when we launched it a couple of years ago. In fact, it’s now beyond simply using data to make decisions. We’re focused on creating business intelligence (BI).
BI in its essence is an umbrella term that refers to a variety of related software applications used to analyze an organization’s raw data. Companies in the private sector use BI to improve decision-making, cut costs, and identify new business opportunities. In the school transportation realm, it means you will be able to back up — with real-world numbers — operational business decisions that might otherwise be based only on gut feelings or anecdotes.
In the school transportation realm, [business intelligence] means you will be able to back up — with real-world numbers — operational business decisions that might otherwise be based only on gut feelings or anecdotes.
The platform we are developing uses two types of data: static data, which is entered once and updated annually, and dynamic data, which is entered monthly, weekly, or even daily. Users who provide a total of 27 static and dynamic data points will instantly have available at least a dozen baseline metrics, including:
• Cost per route, per bus, per day
• Cost per mile
• Route average speed
• Cost per student
• Total cost per day
• Costs as percent of total budget
• Cost per bus, per model year
• Total operating cost
• Total overhead cost
Beyond these baseline metrics, there are countless options, such as mpg by route, repair times by type of repair, and vehicle downtime by type of breakdown.
Our system will enable service providers to auto-generate reports for budget planning and forecasting to enable quick answers to questions like, “What is the financial impact of adding or eliminating a particular route or improving overall fleet mpg?”
Finally, we are integrating a social media-based communication platform that is a combination of Match.com, LinkedIn, and Facebook so users can search for someone with a similar profile or characteristics, invite them to connect, and then collaborate with them and build a network that has no borders or boundaries.
There is nothing like this in the market right now, and the beta testers have been amazed by the way it works. We’re planning to launch it this fall at the NAPT Summit in Kansas City, Missouri, so stay tuned for additional information.
Our last strategic goal is to increase the number of school transportation professionals who are NAPT certified. In doing so, we hope to elevate the profession through increased education and credentials and, in the process, groom the next generation of school transportation professionals, especially industry leaders.
We hope that this all “sounds like a plan” to you — and that you’ll be a part of making it happen.